In my forthcoming book, Seeing Around Corners (now available for pre-order wherever you buy books), one of the major themes is that a major blind spot for organizations is that they tend to see the world through the lens of their existing industry. There are a lot of good reasons for this, but it can cause otherwise smart organizations to stumble.
This month, Harvard Business Review featured a compelling piece – “The Age of the Continuous Connection: When You Can Interact with Your Customers 24/7 You Need a New Business Model” – by Nicolaj Siggelkow and Christian Terwiesch, co-directors of Wharton’s Mack Institute for Innovation Management. The piece inspires some exciting new strategies to stay ahead of the competition. But we think it only scratches the surface of what is possible.
After a flight home long enough to empty my inbox and complete three important pieces of work, I found myself in a quiet house, family sleeping upstairs, with time on my hands. So, I stretched out on my couch and indulged in a movie.
For years I’ve sat on the opposing side of hierarchy. That rigid concept in which orders are barked down from above and complied to from below has robbed our corporations, governments, and social institutions of freedom. Many of the management thought-leaders we, at Outthinker, admire argue the same. Gary Hamel, for example, wrote “The real damper on employee engagement is the soggy, cold blanket of centralized authority.”
We cannot predict the future, but we can prepare in advance. So how do you develop early warning signs that things are about to change in an industry? One technique for identifying leading indicators is envisioning time zero events—concrete events that represent things that could have a big impact on a business.
Every year around this time, we sit to think about last year and set our resolutions for next. But there is a major risk in continuing this tradition, especially if you are doing something new.
For years I have been selling Outthinker: our workshops, certifications, speeches, membership, etc. And to be honest, it has felt exhausting. Waking up to long lists of tasks, burning red, overdue, people to follow up with and check in with. Long flights banging away email outreaches when I could be drafting the next chapter of a book.
Your ability to innovate depends on your ability to conceive of new strategic options, which in turn is a function of the number and variety of stories you recognize. When you face a challenge and ask, “What does Porter’s Five Forces tell me to do?” or “What does Clayton Christensen’s Disruptive Innovation model dictate?” you end up defaulting to what others – your competitors, your peers – would do as well. Instead, use our IDEAS framework – specifically the “Expand” step – as the key to getting out of that rut.
In our last blog, we argued that great strategies stem from impossible questions, typically a long-term one (e.g., Tesla’s how to create an electric vehicle the every-day consumer can afford?) and a near-term one (e.g., today Tesla’s might be how to establish the capacity to manufacture at scale?).
Why are so many breakthrough strategic possibilities killed off before they see the light of day? Years of research have provided us insight into the mistakes teams make that tend to kill off the most exciting ideas.