For millennia, nature and humans have blended or combined existing elements to create something new. Often the trigger is a drastic change in the environment. Brooklyn Park-based STAR prides itself as a one-stop shop with the ability to conceive, design, build, and install experiential marketing solutions for Fortune 1000 clients like Deluxe, Emerson, St. Jude Medical, and Target. But the pandemic vaporized many corporate events, and its business dropped by 40 percent.
During the civil unrest last summer, a request came from Cub Foods to board up its stores. A similar request came from Target. While outside the range of their traditional business, they accepted so they could help customers in desperate need. An order quickly followed to revive the riot-damaged Cub Foods Lake Street store in Minneapolis before its customers switched to another grocery store. Using its design and construction prowess, STAR executed in record time. In a dire situation, this event provided the trigger for STAR to realize that combining and refocusing existing capabilities is also a form of innovation.
It chose to target the accelerating and prominent trend of work-from-home. This effort, which initially began so the crew could keep busy, has led to a whole new subsidiary—myBackyardStudio for individuals. STAR has designed several standard formats and sizes of studios for use as a home office, gym, classroom, or sanctuary in your backyard. The company will also create a custom solution for a homeowner’s needs, sold through Home Depot or Lowe’s.
During the College Football Playoff (CFP), ESPN and the CFP Foundation awarded a myBackyardStudio classroom to a former Montana Teacher of the Year, garnering great publicity. STAR’s new subsidiary will contribute 25 percent of company revenue right out of the gate in 2021. Despite the severe pandemic-induced setback for the company, it overcame those challenges by rejiggering existing capabilities to create opportunities outside its traditional business.
This form of innovation, which I call “remixing,” will be recognized and pressed into use more frequently as markets and technologies continue to change at a relentless pace. The practice also can evolve, from use during a crisis to an evergreen effort that takes experience and ideas from other people or from previous approaches, then combines them into something new to meet the contemporary context.
“It was not any physical block that held us back,” says Mark Johnson, STAR’s CEO. “It was a mental block that had to be removed.”
The structured, disciplined steps to implement remixing are:
- Know your competencies.
- Identify those that are core. Select those competencies that will continue to provide a competitive advantage; seek feedback from customers, suppliers, and internal stakeholders to determine these core competencies. In the case of STAR, the key was its rapid design and construction competency.
- Ideate new capabilities or markets. Involve the broad organization to brainstorm ideas to use these core competencies beyond the present products or markets served. New and better solutions emerge in unanticipated ways and resolve thorny implementation issues after intense discussion and thrashing out of differences and disagreements.
- Narrow to key opportunities. Identify ideas that are potential opportunities for the organization now.
- Plan. Create a plan to penetrate the market with each new opportunity. It is important to understand and mitigate cultural factors that prevented considering these earlier.
Remixing, a practical method spurs growth by utilizing previous capabilities without additional capital investment. It is often underutilized, mainly when a degree of success seduces entrepreneurs into sticking with the status quo. You can activate it during any change, not just a crisis.