Outthink your competition with these ideas for innovation
“I was told over and over again that I would never be successful, that I was not going to be competitive and the technique was simply not going to work. All I could do was shrug and say "We’ll just have to see".” - Dick Fosbury
When U.S. athlete Dick Fosbury died this year, the world lost an Olympian and a fascinating innovator. Unlike his competitors who straddle-jumped the high jump bar at the 1968 Olympic Games, Dick jumped backwards off the “wrong foot” and arched his body over the bar.
His gold-medal winning technique became known as the “Fosbury Flop” and changed the high jump forever.
And this innovation is a perfect example of the “4th option” – crazy ideas that prompt disbelief or laughs.
Most innovation plays safe with “where we are today” and some “stretch” goals.
But we learned in our masterclass with Kaihan Krippendorff that hundreds of ideas (many of them crazy 4th options like the Fosbury Flop) are better. Here we summarise Kaihan’s framework, and 8 areas of your business that could be transformed.
The IDEAS Framework
Ideally, your innovation strategy contains ideas that your competition ignores or laughs at.
It’s not that they can’t do what you do, but they choose not to. At least initially! This requires you to think differently and maybe even develop a new language.
Here’s Kaihan’s IDEAS Framework:
· Imagine – Envision a future. Are you clear on your long-term vision and goals?
· Dissect – Dissect your business model. Do you intentionally design choices in all 8 dimensions (see below) of your business model?
· Expand – Generate new options. Do you generate a rich pipeline of ideas?
· Analyse – Choose options to prioritise. Do you make clear choices of which ideas to pursue (including which crazy ideas to work on)?
· Sell – Build buy-in and support. Do your people fully understand and are aligned to your strategic priorities?
Start with Imagine
Innovation requires imagination, and imagination needs a zoomed-out view – well outside the walls of your workplace.
Mess. Step one is to look into the future and identify the “mess” you’re in. The “mess” is the undesirable but realistic future that awaits you on your current path.
Trends. Step two is listing the key trends that will shape the long-term. Consider regulations, technology, socio-demographics, and macro-economics.
Long-term ideal. Step three is to envision the long-term outcome you most want to achieve, and describe it as concretely as possible.
Near-term ideal. Step four is list the near-term indicators or outcomes that must be met to know you are on the right path to your long-term ideal goal. (See also Shannon Byrne Susko’s 3 Hag Way)
Strategic questions. Synthesise the near-term ideal into a question that is measurable and time-bound.
Then Dissect Your Business Model
A salesperson might see innovation opportunity in sales, and an HR person may generate ideas around people. However, Kaihan says when we focus on just the obvious, then we don’t choose all the possible leverage points.
In other words, at least 8 aspects of your business model are ripe picking for innovation, as we'll see below....
8 Business Model Elements to Consider
As you work through these elements, discuss with your team "Is this a strength or a weakness for us?"
Positioning – Who will your core customer be? What should your brand mean?
Product – Do you know what your customers really care about, (for example, are you reliable but not beautiful)? Will your product/service attributes need to change?
Pricing – Is it confusing? Should you change your pricing model?
Placement – Should you distribute your product/service differently? Not just your core product but all ancillary products (such as information services, access, etc)
Promotion – How will you get customers/users to commit? Can your customer acquisition cost be lower than the competition?
Physical Experience – What should your customer experience be? What can they hear, smell, see, taste, touch?
Processes – What key processes must you run/how should you operate?
People – Who do you recruit? How do you organise? What should your cultural values be?
Another good question to ask the team is “What do we want to focus on this year?” A business takes a lot of time and energy to run, so you can’t focus on all eight.
To stay ahead of the competition, you need to both defend the core and generate new growth in your business.
Let's look closer at these 2 types of strategy to beat the competition:
Defend the Core
This is the fortress you build around your revenue-generators. Spend some time cataloguing the advantages you already have over your real or imagined competitors. Can you leverage economies of scale, build in customer captivity (make it undesirable for customers to switch), or lock up resources (tangible, intangible, or organisational)?
Generate New Growth
These are the ships you send out to discover “blue oceans.” You might move early to the next battleground (“skate to where the puck is” to use an ice hockey term). What are future customer needs or behaviours? Where is technology headed?
· Kaihan suggests one future battleground is PROXIMITY – where items and services move ever closer to where they are bought or needed (for example, a 3D-printed food item or a soft drink dispenser that flavours carbonated water onsite).
· Coordinating the uncoordinated is a future battleground, much as Wotif, Airbnb, and Uber do successfully. Who or what would you like to coordinate? Customers? Employees? Suppliers? Partners? Systems?
· Force a two-front battle is another strategy. Kaihan says successful companies these days are less often defining themselves by their industry. Instead they might be a “customer service company that sells shoes.” Define yourself by your ecosystem. What business are you really in? How would that kind of company behave differently?
· Be good – investing in workers and communities – can be a strategic power.
· Create something out of nothing. Most businesses tend to follow rules that don’t really exist. Instead of playing the way everyone else does, what can you add to the game? Start something that unlocks non-consumption. Find those potential customers who currently aren’t buying because of price, access, know-how, or time. Can you add a product or service to the game? You could add new stakeholders, occasions, categories, or needs?
Analyse and Sell
Select your 4th Option
Having generated your hundreds of ideas, plot them on a matrix to separate out such things as “easy to implement” and “high value” ideas. Crazy ideas may be difficult to implement but can offer a high return. Waste of time ideas are difficult to implement and offer little value.
From these, pick your 4th option. Then continue the process of getting buy-in and support to make your innovation a reality. In a year’s time revisit your strategic plan and regenerate ideas.
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