What’s a Challenger Mindset, and Why Adopt It in 2021?

By Kristina McCoobery, Co-Founder and CEO of INVNT & COO of [INVNT GROUP]
challenger mindset

Scott Cullather—my husband, life partner, and business partner—and I wrote a book entitled Challenge Everything: The Battle Cry That Blew Sh*t Up And INVNTd Live Brand Storytellingbecause a willingness to challenge the status quo is what set our first business, INVNT, apart from the rest in those early days of its inception, which just so happened to be at the height of the last global recession in 2008.

We organically began to adopt a challenger mindset, which we describe as: a bold attitude that combines a disciplined, self-directed vision with the drive to take convention-busting, “blow-shit-up” risks, and we sought out people who shared our approach. It’s now central to all that we do.

As 2020 comes to a close and we head into 2021, there’s no better time to not only adopt a challenger mindset, but start to weave it across all aspects of your business. You’ll reap the rewards, including…

Complacency will go out the window, and growing and evolving will excite you

Challengers don’t let uncertain times alter their plans completely or cause them to disappear from view. They are agile, they move fast, and they focus on finding ways to tweak, adjust, and innovate, so that what they originally had planned is still relevant and effective in a new world order, and then they move forward with it. This is what we did with the [INVNT GROUP] launch in the summer. We had been fine-tuning our expansion strategy for two years before the pandemic and took a calculated risk in accelerating the timeline on this activity as we recognized the need to diversify our service offering to support our clients at a time when they needed us most.

With a challenger mindset, creative output will be second to none

Consumers have seen it all, so it pays to think outside the box at the ideation phase, and a challenger mindset enables this. Challengers aren’t afraid to ask questions of themselves, their colleagues, and their clients, because they recognize their inquisition makes the end product stronger and more successful both in the eyes of the client and consumer. Challengers muck in and work across departments to devise the most compelling, research-driven ideas, which in turn inspire and excite clients to re-consider how they’ve always done things, and ultimately sees them try something new.

Employee turnover will be at an all-time low

It might seem like an immense outlay, but it’s important to invest the time and money into creating and nurturing a culture where high performing employees can grow and thrive, as they are essential to any company’s success. A key challenger initiative includes creating a dedicated people strategy and evolving it constantly. For instance, we shifted our quarterly company-wide calls to weekly when the pandemic emerged and introduced virtual book clubs, trivia, and team drinks. Other challenger examples include enabling inter-office and departmental shifts, supporting a feedback culture where employees of all seniority levels have a say, a hire-slow-fire-smart mentality which involves bringing people on in perma-lance positions in the first instance, and monetary rewards for those who refer a successful candidate.

You’ll have a highly regarded brand to work with

While it’s easy to get caught up in client work, at the same time it’s important not to forget about your own brand. A strong brand identity instills confidence in existing clients and generates interest among prospective ones. When we launched INVNT, we dedicated approximately 8% of our operating budget to PR and marketing, and we continue to invest in this area of our business. Why? Because commentary from impartial, reputable third parties like journalists and the judges of prestigious industry awards causes people to stop in their tracks and take notice of who we are and what we’re up to.

The work will not only be good, it’ll do good too

Philanthropy is another important challenger consideration. As an organization we give approximately 5% of our EBITDA – and passionately dedicate a ton of our time and expertise – to charitable organizations (this year we delivered the virtual Chris Carrino Foundation Gala for FSHD and pledged our support for Ms. Opal Lee’s mission to make Juneteenth a nationally recognized holiday – you can sign her petition here), because we’re passionate about doing good work, and about doing work that does good. An approach like this not only enhances a company’s reputation, it’ll open up new doors, meaningfully expand networks, and also enables more junior employees to step up.

 

So, if you’re looking to expand, secure new business with killer creative, retain top talent, and build your company’s reputation, it’s time to go one better in 2021, change your mindset, take some risks and… Challenge everything.