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Letting Go So Innovation Can Thrive

Filed Under: Business | Innovation | Podcast
Date Published: March 24, 2020
By: Claire

We start a business with an idea in mind, a goal of making something easier for somebody else, and a way to grow professionally and personally.

Then, sometimes our technologies are used in ways we didn’t think they would be used. Or we start developing other skills and interests and this has an impact in the line our business is growing. Still, we try to hold on the initial idea.

On today’s episode, Claire will talk about what are the most common reasons we hold on things and how this is probably holding us back from growing. She will share her story as well as other famous examples of how letting go allowed innovation, and how you can start working on this too.

Listen to find out:

  • Why letting go is something we can think as a good possibility and doesn’t have to be ultimate necessarily.
  • How letting go opened the space to develop new ideas and grow businesses.
  • How to identify the things we have to let go.
  • Steps to start working on letting go on a mental level and in practice.

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Transcript of this episode:

What are you holding on to? How is it impacting your business? 

 In today’s episode, I’m talking about the power of letting go so innovation can thrive. Letting go is something I have long suffered with both personally and professionally. Until recently, I didn’t realise how much this was holding me back. I’m going to tell you about how letting go of some of my previous goals allow me to grow my business, alongside some other famous examples of letting go, allowing for innovation to thrive. And finally, I’m going to share some tips on how to let go. 

My name is Claire, and over the last nine years I’ve worked in innovation teams across industries including research, manufacturing, retail and technology. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the downright ugly when it comes to innovating on behalf of customers. And now I alongside my guests, I’m sharing the learnings with you so help you avoid the mistakes and capitalise on these learnings to grow your business with innovation. 

Ready to learn more about letting go so innovation can thrive? Let’s dive in. 

So I don’t know if many of you will be aware of this. But my first kind of flurry, formally into business was through a blog. The blog was about artificial intelligence, and it initially was documenting how I taught myself to code and learning about all the different machine learning algorithms and how to apply them in business. 

As a whole, the blog was pretty successful, I managed to grow it to over 3000 readers, I had some good content and I was running workshops that were bringing in a little bit of money for me, that would help me kind of keep the business going alongside creating all the content. But it was starting to feel like a chore and really I knew that this wasn’t where I wanted to go, and this wasn’t what I wanted to be doing long term, both in terms of running workshops on programming, and in terms of actually teaching myself to be a full blown AI engineer. 

So I knew that something wasn’t right and at some point, something was going to have to give. But it was my baby, and I built this up, it was the first time I’d really experimented with an internet business of sorts, or digital business, and I was really proud of how I’d kind of built this and where I’ve taken it to. 

So, I wasn’t really sure that I wanted to let it go, even though I knew it wasn’t where I wanted to be in the long term. 

I was working with a coach at the time and through my conversations with her about this and how it was kind of holding me back time wise, at least from being able to focus fully on my consulting business. I decided that instead of giving up the blog completely, what I would do was just take my step back. So I took a step back, I decided to reduce the amount of content that I was producing and kind of cut back on some of the workshops. And once I did this, it kind of opened up my mind to imagining what would life be like if I was fully focused on my innovation consulting business. And fully focused on some of the other aspects of that, that we’re actually doing a little bit better and seeing some signs of growth. 

And in this process of stepping back, I was able to kind of detach my emotional investment from my first business and from my blog, so that I could really start to let that go and still feel good about it. 

So I, I progressively kind of detached myself from the blog I was posting less and less frequently. And I started to really pivot and focus on my innovation consulting and creating content for that, that was really much more in line with my values and where I wanted to go. And after a couple of weeks of doing this, it was much quicker than I expected. I started getting bigger clients reaching out. And some of these guys were people that I’d seen from afar and thought “oh one day I’d love to work with them”. But now as I was starting to really focus on my other business and growing my innovation consulting, they were actually reaching out to me and I was starting to gain traction, and the revenue was starting to grow. 

So, fast forward a few months and here we are, I’ve launched this podcast, I completely step back from my artificially intelligent Claire blog. And I’m building up my client base for innovation consulting. And all of this was possible because I decided to let go of the thing that was holding me back from fully embracing this new opportunity. And that was my first business. 

So that’s a little bit about how letting go helped me to create a bigger business and grow my revenue into something more sustainable. 

But, as you can well imagine, I am not the only person that has been impacted by having to let go of something to build that dream. 

So, another example I wanted to share with you is one that I discovered recently, and that’s the story of PayPal. 

PayPal was founded to be a more secure way for people to transfer money between the devices. And one of the big innovations that they had was this email based transfer process for funds. And they were using this and they spent a lot of time building up the interface to make this work really well for transferring money between these different devices. 

But Elon Musk and the rest of the leadership team that saw that, even though their desktop product, which was PayPal on their desktop was very kind of basic and didn’t have all the great features that their devices technology had, it was getting a lot more traction. And they were seeing that a lot of customers were using this to make purchases on eBay. And so this was a bit of a surprise. And the decision was made that they would pivot and focus on the desktop experience, so that they could really support this growing network of customers. 

Now, that all sounds very easy and simple and like quite obvious when you are kind of talking about it from somewhere outside of the company. And from knowing the overall success that this did have in PayPal ‘s thriving business. But it wasn’t easy. Imagine, like, you’ve been building a business and you are investing in the technology, you love your idea, you’ve worked really hard on building something great. And then all of a sudden, you have to pivot to this kind of secondary piece, because you think that that might have a bigger opportunity. 

Now, that’s not an easy thing to do. And it was definitely a struggle for the engineers and some of the leadership at PayPal at the time, who felt like it was the wrong decision. And they were letting go of the vision that helped them start the company in order to pivot to this new opportunity. 

But eventually, they kind of came around. They did a lot of work on that desktop experience, and it worked out very well for them. Because in 2002, just a few years after the company were formed, they sold to eBay for $1.5 billion. So, for them, they went through this phase of having developed this incredible technology, having to let it go. But ultimately being able to grow their revenue and their innovation by doing that and being successful in it. So it’s, just because you start out something with one vision sometimes letting that vision or that pure, pure form of your vision go, will help you identify those innovation opportunities that will really help your business to thrive and grow for the future.

Okay, so now you’ve heard about the power of letting go. It’s time we talk a little bit about how to let go. 

So, I am not going to profess to be a master of letting go. I definitely still hold on to things much longer than I need to. But I will share with you three things that, particularly when it comes to in business, have helped me to let go of some of the projects, businesses, goals and programs that I was previously so passionate about. 

So the first tip I want to share is to give yourself time. Don’t rush into letting go and force yourself into it because the reality is, it’s not going to work. You have to be in the place where you’re ready to let go. You understand why it’s happening and you’ve accepted that. So one tip I would give you to help you get there is to start by taking small steps. Much like I did with when I stepped away from my blog, start by just allowing yourself to commit to hosting less, taking on fewer clients, not pushing out this software quite so hard, and taking a step back from that vertical within your business. 

So remember, these kind of small steps are two way doors, you don’t have to just make a decision, and that’s it that’s final. If it turns out that actually, the part of the business you thought you might need to let go is the one that’s going to drive the biggest growth, then you can just reverse that small step. You can just go back and get picked up where you left off. 

But if you do think that it’s something that you need to let go, I recommend taking it step by step and giving yourself plenty of time to do that. 

The second thing I want to share with you, which is a much more personal way of looking at letting go and thinking about your business, is think about how each part of your business aligns with your values, and how much you want to put into keeping those parts of your business alive. 

As a general rule, I find that the more in line something is with my personal and professional values, the more likely I am to put in the work that’s going to help it to succeed. 

So if you’re anything like me, understanding what your core values are, and how you can apply them within your business, is something that’s going to help you prioritise the items that are going to drive the most value for you and deprioritise or let go of the ones that aren’t. 

So to start thinking about this understand or what’s important to you. So what are the things that you want for your business and that you want to focus on in life personally and professionally. Does what you’re looking at and what you’re thinking about letting go or does every part of your business align with those values. Now, I’m not saying I expect every single thing to be perfectly aligned with all of your core values. Of course each of our businesses have things within them that we’d rather not have to do, but that are essential, and things that are perhaps not perfectly aligned to the way that we would want to live in an ideal world. 

However, if something is massively out of alignment, and you’re worried about how it’s going to fit into the long term scalability and sustainability of your business, maybe you should think about letting go of that. But first, definitely understand why you were holding on to it in the first place. Something may come up here that’s going to help you ultimately move forward and may make a solution to innovate in this space in a way that’s more in line with your values, becomes clear.

So the third and final step that I want to share with you is to practice acceptance. 

So practice accepting that some things are never going to be. Practice accepting the you are not perfect. Practice understanding and accepting that some things you hold on to, not because you think that they are adding value but because letting go is actually really difficult to do. Be kind to yourself. Some parts of your business, some endeavours which seems so good and so promising in the first instance, just aren’t going to work in the real world. 

There are countless stories of failed escapades and adventures of incredible and inspirational entrepreneurs and founders, and everyone’s got those stories of failed businesses on their way to success. Very few people get it perfectly right first time without any failures. 

And in fact, I can’t think of any. So, just be kind to yourself and accept that some things that you thought were going to drive the revenue and be your innovative solutions just aren’t going to work in the long term. And it’s okay for you to let them go and to focus on other things that are having more success and where you’re getting good feedback from your customers. 

So that’s it for this super short episode of the innovation in business podcast on letting go.

So today, we’ve had two success stories of the power of letting go, and we’ve talked briefly about how to let go. To summarise again, my three tips for helping you let go of things within your business, or goals that you’ve had that aren’t coming to fruition are, give yourself time. Allow yourself time and space to accept what’s happening and to let it go. Think about how items are aligned with your values. What’s more important to you? And why are you holding onto something if it does not fit with that. And finally, practice acceptance. Accept that not everything’s going to work out, accept that you’re not perfect and some things aren’t for now, maybe they’re for the future. But right now you need to prioritise and focus on other things, so you’re going to let them go. 

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s episode. Next week, we’re going to be talking about a subject that’s really close to my heart and that is niching into your why. 

We all know that having a niche in business is important. But what if you just struggle to define it to one thing, or what if it’s more about the feeling than it is a specific and tangible group. 

So this is where my concept around niching into your Why has come from. And I’m going to be explaining more about that to you next week. 

So tune in each Tuesday of your top up of inspiring innovation stories and techniques. Make sure you subscribe to the podcast on your podcast provider so you don’t miss an episode. And if you have time, please leave us a review as this helps other people find the podcast and helps me get great guests for you. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s episode and I’m looking forward to catching up with you again next week.