How “Back to the Future” Can Help Servitization

By Cindy Elliott

I admire those who embody the unique talent to see into the future combined with the courage to begin taking steps to get there. Like Doc Brown in Back to the Future – or Steve Pierz at Caterpillar.

“[my] biggest frustration with innovation is that you’re always 2 to 3 years ahead of the curve.”

Steve Pierz, Serial Innovator

In the world of servitization, where business models are flipped on their heads and internal cultures shift from production-centric to customer-thinking, organizations must have persistent visionaries – or in Caterpillar’s case with Steve Pierz, a serial innovator – that can keep an eye to the future and who encourages his fellow innovators to constantly experiment to move the company forward. I encourage you to watch Steve’s video on YouTube, “Changing Caterpillars Culture One Cup of Coffee at a Time”.

There’s no question that CAT is a famously recognized brand for innovation and customer service. And in many ways that success can point back to persistently having the courage and imagination to see the future.

Unfortunately, the majority of our global society has been trained to operate in terms of quarterly results and to think in 30-60-90 day increments. Leaving no room and providing little incentive for imaging the future. Even when manufacturers have identified Servitization as a strategic priority, they tend to set quarterly goals and implement quick fixes and then are disappointed when broader transformation hasn’t occurred.

How can manufacturers more effectively encourage “future” thinkers and broader innovation? One suggestion is to look into their everyday environments to discover where pockets of innovation are occurring naturally and give those serial innovators more voice.

For example, I heard Matt Skipworth, Service Solutions Manager from Genie, Terex AWP, speak at the World Chief Service Officer Summit in London. He described how he and his team are working with 2018 in mind. To try and understand where their customers’ businesses are going and what they’re going to need from Genie to get there. This thinking helps Matt’s organization develop products and services that will best enable the customer’s success, including solutions today that provide near-term gains for both Genie and their customers while staying aligned with the vision to meet the customer’s future goals. This also positions Genie as a strategic partner in the customer’s future strategy and remain differentiated from other suppliers. Matt’s encouraging other Genie regions to adopt a similar approach.

Of course we need the here-and-now business leaders, but there is something very special about our colleagues who can see beyond the mechanics of the next 90 days. We should all surround ourselves with “serial innovators” who can’t help but imagine what the future holds and pushes the rest us out of our comfort zones.

Matt spends a lot of time on the road listening to his customers and he shared with us that after returning home from a long journey recently, his wife asked him, “Where have you been?”. He replied: “In 2018”.

Take a look at our Organisational Development Workshops for more about Visioning an Advanced Services Future.