To Innovate or to Stay the Course? 14 Tips to Guide You

CareerPro Inc.Forbes Coaches Counsel

As entrepreneurs seek to establish or improve their brand’s positioning, they have to weigh when it’s best to try new ideas versus when to maintain what works. So when should a company or entrepreneur pursue innovation?

Polaroid got out of the instant photo business in 2008, after being overtaken by phone camera options. The Sears, Roebuck and Co. general catalog, once used as a source of dreams to holiday shoppers, quietly faded away in 1993. Both products were giants during their heyday.

Though “staying the course” is a tried-and-true money maker, it eventually means that other companies or processes will take over your position. So when should (or shouldn’t) entrepreneurs take a risk and pull the trigger on innovating their processes or products? Fourteen experts on Forbes Coaches Council have this advice:

1. Leave Room To Innovate When Planning

It’s a good rule of thumb to be dedicated to the plan and open to the means. Leaving room for innovation in a plan of action is a great move, and will come in handy when challenges or opportunities present themselves. – Julia Katsivo, Julia Katsivo

2. Track Return On Investments

There is a way you can “stay the course” while simultaneously incorporating new ways to grow your business. Amplify the things that are working and scrap what doesn’t. Start tracking the return on your investments — such as launches, webinars, seminars, networking, collaborations, speaking events and social media posts — so you have the information required to make your next strategic move. – Jenn Lederer, Jenn Lederer, LLC

3. Work To Stay Grounded

It’s easy to get caught up in the hype and excitement around technology and services when building an organization and a suite of products. You must work to stay grounded and take time to talk with current or potential customers about what they truly need. Go outside your bubble and talk to users. This is critical to success, especially in bubble communities like Silicon Valley. – Jessica Miller-Merrell, Workology

4. Add, Don’t Divide

Gone are the days when we had to quit one thing to do something else. In these days of passive income, second jobs and virtual assistants, an entrepreneur does not necessarily have to quit something to pursue innovation. She can stay the course and pursue innovation. The pivot point can occur when the innovation opportunity has been market tested, developed wings and is ready to fly. – Gia Ganesh, Gia Ganesh Coaching

5. Partner With Another Organization

Companies now need to both deliver results and innovate. These are often done in parallel with different people, focuses and skill sets. Some successful organizations are finding that partnering allows them to balance execution with implementation. Find an organization that can bring needed innovation and develop an alliance or partnership. – Maureen Metcalf, Metcalf & Associates, Inc

6. Watch Your Data

Choose carefully which key performance indicators matter to you most to monitor daily, weekly and monthly in proving, growing and scaling your business. If the data shows one or both are healthy, stay the course (while constantly analyzing alternatives for acceleration and growth). If the data doesn’t look good, pivot quickly and try other alternatives. – Yuri Kruman, Master The Talk Consulting

7. Keep Pivoting

Innovation is often the key to long-term business success. Those who innovate stay competitive. What works can always be enhanced. What isn’t working can be improved. Trial and test, then evaluate and re-purpose to identify areas of your business that could benefit from transformation. Make changes strategically and pivot with purpose. Think ahead to stay ahead. – Adrienne Tom, Career Impressions

8. Use The Scientific Method

Frame the question as a scientific experiment, the way Silicon Valley startups do. For example: Create a hypothesis that changing your widget in some way will double sales by the end of Q2. Test it. Did sales double? If yes, you’re likely headed in the right direction. If not, change. Calibrate less on emotion and more on evidence. That way, you’re less likely to stop too early or persist too long. – James Lopata, InnerOvation

9. Adjust Course After Review

In entrepreneurship, it may be important to stay the course when you see improvement, but a slight pivot in a different direction — by adding a product, service, team member — can be necessary to obtain the ultimate goal. By contrast, if after a period of time there are no gains, then it may be time to pursue a different course of action.  – Venessa Marie Perry, Health Resource Solutions, LLC

10. Stay With Your Cultural Commitment

If your company’s innovation culture requires constant change, then so be it. If your company is defined by small changes to one great idea, go for it. But do not lose your values or focus by advancing beyond your core competencies. Markets, technology change, regulations and competition will take you out of your core commitments. Stay very focused on what works. – John O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.

11. Market Prediction Is Key

Innovation has a lot to do with predicting market trends and interest. The market doesn’t give away its future wishes easily. The combination of gifts necessary to be an entrepreneur is rare, but having an intangible predictive ability, in addition, is more rare. An entrepreneur should pursue innovation if he or she has a proven, time-tested record of predicting micro-trends and executing on them. – Jared Lafitte, Lafitte Coaching

12. Stagnation And Indifference Are Signs Innovation Needed

When your team still feels challenged, invigorated, and the business reaps financial rewards, innovation can wait. When “staying at course” feels stagnating, staff becomes indifferent, customers start to ask questions about incorporating new features or consider other product lines on the rise, it’s time to revisit the innovative outlook of your business. – Tmima Grinvald, The Round Well

13. Clarify Objectives And Priorities

Stagnation is dangerous. Clients’ expectations constantly change. It’s about efficiency, competitive goals and return on investment. When tracking records and confirm that things are working, you keep them and make improvements. Why does innovation frequently fail? The reasons are rooted in the lack of strategy and a failure to execute. Your company has to clarify objectives and priorities in order to help focus efforts around them. – Asha Mankowska, Esq., Your Favorite Business Coach

14. Analyze Your Position Regularly

A strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis, also known as SWOT, is a simple and effective tool to understand where to put your energy and decide to stay the course, pursue innovation or both. It will help you evaluate the current position of the business and guide the strategy forward. This analysis should be done regularly — at a minimum, annually, and ideally two to four times a year. – Jenn Lofgren, Incito Consulting