Four New Year's resolutions for business success

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Post recessionary greatness is possible. Achieving it depends on doing something most don't do well--discovering their way there.

When markets cratered and demand collapsed, things did not simply slow down and they will not simply pick up, as if the challenge is speed in providing the same value in the same ways: quickly (before the recession), slowly (during the recession), and more quickly (during the recovery).

Rather, the economic collapse changed market needs. What 'problems' customers need solved are quite different than before, what products and services companies will successfully 'solve those problems' have to be developed, and processes to deliver those items to market have be refined.

A major failure mode will be trying to do now what once worked before.

Here are some 'resolutions' to avoid that frustration.

1. Start with customers and see the reality of their situation. What problems are they having, what needs to they need addressed now, that they didn't have before?

Bring your product and service designers and developers along so they get that first hand experience walking in the shoes of those who make your business viable.

2. Quickly develop a prototype offering that meets those needs better than what you already have in your product portfolio. Test it, try it, refine it.

3. Go and see the impediments and obstacles that frustrate your people in creating value every day.

4. Devote time each day so that today's frustration can be the inspiration for a better approach tomorrow.

As you see problems and solve problems, both for customers and for colleagues, make sure you are showing others how to do exactly the same thing. There is too much to be discovered for you (or a small team) alone. Success will depend on harnessing the best creativity and insights of everyone in your organization.

In a business world markedly changed, hoping old habits and old approaches will lead to success is delusional. New approaches have to be discovered. The only way to discover successfully is to be consistent and determined; the only way to discover broadly is to engage your colleagues inclusively in the effort.

Greatness is possible. However, achieving it depends on doing something many of us have not had to do before when markets were growing steadily and predictably year in and year out--discovering new approaches to delivering value in new forms and teaching those around us how to do the same.