There’s a lot of talk about innovation, but in practice, we know that actions speak louder than words. Entrepreneurs have gained a daredevil mystique through their high stakes approach to business, which often fails - but can also pay off spectacularly.

Recently told the story of his ‘biggest light bulb moment’. He located it very near the beginning of his career, when he realised that the cut-price records he was selling through his struggling youth culture magazine Student actually provided a greater opportunity than the magazine itself. Through this revelation, Student was shelved, and Virgin Records was born.

In fact, the ‘light bulb’ that came on for Branson actually illuminated something that he was already doing. Having tested various other ways to make the magazine profitable and failed, he tried an experiment that turned out to be highly successful and used that prototype to take the next step.

The other key point is that he took a risk. A big one. By shutting down the operation he knew and banking everything on a new idea, Branson paved the way for a brand that would ultimately be defined by the breadth of its portfolio and adventurous spirit.

And there’s one more detail implied by Branson’s story of cross-industry switching: the people who went on the journeys with him. The entrepreneur credits his team for working with him through Virgin’s various adventures, and rightly so. Virgin is not Richard Branson, but an organisation of people who are galvanised by him into following him into the unknown. He’s said of his management style, “if you take care of your employees, your employees will take care of your customers and your customers will take care of your shareholders.” And of starting such a wide portfolio of businesses, he claims that it’s all about hiring the right people, giving them the freedom they need and stepping back. For Branson, disruption is a people skill.

And it’s not only entrepreneurs who shake things up and agitate to improve their organisations and their industries. Netflix has transformed not just the rental industry, but now also the film production industry. When Google launched Google Maps, it marked the inevitable decline of printed street maps. And new British energy firm Octopus Energy is already challenging the “big six” suppliers by publishing the wholesale price that it pays for energy, identifying what it sees as the main issue for consumers that the industry has failed to address - consumer trust.

What behaviours can leaders adopt to agitate and create powerful change? At Potential Squared, we work with leaders across a range of industries to help them innovate for the future. Our second eBook in a series about leadership, change and innovation focusses on how leaders can create habits and drive others to drive for a better future.

 

 

You can read the eBook “The Power of the Professional Agitator” here.