This week’s focus: The common understanding about growth is that you spot an opportunity, develop a solution and invest behind its success. Things don’t always work that neatly, though. Not only do most ideas fail to deliver, but sometimes it’s the non-ideas that do best; it’s the unexpected successes that drive your business forward. For instance, IBM’s move into consulting in the 1990s was, by all accounts, initiated as a result of the surprisingly high level of demand being placed on its customer service teams.

Similarly, in the past week, I’ve had two conversations with different retail leaders who were considering investing behind some unexpected successes. One had found that the company’s consumer retail offer was increasingly being bought by commercial customers, while the other had found that the demand for the accessories to its core range was outstripping supply even though the company spent next to no effort in creating the accessories offer.

Look around your business. Where are there some unexpected successes that, with a little focus and investment, could surprisingly drive your company’s next phase of growth?

Off The Record: A Life Of Surprises by Prefab Sprout

Darling, it’s a life of surprises

It’s no help growing older or wiser

You don’t have to pretend you’re not crying

When it’s even in the way that you’re walking

I’ve always loved Prefab Sprout since seeing them play in the early 1980s – Swoon and Steve McQueen are great albums. This song comes from a later album, Protest Songs, and you can listen to it here

© Stuart Cross 2015. All rights reserved.