Boss Lady

5 reasons a lack of industry experience can lead to innovation in your business


Are you ready to change jobs, but worried you don’t have the necessary industry experience? Don’t be! You probably have more to offer than you realise. From where I’m sitting, a lack of industry experience is a good thing. Why? Because, quite simply, it can be a catalyst for innovation!

Businesses need innovative practices to stand out

Without innovation businesses are quickly left behind. What you might not know is that innovation actually relies heavily upon the behaviours of employees. Without adaptable and creative employees, businesses don’t drive growth… Essentially, they lack the goods to be at the top of their game!

Millennials know what’s going on. More than ever, employees are switching industries and taking a big leap into the unknown in pursuit of more meaningful work and greater job satisfaction.

My (lack of) experience

Nearly 5 years ago, I decided I was ready for a new challenge. And, the real estate industry was calling. The only problem? I’d never worked a day in my life in real estate!

My own lack of industry know-how, combined with a deep knowledge of how to drive business and innovate new solutions, ended up being the edge I needed to climb the ranks and become a successful Chief Operating Officer at real estate franchise, Stockdale & Leggo.

I’ve identified five key qualities you need to have to successfully leap into unchartered territories. For innovation to blossom you need to bring:

1. Fresh eyes

When you’ve been in the same business or industry for a long time, it can be hard to see where the problems are. Maria Ferrante-Schepis, an insurance and financial services industry expert who consults for Fortune 100 companies, says that you need to view things from the outside to get fresh perspective. “You can’t innovate from inside the jar, and if you aren’t innovating, you’re just waiting for the expiration date on your business.”

Enter you! A new employee, fresh to the industry! You bring with you a different way of thinking and a new approach to solving issues.

I used my “fresh eyes” to curate a vision and strategic direction for Stockdale and Leggo. I was able to revolutionise the culture and technological infrastructure thanks to my outsider perspective.

We cannot solve the problem with the same thinking we used when we created them” – Albert Einstein.

2. New skills and knowledge

Opening up the talent pool allows a business to widen the scope of skills available to them. By recognising a skills gap in the organisation there will be increased capability:

  • More “thinking outside of the box” and innovative ways to generate revenue.
  • Helping teams to grow in their knowledge, expertise and outlook – an innovative employee will always pass their knowledge on to others, in turn, leading to further innovation.
  • Solutions used in past disciplines can be applied to a new industry to improve processes, bring new and improved products and services to market, and increase efficiency and profitability.

3. Creativity and vision

The essence of innovation is seeing, perceiving and solving problems in creative ways. It requires passion, vision and deep thinking. Industry knowledge can be learned, but creativity is inherent.

These innovative thinkers don’t always come with the most impressive list of qualifications. But they bring great ideas, and the talent to look at existing ideas and rework them. Thus, driving better results for the company.

4. Flexibility

Placed outside of the comfort zone, one will learn efficiently and want to make good impressions and improve the bottom line. Without the feeling of being restricted or pigeonholed that comes with remaining in the same industry, there is an increased motivation to learn.

Being more malleable than other candidates who may be set in their ways means you can be trained and moulded to fit the needs of the business. Highly adaptable employees, flexible in their approach, will bring about innovation.

Those ingrained with old, outdated practices that stay in the same job are less likely to be engaged or learning. This can result in lower quality work. Being new to the industry makes you receptive to being useful and open to new ways of doing things.

5. Leadership that improves and evolves company culture

Most people believe that in order to successfully run a business you need significant industry experience. This is not always true. Outdated management styles lead to a stagnated work culture. The fact is, if people aren’t feeling connected to the company, there’s little incentive for them to be innovative.

Under fresh leadership the potential for improvement is recognised, and new products, processes and services can be invented and innovated. There is also the possibility to forge new partnerships and relationships.

The value of expertise from other sectors

To take advantage of the skills of talented professionals and encourage real innovation, businesses need to strive to be open-minded. An industry outsider can actually be a breath of fresh air for the team and the wider business by challenging the status quo. As long as you understand the vision of the organisation and you align with their culture, there is no reason not to start anew. With your transferrable skills and a lot of innovation, you will lead your business into the future with great success!

About Anna Thomas

Anna Thomas is the Chief Operating Officer of major Australian real estate network, Stockdale & Leggo. She was recognised as a Telstra Business Women’s Awards Finalist in the Corporate and Private Award in 2016, a 2017 Finalist in the Real Estate Business Awards ‘Industry Thought Leader of the Year’ Award and a Bronze Stevie winner in the Woman of the Year category in the 2017 International Business Awards. She is also the Founder and Brand Ambassador of the ‘Empowered Women in Real Estate’ initiative, a community empowering women to believe in themselves and step forward into leadership roles. Twitter:

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