1

If you want to improve your organization’s innovation successes, how about going to school on your competitors?

Skeptical? Don’t be!

7 Things Competitors Can Teach You about Innovation

Here are 7 areas your competitors can teach you about innovation. You can answer these questions to better understand the pros and cons, whys and wherefores of how competitors in your industry are addressing innovation and what it means for your brand.

School-Zone

1. Where have competitors traditionally beat us to market with innovative ideas?

Based on the answer, look for reasons why competitors are beating your brand to market. Is your brand ruling out certain strategic moves, missing opportunities for innovation, or lagging during implementation? What do the answers suggest about innovating differently in the future?

2. Which innovations have come from traditional competitors versus newer players?

Generate a list from the past several years of significant innovations in your industry. Do this by asking various people in your business (or even your industry) for their recollections. Consolidate the lists into a timeline. Review the results to see which players are pursuing a competitive strategy based on innovation to drive change in your industry.

3. What signals did competitors make before introducing recent innovations?

Use your list from question 2 to look backward to recent innovations. What were competitors doing and saying prior to introducing these innovations. While you won’t find them in every case, it’s worthwhile to identify whether competitors have any corporate “tells” that signal their innovation moves before they reach the marketplace.

4. How would our competitors develop and introduce our brand’s newest innovation differently?

On one hand, if there are dramatically different innovation strategies competitors are using relative to yours, that could be VERY good. Alternatively, these differences could signal your brand is missing strategic opportunities. You need to look at the situation and judge which it is.

5. How long do competitors stick with an innovation that’s not working?

Can you identify a pattern for how much time competitors allow newly-introduced innovations to thrive, survive, or die? Look for relationships (cost, visibility, etc.) that explain any pattern that might exist.

6. Are competitors introducing innovations we couldn’t profitably produce and sell at comparable prices?

It’s vital to assess whether your brand’s inability to match the price of a competitor’s recently-introduced innovation is because of its cost advantages, a difference in cost structure or allocations, a deliberately aggressive / share-gaining price, strategic brilliance, or stupidity. Any one or a combination of these suggests competitive strategy problems.

7. Have competitors introduced successful innovations with inferior features to ours?

If a competitor can introduce a successful innovation with seemingly fewer features than your offerings and still be successful, the competitor may have figured out customers are looking for something different. That difference may be a preference for simpler, cheaper, or easier to use innovations.

Competitive Strategy Lessons about Innovation

See what we mean?

Your competitors could be the best source you have to learn a lot more about how to improve your innovation successes in the future.  – 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.

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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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2

As mentioned in our article on integrating spiritual and business lives, Stephen Lahey (of SmallBusinessTalent.com) and I recorded a podcast conversation on the topic. We discussed motivations, benefits, and occasional challenges to having one’s spiritual life placed front and center as you make business decisions and chart your course as an entrepreneur. I think of it as strategic living.

Stephen has published the podcast, and I’d invite you to both listen and respond to our conversation on integrating spiritual and business lives as an entrepreneur.

spirituality-and-business

You should also subscribe to his SmallBusinessTalent.com updates. You’ll receive notification each Wednesday about Stephen’s featured guest on that week’s podcast, plus a brief Sunday update with a business tip, suggested content to peruse, or a personal reflection.

I really appreciate Stephen’s support for Brainzooming. He has shared multiple strategic ideas for us from his vantage point as a reader and entrepreneur. Additionally, his recommendations on business development and client relations approaches have translated into thousands of dollars of new revenue and profit we’d have otherwise not captured.

That’s pretty incredible ROI!

Given those impacts, if you’re an entrepreneur with a small business, I’d encourage you to reach out to Stephen about the consultation he offers to entrepreneurs. He has the experience (having been an entrepreneur for well over a decade), and he is very efficient and accurate at sizing up business situations. Stephen translates those insights into actionable strategies with tools he’s used to grow and cultivate his own entrepreneurial ventures.

So take a break from Brainzooming today, visit SmallBusinessTalent.com to engage in the conversation on strategic living, and think hard about whether Stephen could help you with a new, trusted, and veteran perspective to gain more ideal clients, profitability, and fulfillment. - Mike Brown

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation and strategic thinking success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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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2

I find it surprising when someone discusses the advantages of entrepreneurship and mentions, “You don’t have to work for somebody else.”

This sentiment seems incredibly naive.

Amid this second round of entrepreneurship in my career, it’s clear you certainly DO work for somebody else

In fact, if you serve multiple and varied clients, an entrepreneur works for more somebody elses than is ever typical in a corporate job.  That’s been the case for me without exception. Despite a variety of competing interests and priorities in the corporate world, it was easy to separate the one or two people I was working for versus all the other people who thought I was working for them.

Such clarity isn’t necessarily there as an entrepreneur.

Serving a B2B market, I’ll admit that it’s not always clear what is going on inside a client’s four walls. It’s easy to be on the outside and NOT looking in as internal politics, cumbersome processes, and questionable motivations slow down what should seem to go more smoothly and quickly.

I realized the other day, however, what people are really talking about as the “not working for someone else” advantage entrepreneurs have.

Talking with someone who works for a company that provides services in the B2B market, she was reflecting on a recent client interaction. The client hadn’t provided solid planning information upfront. As a result, there was confusion about how vital processes and decisions would proceed. Her sense was that she, as the client contact for a relationship her employer held, couldn’t set the client straight. She wound up biting her tongue on multiple important issues because it was a client. The best she felt she could do in challenging the situation was to offer two strong suggestions to attempt to correct the situation.

Having my own business, however, I’d have been in a different position to act. If pushing back to the client resulted in losing the business, I would be in the position to fully understand that impact and shoulder the full ramifications of it. As an employee, she wasn’t in a position to do that.

If you have someone paying you, you are working for somebody else whether as an entrepreneur or as an employee. Maybe what people really mean about not working for somebody else is that an entrepreneur can talk back and take action against the whoever is paying more effectively than an employee.

In that case, I’d have to agree with them. – 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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0

When something bad happens that NEVER happens, and it screws up your time-tested business process, how much effort do you invest to make changes and minimize the chances of it ever happening again?

That was the strategic thinking topic for a recent dinner conversation.

Trash-Can

After sitting through another organization’s design process that went bad in a way it never had over many years of use, we were diagnosing what could have been done differently. And while I was sitting there observing the whole time, it wasn’t completely clear to me what I would have done differently:

  • Would I have isolated a problematic, unnecessarily detailed team member to try and salvage the effort of the participants who were being productive?
  • Would I have called time out to try to pin down the apparent leader of the effort on who the real decision maker was?
  • Would I have improvised a quick exercise to make the group prioritize the seemingly never ending and odd array of constraints the problematic team member kept introducing?

Or all three?

Fortunately, it wasn’t my deal so I didn’t have to decide.

In talking with the facilitators later, I learned that this design session’s arc was unlike any encountered in many years of using their process.

While I was quick to offer strategic thinking about what they could change in their business process, I ultimately called B.S. on myself. I told them they should dismiss my advice because I spend WAY TOO MUCH time fixing one-off bad facilitation situations that will never happen again. Doing that makes me feel better and more comfortable, but it may really be wasted effort that never delivers real benefit.

So, no strategic thinking answers today.

Only that nagging question: When is it worth the effort to fix the once in a lifetime crappy situation with a business, just in case it might happen again?

It’s a strategic thinking topic ‘m mulling over, as I’m sure they are.

What do you think? – Mike Brown

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your success!

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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10

Talking with reader and number one Brainzooming fan Stephen Lahey recently, the conversation turned to the strategic thinking behind reasons to integrate one’s spirituality and business life.

I shared my personal strategic thinking and perspective with Stephen. That perspective has been heavily shaped by the seemingly rhetorical question, “If it were a crime to be a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

Relative to Stephen’s question, integrating my spiritual beliefs into my communication whether in person or online provides more evidence to “convict” me.

st-marys-church-ne-city-ne

5 Reasons to Integrate Spirituality and Business

Additionally, trying to be more direct about my religious beliefs in business also:

  1. Addresses the most important relationship and activities in my life.
  2. Creates accountability for me to live to the standards and ideals I communicate.
  3. Brings me into stronger alignment with my personal core purpose statement.
  4. Helps weed out potential clients who might see my spirituality as a stumbling block. This is helpful because us helping clients depends heavily on their ability to be open to ideas that do not completely match their own.
  5. Tries to make it clearer that any good I bring to a business relationship is not directly because of me, but because of the good flowing from the blessings of a deepening religious devotion.

That is where I am right now as I pray about and explore ways to make the importance of my religious beliefs more visible to more people.

Why do I want to do that?

It is not because it is good or bad for business. It is because it is invaluable for each of us to know that God loves us, and is incumbent on those that already know that love to share it with everyone else!

What’s your strategic thinking about this?

I always appreciate you sharing your perspective on blog topics, and if you have thoughts on integrating spirituality and business, it would be particularly helpful to know you strategic thinking about it. Stephen and I are scheduled to record a show for his Small Business Talent podcast, and it would be wonderful to bring your strategic thinking and perspectives to the conversation.

So, what DO you think? - Mike Brown

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming email updates.

Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact TheBrainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us atinfo@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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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If you’re interested in creating strategic impact, now is a natural time to be asking if your organization needs a strategic plan. The question makes sense whether you are considering an update to a previous strategic plan or something completely new.

From our perspective, it’s not a question you ask and answer as some type of check box, i.e., “We have a strategic plan, so we can check that off the list!”

Instead, you should address the question of whether you need a strategic plan in light of important aspects of how it would help your organization in creating strategic impact. Some of the questions to consider include:

  • Given your situation, is it essential to your organization’s success that you take the time to look ahead and consider dramatically new opportunities and directions?
  • Does your organization need stronger alignment for its direction?
  • Is there a need for more strongly communicating the organization’s strategic direction to everyone in the organization?
  • Do you need to need the guidelines and impetus to change the management discipline in your organization so you accomplish the important activities you spend more time talking about than addressing?

Yes answers to any of those four questions could indicate it’s time to take on developing a new strategic plan for your organization.

If you want to get the maximum value from a strategic planning process, any of the reasons above should suggest a different type of planning process geared to deliver those organizational results.

Not sure where to start with accomplishing that?

Let us know. It’s what we deliver for clients so strategic planning creates real results and beneficial impacts throughout their organizations. All that, plus we make it a rewarding, stimulating, and fun experience.

So does your organization need a strategic plan?  – Mike Brown

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming email updates.

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 brand’s innovation strategy and implementation success.

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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3

Suppose you are stuck with a crappy project at your job.

Further suppose, you cannot really get out of it in any way that will lead to future career success.

So it is easy to feel like you are stuck with a crappy project that has nothing but “loser” written all over it.

Do you have any options?

Penske

Sure, you have options.

You can transform a crappy project, with a little thinking and a lot of ingenuity, into something that CAN lead to career success.

7 Ideas to Transform a Crappy Project into Career Success

You could:

  • Take time to imagine previously unsuspected upsides that make it worthwhile, even if you have to make them up.
  • Think seriously (and lie to yourself if necessary) about whether all the downsides you imagine with this crappy project are likely to happen.
  • Modify the project so it looks like a great project you have been successful with previously.
  • Figure out a way to renegotiate expectations or other particulars of the crappy project to make it less crappy.
  • Approach it your own way so that even if it is a crappy project, you can put your own personal stamp on it.
  • Use this opportunity to experiment like crazy so it becomes an incredibly new learning experience.
  • If you feel very confident, completely change the objectives and approach in whatever way that delivers more value for the organization.

Hey, it is a crappy project . . . what do you have to lose from trying to transform it with a completely unconventional strategy that could ultimately lead to career success? – Mike Brown

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your success!

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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