Innovative companies have a natural, lasting and defendable competitive advantage. But there’s a big, intimidating difference between discussing the philosophical merits of innovation and creating an innovative culture at your school. So where do you start if you want to implement innovation in practical terms?
Innovation is an outcome of creativity, open-mindedness, and willingness to dig deep. Here are four ways you can start today:
1. Refinement versus Innovation
Say you’re looking to improve show rates to appointments. You gather a bunch of staff for some “innovative” brainstorming, and your efforts yield a list of things: appointments within 24 hours, text reminders, testimonials, etc.
While all excellent ideas, these are process refinements. They’re linear changes that wouldn’t make any fundamental changes to your current model.
To think innovatively, ask yourselves a different question. Perhaps… “Why don’t people show to appointments?”
- They don’t have a car.
- They forget.
- They purposely “forget” because they don’t want to say no.
An innovative idea would be to pick them up (just like National Car Rental)! Or you could remove the problem altogether and send your admissions team to the prospect instead!
These ideas are nonlinear, fundamental changes to your current model.
2. Make it safe to fail
Competitive cultures fixate on results rather than methodology. This results-focus encourages short-term wins and sabotages long-term innovation.
Competitive cultures, by their very nature, punish people for ideas without immediate positive returns. If your idea “loses” then you are a “loser.” Losers risk consequences ranging from losing face to tanking a career. In record time, no one takes chances, shows initiative or says anything original and exciting.
Innovative companies focus on process instead of the outcome. You win some and lose some, but declaring “winners” and “losers” based on the outcome just doesn’t work. It’s all about the process.
For example, at Enrollment Resources, I’m responsible for testing and innovation. I don’t care much if ideas succeed or fail; I’m interested in its execution and the reasons behind it. I need to know:
- What was the problem that needed to be solved?
- What was the hypothesis?
- How was it tested?
By using the Scientific Process as our model, we separate the person from the outcome and gather useful information from both successes and failures.
We call it “fail fast, fail often.” Our truth-seeking-culture makes it safe for staff to have and share ideas. The ability for them to take risks without putting their career on the line creates energy and enthusiasm, and, honestly, generates way better ideas than our competitors.
Our “failing fast” model ultimately leads to more successes in the long-run.
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Since 2003, Enrollment Resources has been researching Enrollment Management best-practices within the proprietary education field. These best-practices come from our own proprietary R&D efforts, published best practices research within the industry, and proven solutions researched from other industries which we test and adopt for our clients.
3. Look outside your bubble
You don’t need to be particularly creative to be innovative. Businesses outside your sector are bursting with ideas you can… borrow.
Seek out their innovative approaches to problems or inefficiencies that are similar (but not directly related) to your processes. You may ask:
- What other sectors do an excellent job of getting people to show up for appointments?
- How does my dentist/hairdresser/mechanic do it?
- What are they doing that we could do?
For example, Senior Living has virtually the same business model as Education. Their savvy marketers have made smart moves, and it is a great place to start your search for innovative ideas that don’t need a lot of massaging.
Ideas are everywhere:
- Giants like Disney have crafted world-class experiences for their guests. Mine their processes for lessons you can apply to yours.
- Amazon has spent a ton of money testing traffic conversion ideas. Can you repackage Amazon’s best ideas for an education offering?
- Low-tech or pre-tech approaches still have something to teach us. Sure, as technology evolves so do the tactics, but the psychological principles that drive buying decisions are the same as they’ve always been. At Enrollment Resources, we borrow generously from mail order best practices that date as far back as the ‘70s. Scientific Advertising, one of my favorite advertising books, dates back to the 1920s and is still a constant source of inspiration.
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Get two free 60-minute Scorecard sessions with one of our Enrollment Management Specialists. We guarantee you’ll come away with insights, new ideas and a fresh outlook on your school. Email [email protected] or call 250-391-9494.