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.
We are passionate about understanding how the strategic conversations you hold – in boardrooms or hallways – can lead to breakthrough ideas … and why so often they don’t. We have found five mistakes teams often make that tend to kill off the most exciting strategic possibilities, and we’ve come up with a way to counter each mistake, called the IDEAS framework (Imagine, Dissect, Expand, Analyze, Sell).
In this article, I share this framework with you, in addition to a special announcement about a new program we are launching this month (see below).
If someone handed you a sledgehammer and told you to start smashing your company’s products, would you do it? That’s exactly what Haier CEO Zhang Ruimin did to prove a point to his employees. That was the first in a long line of radical decisions that have transformed the company from a fledgling refrigerator maker to the world’s number one appliance manufacturer – and kept it there.
Three days are too few to fully unwind into what makes the Cayman Islands special. Lobster at the waterside cafe, sparkling blue water lapping white sand, genuinely nice people living in a safe country that feels, well, just happy. I was there to teach a two-day Outthinker course for a local university, training fast-rising government officials on how to sharpen their strategic and innovative thinking skills.
A hundred years before Uber popularized the “platform business,” an English teacher and a porcelain merchant were launching their own platform business in Canton, China, called Li & Fung. In 1906, Li To-ming and Fung Pak-liu started a trading company, exporting porcelain, fireworks, jade and silk. They eventually set up headquarters in Hong Kong.
The 150+ internal innovators I’ve interviewed over recent years all have precisely one thing in common. This thing they share is not any of the traits we typically associate with successful innovators: not creativity, customer insight, or influence; not technical knowledge, team leadership skills, or marketing prowess.
No … the one thing they share is this: persistence. They don’t give up.
Mine was not the best high school, but we had some perks. I got to take an economics class at Yale my senior year, my small cohort mostly went on to Ivy League colleges, and I got to leave school at 12:30pm.