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Kevin & Jackie Freiberg

5 BIG Strategies to Use Now!

Think Big to Disrupt Your Competition

The United States Marines are famous for saying; “The difficult we do immediately, the impossible just takes us a little longer.” As leaders, you have incredible power to inspire your people and change the way business is done within your company. Innovation requires us to not only think big, but to think beyond what we know, to see the possible in what others see as impossible. Our country is counting on you, take the lead, think and inspire the possible!

Someone is going to start a revolution that will change your world. How? By thinking bigger and producing change that matters—change that disrupts the competition and amazes your customers.

Why can’t it be you?

General Electric was failing at selling their $150,000 ultrasound equipment in China, so when their leaders in China asked for a portable, lower-resolution ultrasound device that could sell for a tenth of the price, it didn’t sound like a good investment. But guess what? It turned out there was a market for a revolutionary, smaller device that turned the price-to-performance paradigm on its ear. A global market, worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Why can’t you do that in your market? At a time when everyone is looking for more efficient solutions (i.e.: less costly), why can’t you be the one to change the game?

When the winds of creative destruction blow at gale force one of the ways through the uncertainty is to accelerate innovation by thinking big, acting bold and thinking beyond our blinders.

Want to find what’s next? Want to build a culture of innovation? Here are five think big strategies to implement in your business:

1. Question the unquestionable.

Step out of the prevailing paradigm. Think like an outsider. Challenge your taken-for-granted assumptions—about the way your business and industry works, about what your competitors are doing, about your customer’s expectations, and what your employees are truly capable of doing. Send your team on a half-day mission to visit the competition or other businesses with the sole purpose of gaining at least 3 ideas to enhance your business.

Two college roommates who wanted to clean their apartment, Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan, questioned harmful cleaning supplies! Why can’t we make cleaning products that are not toxic to people and the environment? They created METHOD, now one of the fastest growing private companies in America. Ted Turner questioned the “news only comes at 5:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.” paradigm, Chuck Schwab questioned the assumption that “stocks can only be sold through high-commissioned brokers,” and Disney questioned the “animated films are only for kids” paradigm.

What is the prevailing paradigm in your business? Why not spend a morning challenging each other to lift off the blinders and think beyond your commonly held and accepted assumptions?

2. Look for the intersection of trends to find opportunities.

We live in the age of mass innovation. Competitive advantage goes not to the strongest, smartest, or richest companies, but to those that develop the capacity to see what others can’t see and turn those insights into innovations faster than their competitors do.

You can’t win with yesterday’s ideas, so what are the big, converging trends that are headed your way? There is white space where rising trends intersect. In that white space is a huge opportunity for innovation. Blake Mycoskie, a young entrepreneur, found some white space. He founded TOMS shoes where a for-profit company intersects with a social mission. The long time veterans in the shoe industry said it would never work. Ironically TOMS has succeeded because of its connection to the social cause. TOMS created a new and very successful business model and inspired a social movement that anyone can join.

What trend(s) in your industry might intersect with a cause, a social movement or a calling? Perhaps your business can start a movement and through that movement create an entirely new market opportunity.

3. Jettison the incumbent mentality.

Incumbents are vulnerable to the often-fatal trap of thinking the future will be more of the same only better—more choices, better features, and better design—all incremental improvements on yesterday’s headline.

Innovators see the future as a whole new game and leap-frog “better” with entirely new rules. They don’t think “best practice” they think “next practice.” Incumbents seek to grow market share by being “better” than the competition. But even if they are better, competitors catch up, innovations become commoditized, and incumbents eventually get forced into a price war. Innovators side-step the price-value discussion by creating new markets and making the competition irrelevant.

Where do new ideas come from? They don’t come from sitting in the same office, talking to the same people, looking at the same computer screens day after day. Spending the majority of your time with people who share your beliefs and assumptions doesn’t unleash your creativity. It sharpens your prejudices. It doesn’t promote discovery. It leads to close-mindedness.

Some of the best ideas for game-changing innovation will come from outside your industry. The question is: Do you have the guts to look beyond what’s comfortable and familiar? Do you have the wisdom to avoid the “not invented here” syndrome?

Why not pull different teams together to identify the “incumbent mentality” that pervades your business and as team challenge those assumptions. Look beyond your corner of the world for new and fresh ideas and see if any “next practices” evolve.

4. Look beyond customer imagination for the next big thing.

Customers are smart and never to be underestimated. But customers don’t always know what they want and if they do know what they want, they can’t always tell you. In fact, listening to customers might even derail you from pursuing breakthrough innovation and changes that will radically differentiate your business.

Sound like heresy? Maybe, but how many customers are on the cutting edge enough to know what’s possible in your industry? How many customers are aware of your future capabilities? How many customers are in the right frame of mind to share their ideas for an innovative new product that is likely to displace the one they just bought?

Had Steve Jobs asked consumers what they wanted before developing the iPod, what would they have said? “Give us something smaller, with more features for the same price as what’s already on the market.” What was on the market sold for $60 or less. How many focus group members would’ve said, “We’re okay with your $400 price”? How many of them understood the future of technology enough to know that a solid-state device would trump a CD scanned by laser? And how many of these people could’ve conceived of software such as iTunes replacing CDs—one song at a time?

What if you bring in some young, forward thinking interns who are new to your business, who are not faithful customers and ask them to spend a morning looking beyond current offerings to “re-imagine” your services and products?

5. Let limitations drive creativity vs. complacency.

Limitations: Are they a blessing or a curse, an asset or a liability?

That’s your choice.

Whether they are financial, regulatory, geographical or political, limitations can be springboards to creativity. They can call forth cleverness, focus you on what’s most important, and drive you toward more elegant solutions—if you let them.

There is no question that limited resources can stifle innovation, but all too often this becomes an easy and convenient excuse for not doing the critical and creative thinking required to push to the next level—the place where elegance is found. While your competitors are whining and moaning about the limitations you both face, why not apply your imagination and ingenuity to find unique solutions within those constraints? THAT could radically differentiate you.

Why not challenge people to think of limitations as boundaries. Using a sports metaphor, whatever sport you play there are boundaries, rules and regulations within which great athletes get to play, some play big, some play small, it’s a choice. Industries and businesses are similar, there are rules, regulations and boundaries. Do your people play big or small? Set-up a 1st annual Beyond Limitations Challenge as a way to inspire people to find creative and innovative ways to play big, play their best, and play different even in the midst of the boundaries (aka limitations). Again, don’t do this alone, create a team to review all the ideas, choose the top three and reward people for their contributions. This is about creating a culture wherein boundaries inspire people to bring their best to the game, think big and play with unbridled creativity.

For more tips on innovation and thinking big we invite you to read Nanovation.

Drs Kevin and Jackie Freiberg and Dain Dunston are the authors of a new BIG book on innovation. A reviewer recently wrote; “Nanovation is three inspiring books in one:

First, the story of how India is making her way into the global economy.

Second, the inspiring story of how a young design team innovated car design and accomplished what most said would be impossible—produce the $2,200 People’s Car, the Nano.

And third, it offers tested and easily transferable leadership and innovation principles for leaders and their teams in all industries.”

For more small business resources and to join our online community feel free to visit: www.Freibergs.com and www.Nanovationbook.com


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their BEST work to make the world BETTER.

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