strategic growth

How To Innovate From the Inside: Practical Steps From Top Leaders

  • Strategic growth occurs when businesses invest both time and resources in looking inward. Ensure it becomes a part of your company’s culture by integrating inward growth practices into your framework. 
  • Leaders can model introspection by pressing pause, identifying blindspots and crystalizing areas of focus.
  • Teams need consensus and common language. Working toward agreement on product strategies and roadmaps allows teams to function at optimal levels while remaining in sync with company priorities.

Growing a business requires an understanding of both high-level concepts and day-to-day operations. How these two things work in tandem with one another will determine whether or not your business thrives. 

Regular listeners of The BOLD Business Podcast know that companies do not talk enough about strategy. It’s easy to get lost in the daily grind of running a business. But when we prioritize introspection and team consensus and build a framework that incorporates a cadence for reflection, growing from the inside becomes a natural part of our rhythm. 

This emphasis on self-improvement strengthens our processes, motivation, creativity, and products and services. Working from the inside out allows businesses to prosper. 

When we focus on both internal and external factors and how they interplay with one another, we’re able to find rapid success in pursuing our true north. It’s all about the commitment to both. 

How can you improve your practices of inside growth? We outline strategies for the individual, for teams and for the framework that supports your business.

Start With Yourself  

Introspective leadership elicits company-wide growth. As a bold business leader, it’s up to you to lead the charge on reflection and company improvement. First, this requires you to devote time and energy to self-transformation. Here are six ways leaders can use introspection as a tool for growth:

1. Know Your Blindspots

Luke Layman, CEO of Vector Solutions, decorated fighter pilot, serial entrepreneur and investor, believes it’s essential to know your blindspots. He says, “The largest individual transformation that I ever experienced was my awareness simply of the word ‘blindspot.’” Sometimes all it takes is acknowledging that blindspots exist for executives to be more mindful of them. “Ask yourself: What do I not know today that would benefit me tomorrow?” he elaborates.

Quote - Luke Layman

2. Know Your Focus

If you can’t articulate what you want your business to focus on, how can you expect your team to help move your business in the right direction? Kelly Henry, a chiropractor turned consultant who helps small businesses accelerate growth and profits, is an expert in this arena. He explains that understanding what you choose to focus on is an essential step. “Just be good at that [focus] … the rest will take care of itself.” He believes that when you focus with intention and make that focus known, the remaining pieces naturally fall into place. 

Quote - Dr. Kelly Henry

3. Know Who You Are and What Your Strengths Are

Can you identify where your company excels? Are you a best of breed or a bundled set of services or products? Understanding and identifying this allows you to build a better framework and align your processes for success. If you don’t know your strengths, you can’t leverage your company, your team or your own personal talents to thrive. 

4. Press Pause and Cut Through the Noise

Sometimes we veer off course. Being able to identify when we’ve strayed from the main road is an essential skill of introspection. When this happens, press pause. Then reach out to an advisor or trusted ally and ask them to help you reset and return to the proper focus. Understanding when you’re living your company’s values and when you’re not will allow you to remain intentional in your decision-making and leadership. Daniel Kahneman, author of “Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment,” expands on this idea, explaining that cutting through the noise helps us think more clearly and exhibit better judgment.

5. Turn Your Failures Into Feedback

Failures don’t exist when you know what to do with them. Henry elaborates: ‘There’s no such thing as failure, only feedback … Think to yourself: OK, yeah; this didn’t go as planned, but what can I learn from it? How can I start over again? How can I move forward more intelligently and think of this as a stepping stone instead of a stumbling block?’ When you reflect on perceived failures, you learn how to turn them into opportunities. 

6. Channel Your Feelings 

There’s a significant difference between emotions and feelings. Layman believes that emotions are reactive, whereas feelings are preemptive. As a result, feelings can be planned, selected, and intentionally harnessed in our daily life. “When I’m walking into a key meeting, I actually stop to think about the way that I want to feel,” he says. “I can choose the three or four feelings that I want to use throughout my day … It’s a superweapon in the business world.” 

When leaders focus on self-improvement, they guide the company vision and model the value of reflection and transformation. These tools for introspection work not just for business executives but also for team members. And speaking of teams … 

Get Your Team on the Same Page 

Dedicating time to ensuring your team is collectively synced with one another is a worthwhile investment. 

Jay Haynes is the founder and CEO of, the first and only jobs-to-be-done software for product, marketing and sales teams. He compares the team to a band. When bands practice and connect, they can make beautiful music. But when they aren’t meshing, it can be catastrophic. 

Quote - Jay Haynes

“A lot of times, it’s like they’re playing bad music. None of your band members are on the same page, so they’re playing different notes, and they’re battling,” he explains. 

When companies don’t have consistent language, there are going to be problems. “Having consensus and building agreement on a product strategy and your product roadmap is what drives your growth,” Haynes elaborates. “[Your team] needs to be able to communicate this consistently and easily to its customers.” 

Invest time in defining the customer and defining the tasks at hand. By gaining clarity and consensus, your team can work in harmony. 

Build a Framework With a Cadence for Reflection

A solid framework, or the way business is done, allows problem-solving to occur. The proper framework identifies and allows the right automation and the best systems and solutions for your company to succeed. Building reflection into the cadence of your framework will enable you to regularly make time for inner growth. The cadence creates a seamless opportunity to revisit growth opportunities, areas of focus and ensure that your business remains aligned and in pursuit of your true north. 

When reflection is part of the rhythm of your framework, your team will inherently understand and get on board with inner growth, naturally pausing from external factors to explore the company’s inner workings. It becomes a company-wide cultural practice. 

What are some of the opportunities that arise when companies embrace a framework that integrates reflection? Leaders know when to say no. They revisit old ideas. Executives clarify their areas of focus. Teams engage in the new research. Avenues for rapid success reveal themselves in abundance when companies prioritize regular opportunities for reflection and look inward. 

What’s Your One Big Thing? (Be a Hedgehog) 

All of this introspection and inner work can lead us to many opportunities for growth, but honing in on the one thing that should be your focus can feel overwhelming, especially when you have a lot of ideas and a lot of observations. 

But Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t,” gives us a tool for taking the many threads from our inward work and prioritizing them using what he calls The Hedgehog Concept. Inspired by an Ancient Greek parable, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing,” he believes that becoming a hedgehog is the path forward for great companies. The Hedgehog Concept looks at the intersection between three key questions:

  1. What are you deeply passionate about? 
  2. What can you be the best at in the world?
  3. What best drives your economic or resource engine?  

Knowing the answers to these questions for yourself, your team and your company allows you to pursue the big initiatives that lead to rapid success. By looking inward, you can truly thrive. 

strategic growth

Want to learn more about growing your business from the inside? Listen to what else Layman, Henry and Haynes had to say on the topic in our podcast episode, “Innovation from the Inside.” Don’t forget to subscribe to The BOLD Business Podcast for more insights on leadership and success.

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