If you’ve ever seen the classic movie The Wizard of Oz from 1939, you’ll recall that Dorothy’s goal was to get out of Oz and get back home to Kansas. When she set out from Munchkinland, she had no idea that she’d have to summon all the courage and ingenuity of herself and her friends to ultimately defeat the Wicked Witch of the West.
In that critical moment, all the knew is that she had to follow the Yellow Brick Broad. That was the pathway forward.
That’s a pretty timely analogy to the situation of most companies today. We see big changes ahead and wonder if we have the courage and ingenuity to adapt. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all that we have to do–and who we have to become–to get there safely.
That’s why so many companies stay locked within the status quo.
The term “status quo” comes from Latin and literally means “the existing state of affairs.” Companies that challenge the existing state of affairs are not content with the current scenario. Instead, they choose to disrupt the current state of affairs and create a new reality. They have the courage to ask, “What if things were different?”
Let’s look at a handful of companies that have walked the Yellow Brick Road of innovation.
Four Examples of Innovation
Airbnb immediately comes to mind. They recognized that hotels are always large buildings with many rooms, and they are usually located in the busiest parts of a town or city. Hotels have to employ a lot of people, particularly the cleaning staff who give attention to every room on a daily basis. Airbnb asked, “What would happen if the rules were different? What if every home or apartment could potentially be a place where guests pay to stay?”
Peleton is another great example. They didn’t imitate other exercise equipment companies, but instead created an entirely new category where you can bring the gym to your home on a subscription-based device.
We have to mention Google. When Google began to dominate the search engine space, there were other search engines like Infoseek, Atla, Webcrawler, and others. (Those are still active, by the way.) However, rather than imitating those technologies, Google created a better algorithm, a better search ranking technology using page ranking.
The most dominant example right now is TikTok. Although its users imitate each other all the time, TikTok didn’t imitate any other platform but instead focused on short-form videos. They also deliver videos based on what is interesting to the user, not necessarily what is popular.
Netflix: The Big Dog in the Room
Although Netflix might be “old hat” by now since it’s been around a long time (at least in terms of streaming services), it didn’t start out that way. Netflix began as an online DVD rental service. Who else remembers the days when Netflix would deliver DVDs to your mailbox in those red envelopes? (And no late fees!)
In its early days, Netflix hosted a contest to build its machine-learning algorithm to recommend movies to users. They were getting it wrong with customers and their own data scientists could not figure out the correct algorithm to produce the best results.
The CEO turned to external sources and launched a multi- million dollar contest. Think about this for a moment. In a world of data, movies are tough. Just because someone gives a movie 5 stars doesn’t mean they actually enjoy it.
If you rate Schindler’s List as a 5-star movie, you might be saying, “I want to like this” instead of actually indicating you enjoyed it.
As a result of the contest, a brilliant college student was awarded millions of dollars for coming up with the algorithm Netflix now uses. His basic argument was that people lie unconditionally about what they say they like when it comes to entertainment. The logic was, “Let’s stop believing how they rate movies and instead look at their browsing history, their Instagram activity, their buying behavior, their social status, their income, and other factors, and let’s use that to see if we can’t predict more accurately what movies they’d like.”
If two people set up a Netflix account today and watched the same ten movies or TV shows, and they rated them all the same, Netflix would recommend different items to them. This is a fascinating study of not believing what your customer says, but instead looking at their actual behavior.
Taking That First Step
These companies didn’t grow by simply imitating others in their same industries. They chose to do something different, at first becoming outliers and then eventually becoming the leaders whom others imitate.
This is our goal with Meahana. Our mission is to unlock the inner facilitator in everyone, celebrating innovation rather than mere imitation. We provide sophisticated, yet user-friendly tools that foster originality and collaboration, enabling professionals to learn and connect in exciting ways. And with the evolution of work dynamics due to technology, we encourage adaptability, an essential aspect of the business artist philosophy.
That’s how we’re doing it. As helpful as it might be for you to read about other companies, the real question is: how are you going to do it?
While it might be overwhelming to consider what the world might look like in five or ten years given the pace of change and disruption, you won’t get there by taking one giant step. Following the Yellow Brick Road of Innovation consists of thousands of single steps.
Your task today is to take a single step forward. When you put enough of those steps together, you can do something truly remarkable.