Tools 4 Data
IT and New Ideas

The Importance of Finding and Applying New Ideas at Small Businesses
Managers and business owners can feel like they’re pulled in ten different directions just trying to keep the business running. So the thought of testing a new idea when there’s no guarantee it will lead to any new revenue can seem downright irresponsible.
But making the time to find new ideas and taking the risk to actually introduce them into your business is one of the greatest keys to success.
This is a philosophy that we apply at Tools 4 Data. We regularly research promising new hardware and software products here in our offices that we think might benefit our clients. And you know what? We’re only right about 60% of the time.
Despite such a high failure rate, we consider this testing important, because the successes we do have are significant. Sometimes game changing. These new products opened up new, unexpected possibilities for our clients. Enabling them to serve markets they couldn’t before. Do their existing work more cost-effectively.
Testing new products with only a 60% success rate wasn’t a waste of money. It was intelligent risk taking that led to big successes.
Intelligent Risk Taking: Choosing New Ideas
This is different than calculated risk taking. Rather than knowing the possible outcomes, and your chance of reaching them, intelligent risk taking is using your business knowledge and experience to select the risks that have the greatest chance to produce unexpected outcomes.
The intelligence in Intelligent Risk Taking means it’s more important to judge a new idea based on the future opportunities it might open up for your business, rather than judging it on whether the idea itself might succeed or fail. It’s worth trying a longshot idea if it has the potential to improve every aspect of your business.
Here are some of the ways successful businesses encourage this kind of intelligent risk taking that you can apply to your own business:
Find a Way to Say Yes
Amazon is famous for its ‘Institutional Yes’ policy. If a staff member comes to management with an idea they think will improve some aspect of the business, management is expected to give them the opportunity to try it. If they feel compelled to say no, they’re required to write a two page analysis explaining why to company leadership. Amazon wants to make experimentation the norm, and getting stuck in a rut actually difficult.
Always Experiment, and From the Ground Up
Most often corporate leadership doesn’t impose the risks to be taken at this departmental level. Amazon expects its departments to try out new things on their own. They requires each department to record and track these experiments as part of their performance metrics. Too few experiments, successful or not, and the department can go under review.
Reward Experimentation, Not Just Outcomes
Procter & Gamble issues a Heroic Failure Award at their corporate meeting every year to recognize the best risk taken that didn’t produce a success. You need to encourage every effort, not just the small number of actual successes. This keeps the culture of experimentation and risk taking alive.
Letting Fires Burn: Choosing What You Don’t Do
Here’s the flipside of intelligent risk taking: choosing which problems to ignore. This idea can be hard for some business owners to accept. The concept of letting any problem linger at the business they’ve poured blood, sweat, and tears into might seem unacceptable. But seeing this kind of decision-making as a natural state of a growing, active business is actually healthy.
Which fire do you fight? Which do you let burn? Do you deal with the set of small clients hurt by a billing change? Or the one large client slightly inconvenienced by an inventory issue?
No one can do everything. Knowing the correct answer requires knowing your business priorities, and the scope and limitations of your resources:
  • Apply your expertise and pick the right battle, at the right time
  • See which actions will have a trickledown effect to simplify other problems
  • Delegate, or even better, hire and train staff who can see fires coming before you do
Podcasts as a Tool to Generate Business Ideas
So where do you get new business ideas? Books? Training programs?
We think podcasts might be an excellent answer for many business owners. We listen to a variety of podcasts here at Tools 4 Data. In fact, the very idea for this article came from a recent episode of the excellent business podcast Masters of Scale. They’re an efficient means for hectic business owners to learn new ideas that they can apply. Listen to a few a week, in the car, making dinner, or whenever you have time.
Here are a few of our favorite business podcasts:
  • Masters of Scale: Interviews with successful business and tech leaders, hosted by the co-founder of LinkedIn
  • How I Built This: Stories of entrepreneurs and designers who built ideas up from nothing
  • The Pitch: Entrepreneurs pitch ideas to real investors for real money
  • Make Me Smart: Interviews and analyses at the intersection of money, tech, and business
  • Mixergy: Interviews and mentorship courses with established entrepreneurs
If you’re ready to learn more about how information technology can superpower your business, contact Tools 4 Data today.
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Tools 4 Data, LLC  •  176 Route 81  •  Killingworth, CT 06419

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