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It’s fantastic to have Woody Bendle back on the Brainzooming blog after too long away with an admonition to consider going opposite with your new product innovation strategy. Here’s Woody! 

New Product Innovation Strategy – Go Opposite by Woody Bendle

If you are a student or practitioner of new product innovation strategy, you are undoubtedly familiar with the “Go Opposite” strategy.  If you are neither however, the Go Opposite new product innovation strategy is a specific example of an innovation technique sometimes called “Challenge Existing Conventions” that seeks innovation opportunities by going after sacred cows – or purposefully diverging from the herd.

I have recently come across a terrific example that really drives home the Go Opposite new product innovation strategy in running shoes. Consider this depiction of 40 years of running shoes:

Running-Shoe-Trends

From the 1970s through the late 2000s, the prevailing trend in running shoes was the evolution and advancement of materials and technologies.  Shoes became more constructed with better out and midsoles that were designed for runners with different gates and foot-strike patterns.

In 2009, Christopher MacDougall’s book Born to Run (affiliate link) unleashed the “Go Opposite” trend of minimalism and for the next five or so years, nearly every running shoe company introduced an array of minimalism innovations that were designed to emulate the feeling of being barefoot – without actually being barefoot.

Right about the same time as the release of Born to Run, a completely different type of running shoe company started up called Hoka One One.  Rather than following the prevailing trend of minimalism, Hoka (affiliate link) innovated by Going Opposite and produced running shoes with maximal cushioning.  And, for going opposite when it comes to its new product innovation strategy, they have been rewarded with a ton of awards and accolades.

Regardless of the market that you happen to compete in, it is always important to understand the prevailing trends driving your industry.  But just remember, chasing the prevailing trend is usually a pretty crowded space and some terrific innovative opportunities regularly exist by exploring the opposite direction! Woody Bendle

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  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

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During our Brainzooming “Outside-In Innovation” workshop at the Compete Through Service Symposium, participants applied several of our benefits-based strategic thinking exercises.

These inter-related strategic thinking exercises help explore higher-impact benefits. These longer benefit lists highlight new innovation opportunities, improve messaging, and suggest potential competitors.

One participant struggled on the strategic thinking exercise to identify competitors. Participants were trying to list three types of organizations delivering comparable benefits to their own. The three types are:

  • Expected competitors – Those on a brand’s typical competitor list
  • Surprising competitors – Dissimilar organizations that could still clearly be competitors
  • Left Field competitors – Completely non-traditional, out of category organizations that could possibly compete with yours

As an example, here’s a left field competitor someone identified. A health insurance company selected Google as a left field competitor. Google has massive amounts of information on healthcare needs. It could also introduce ways to collect more. Additionally, Google has dabbled with delivering online healthcare.

The participant stymied in pushing his thinking on left field competitors asked for help to push further.

Left-Field-Fenway

Two Other Ideas to Imagine Potential Left Field Competitors

As is often the case, one great way to push your thinking into new areas is to combo multiple strategic thinking exercises.

Strategic Thinking Exercise Idea 1 – What’s It Like?

If you’re challenged by identifying unlikely but potentially emerging competitors, you can combo the benefits approach with the “What’s It Like” strategic thinking exercise.

In “What’s It Like,” you list five diverse characteristics of your business situation. You use this list to explore others organizations facing the same types of generalized situations.

To imagine more unusual potential competitor possibilities, you could pick various combinations of only two of the five characteristics. What left field competitors might match just two characteristics similar to yours? The answer can still tie to what you do. But using only two common characteristics should create room for a wilder exploration of potential left field competitors.

Strategic Thinking Exercise Idea 2 – What’s Getting in the Way?

The recent story we shared from Armada Corporate Intelligence about how the Oreo brand is staying fresh inspired another way to spot left field competitors.

Oreo identified online video games as a competitor. The reasons were consumers play with video games – and spend discretionary dollars on them – while they wait in retail lines instead of looking at (and buying from) Oreo point-of-sale displays.

Cookies and online video games competing is a pretty left field comparison, if you ask me.

You can identify comparable left field competitor comparisons. Explore how else your customers may be using the time, attention, and resources they usually would have used to buy from your brand. Even more critically, examine other brands, in or out of your market, that are inserting themselves and disrupting the traditional buying process.

Why imagine left field competitors?

If you wonder about the value of identifying left field competitors, consider the benefit to Borders Books, Tower Records, and any cell phone company of imagining Apple as a far-off competitor twenty years ago! – Mike Brown

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Download: FREE Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookAre you making the best use of customer input and market insights to deliver innovation and growth? Creating successful, innovative new products and services has never been more dependent on tapping perspectives from outside your organization.

This new ebook features sixteen strategic thinking exercises to help you ideate, prioritize, and develop your best innovative growth ideas. Download this free, concise ebook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Learn and rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate crowd sourced perspectives into your innovation strategy in smart ways

Download this FREE ebook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s growth.

 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I’m recasting a variety of innovation-oriented Brainzooming strategic thinking exercises for a workshop on “Strategic Service Innovation” at the 2014 Compete Through Service Symposium at the Arizona State University Center for Services Leadership. Having organized many corporate senior management education programs at ASU previously, it’s exciting to get back to the Center for Services Leadership to facilitate two Brainzooming workshops on strategic service innovation.

Among the strategic thinking exercises we’re revamping is one where companies can explore potential opportunities to identify new markets with brand new service (or product) offerings.

For a traditional, established company, the prospect of entering a new market with something less than what it would have in place to introduce a new offering in its primary markets can scuttle innovation.

The thing is, however, companies emerging with a disruptive mindset aren’t approaching markets as established companies approach them.

If you’re in an established company trying to become a disruptive strategic force in a new market, you have to figure out a way to give your brand internal permission to pursue markets where:

  1. Your brand isn’t a blip of a presence yet.
  2. You’ll be starting from scratch (or close to it) to create a brand position so you can create distance from your primary brand.
  3. You may be introducing a niche offering, so targeting a small share at a premium price is viable.
  4. You may need to spread costs differently in order to consider pursuing a low-priced, share-stealing strategy.
  5. You are creating a product/service and price point combination that isn’t comparable to any market competitor.
  6. Your strategy needs to lower certain risks so you can move dramatically more quickly compared to new entries in your primary market.
  7. Heavying up on only one part of the marketing mix and largely ignoring others is acceptable.
  8. The entry point into the industry’s current customer model may seem radically different.
  9. You’re not over-focused on looking like current players in the industry since doing so can reduce your disruptive impact.
  10. You may be a part-time player, making it unnecessary to try to serve all the market needs with a complete product offering.
  11. It’s possible to be successful against traditional competitors even with major deficits in areas that industry players think are important, but really aren’t in customers’ eyes.
  12. You can over-deliver on a very different set of benefits than traditional players.

Sound scary?

If so, that’s good.

Now give your brand permission to enter a market where some, most, or all of these permissions become realities. That’s when your brand can really shake things up and disrupt! – Mike Brown

 

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If you’re facing a challenging organizational situation and are struggling to maintain forward progress because of it, The Brainzooming Group can provide a strategic sounding-board for you. We will apply our strategic thinking and implementation tools on a one-on-one basis to help you create greater organizational success. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around your organizational challenges.


Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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What are you doing to use surprise and confusing competitive strategy and implementation in your market?

Not much, you say?

If you think the only viable end result of surprising competitive strategy is winning the sales competition in which you are engaged, you could be missing incredible strategic opportunities.

Surprising Competitive Strategy and Confusing Your Competitor

On Monday Night Football this week, the New England Patriots were playing our hometown Kansas City Chiefs. With a fourth down and short yardage situation, the Patriots sent the punt kicking team out on the field. Then, as the players neared the line of scrimmage and with the wave of a few hands, nearly the entire punting unit ran off the field as the “fourth down and go for it” players stormed onto the field.

Football-PLay2

At that point, facing a very surprising competitive strategy, there were several options for the Kansas City Chiefs:

  • Remain in utter confusion
  • Try to defend against the Patriots competitive strategy even though mismatched and misaligned
  • Take a time out to be able to regroup

The Kansas City Chiefs, as you can see in this brief video of the play, took a time out to be able to regroup.

While the New England Patriots went on to lose the game in a big way, this surprise competitive strategy could have created the confusion to let the Patriots change momentum in the game. As the alternative played out, it forced the Kansas City Chiefs to expend a precious resource (a time out) in the interests of defending the play more successfully.

So while the Patriots didn’t win the game, they did win this exchange by forcing the Chiefs to lose a time out.

Think about how this might apply to your company’s own competitive strategy.

Are there typical market situations where a surprise strategic move (perhaps a one-off service package, a highly-targeted promotional offer, a strategic price over-reach, etc.) could confuse a competitor and force them to either remain confused and lose business or expand precious resources addressing a unique move you have no intention replicating elsewhere in the market?

Remember, you don’t have to win the game to win the moment, so how might your company play a confusion strategy to win the NEXT play in a damaging way for your competitor? – Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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It’s time for a strategic thinking rant.

Who screwed up the thinking of so many business people who believe making strong, tough decisions on cutting costs and saving their companies from closing, ISN’T strategic?

Gator-Fighting

I’d like to meet the person responsible for messing up so many business people’s minds and set the person straight.

What Is Strategic and What Isn’t?

We covered this point last fall after a keynote presentation I delivered on Creating Strategic Impact. Last week, at the 10th annual CFMA annual Heartland Conference, the same point came up again during Q&A. Interestingly, both groups were comprised of financial leaders, but I don’t think that’s the issue.

So what is the origin of this mistaken belief about what’s strategic and what isn’t strategic?

I think it related to the mistaken thinking that “strategic” only pertains to:

  • Long-term issues, so anything addressing immediate survival isn’t strategic
  • Growth, so cost-cutting isn’t strategic
  • Innovation, so focusing and reducing what an organization does isn’t strategic
  • Operational and P&L issues, so when Finance takes the lead the business issues must not be strategic
  • Periods where a company has the flexibility to pursue new initiatives, so belt-tightening isn’t strategic
  • Situations where everyone is upbeat about a company’s prospects, so the dark days couldn’t be filled with strategic issues

Those are just six possibilities that come to mind.

All of these beliefs are incorrect.

As we tell clients and “Creating Strategic Impact” workshop participants, what determines what is strategic is whether it matters to the organization’s success and demands being addressed with insight and innovation.

And what matters for an organization can pertain to a variety of areas, including an organization’s core purpose, values, vision, brand, key audiences, ability to satisfy customers, financial prospects, resource /  raw material supplies, structure, or alignment.

Now, applying our standard for what’s strategic to the six mistaken strategic beliefs highlighted earlier, all of these are strategic:

  • Immediate decisions and implementation efforts to strengthen the brand and is performance
  • Vital cost-cutting efforts
  • Periods where an organization is having to make critical consolidation moves
  • Times when a staff area in the organization is best positioned to step up and lead change
  • Periods where a company has few options, requiring it be stellar in deciding and implementing
  • Situations where the future appears darkest and smart, dramatic decisions are vital

Now, don’t all of those seem like massively strategic situations?

You bet they do!

Creating Strategic Impact

If you feel as if your organization hasn’t been strategic the past few years, take a look back through our strategic lens. See if you don’t feel differently about what you’ve been facing and what fundamentals you’ve had to address.

If you’ve been fighting for survival, have made it through, and feel as if you’re ready to move form surviving to thriving, I’ll pretty much guarantee you’ve been strategic.

So cut yourself a break, and tell anyone who doesn’t think you’re on top of strategy to pound sand.

End of strategic thinking rant – for now! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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This week’s “Inside the Executive Suite” from the Armada Executive Intelligence Brief newsletter focused on an intriguing article from Inc. online. The article identified reasons why major companies invest significant, seemingly unjustified amounts on startup businesses with scant revenues and no discernible business models.

Big-Idea-Dollars

The original article from Inc. by Dev Aujla claims major companies use these acquisitions as a new variation on research and development. A major corporation may be able to pick up a whole startup for many millions of dollars. Despite seeming like an excessive figure, the purchase price could still put the major corporation dollars ahead versus developing whatever the startup offers on its own.

Aujla highlights three reasons major companies target these acquisitions. They are typically looking for:

1) New learnings and research
2) The opportunity to more easily plug a hole in their product or market portfolio
3) Talent that moves them ahead in new areas

AEIB-GraphicThe folks at the Armada Executive Intelligence Brief used Aujla’s three items and offered strategic thinking questions for each of the three areas.

The strategic thinking questions provide a way for companies, even ones far beyond startup status, to develop strategies boosting their chances for acquisition or spin-off opportunities. Armada agreed to let us share the questions here for each of the three areas.

The remainder of this post with the strategic thinking questions comes directly from the Armada Executive Intelligence Brief newsletter and its “Inside the Executive Suite” edition.

Strategic Thinking Questions for Crafting Startup Strategy in Any Business

1. Developing New Learnings and Research

Many companies claim to be learning organizations. This is often professional development jargon for “educating the staff.” While education is important, it won’t prompt another company to pay a premium simply because your employees have current training.

Try this strategic flip, though. Instead of characterizing your company as a learning organization, characterize it as a “discovering” organization. With that change in strategic perspective, evaluate where you stand today and where you would like to be a year from now:

  • What is our organization discovering that no other party knows?
  • How many people inside our organization are hell-bent on discovering new technologies, capabilities, and possibilities to bring to market?
  • Who are the people and organizations outside our own that we are collaborating with on major discovery efforts?
  • What discoveries can we make happen at lower cost, with less risk and red tape, and at a markedly faster pace than bigger firms can?

These answers should stretch your organization to move beyond learning what everyone else knows into discovering breakthrough knowledge with real value to outside parties.

2. Filling Holes in Markets, Audiences, or Product Portfolios

Aggressively examine market, audience, and product strategy gaps at other organizations to discover missing elements you can fill through your own exploration.

  • Which organizations have bigger, more sweeping product visions than ours? What gaps exist in their product portfolios we might be able to supplement through our narrower focus on product and market development?
  • What markets adjacent to ones we serve include competitors with missing elements in their market, audience, or product mixes?
  • Are there companies in related or even far removed categories lacking strong platforms for innovation that our discovery strategy could readily address?

Don’t think about fixing everything with these discovery efforts. Focus on the minimum standard product or market development allowing another organization to readily fill a gap by eventually acquiring what you are doing.

3. Gaining New Talent

Consider how your organization pursues new talent. Is there a deliberate attempt to hire the types and caliber of people most ready to help your organization discover and grow along a valuable path?

While you may be hiring to clear standards, evaluate – if you haven’t already – who will be the “explorers” you need to discover the knowledge, markets, audiences, and products with the greatest potential value. Think about these questions:

  • What deliberate actions are we taking to bring on extraordinary discoverers?
  • What steps are we taking to identify and target emerging talent, i.e., people who aren’t as well known, but are about to become rock star talents?
  • What relationships are in place (or can we develop) with educational institutions that are doing new work and introducing new programs in areas of discovery for our organization? (BTW, you may need to be looking at grade schools, middle schools, and even home schooling programs.)

It’s clear that answering these questions won’t lead to simply placing online ads and waiting for your email inbox to fill with too many resumes! – via “Inside the Executive Suite” 

 

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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We have been developing a new competitive intelligence process for a client. The B2B company wants to better collect, analyze, and disseminate valuable insights on competitive strategy.

As with many competitive intelligence systems, especially in B2B settings, much of the most timely and otherwise unavailable intelligence will come from the salesforce. Similarly, the salesforce is in one of the best positions to take advantage of competitive intelligence to better position products, value propositions, and offers to customers to stymie competitive strategy.

It is vital, however, to ensure the competitive intelligence process is not simply asking for competitive intelligence from salespeople, and then giving it back to them without adding sufficient value.

6 Ways to Enhance Competitive Intelligence from the Salesforce

Heard-On-The-Street

To combat this possibility, here are six enhancements to competitive intelligence that originates with the salesforce to deliver new value:

  1. Aggregate information from multiple people to provide a view no one individual has in order to see patterns or spot trends.
  2. Perform additional and deeper analysis on the raw information to create new understanding.
  3. Communicate information to senior leadership that salespeople feel intently, but that is typically lost in the corporate shuffle (i.e., a regional or niche competitor who is not big enough to get corporate-wide attention).
  4. Disprove or verify early rumors salespeople have reported to address the word on the street.
  5. Exploit the availability of non-sales sources to enhance the raw intelligence and deliver new information to them.
  6. Make if more efficient for sales to gather and especially share competitive intelligence with a process that funnels competitive intelligence to them when they need it.

Is a more robust competitive strategy in your plans?

If your organization needs to boost the value of competitive intelligence from your salesforce, give us a call or email. We’d love to talk to you about how we apply our Brainzooming techniques to efficiently gathering information from broad sources and turning it into actionable competitive intelligence. – Mike Brown

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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