Every year the best movies, actors, directors, and others movie professionals are awarded an Oscar. To be the best, they must be different. This often involves using simple concepts (plot, drama, music, etc.) in a new way. While all the movies have a script, employ actors and technicians, the best tend to have the most innovative ones.
The same holds true in business. In today’s highly competitive environment, innovation is a major key to superior performance. It allows companies to create new products and services that customers either want now or will want in the future. Companies that innovate beat the ones that don’t, just like movies on Oscar night.
In 2012, “The Artist” won an Oscar for best picture. Producing this film was a risk because as a black and white silent film in an era of special effects and high-tech theater sound systems, there was a good chance it would not be well received by audiences. Producing a black and white silent film was both innovative and risky in today’s movie industry.
To be recognized as the best, companies have to do the same thing. They must take risks on new ideas, some of which are old ideas that are reinterpreted for today’s customers. Additionally, old and new can be mixed to create an innovative product or service. While “The Artist” is a silent movie, it uses modern film and audio technology (for the music).
While not all risky ideas will work, the ones that do will win you a legion of adoring fans. Just look to Apple for an example of a risk-taking company with fanatical customers!
In “The Artist”, the silent movie star refuses to work on films with sound and his career ends as fans prefer to see the new films. Peppy, the rising star, readily adopts the new technology and she becomes a big star. She was flexible and open to change and reaped the benefits.
To survive, thrive and maintain their competitive advantage, companies must also be flexible when reacting to change. Stubbornly holding on everything that made one successful in the past may lead to failure in the present and future. Companies usually don’t have to change 180 degrees in the face of change, but today’s competitive environment does require that they adapt some of their thinking, processes, products, etc.
Lastly, while most movies come from Hollywood, “The Artist” is a French production. The best and most innovative ideas often come from unexpected places (Groupon, Cirque du Soleil, etc.). Business leaders should therefore look for new ideas, employees, technology, processes, etc., in unexpected places.
Unconventional leaders create organizations built on these three elements: creativity, flexibility and risk-taking. They lead their companies to repeatedly create things that people love, but no one expected, especially their competition.
They redefine their industries and sometimes the way people live. Through their companies, they often lead other firms in terms of technology, customer service, etc. Unconventional leaders beat the competition on a regular basis.
Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are prime examples of unconventional leaders. They do not look like typical business leaders and their leadership style is anything but conventional. In fact, their backgrounds are both contrary to what most people would expect of such successful corporate leaders.
They both dropped out of college and have no formal management training. Despite this, or maybe because of this, they have unconventional leadership styles that have led to the creation of unconventional firms.