TPG has always believed in challenging the status quo, and to do that you have to be innovative. The following article talks about not getting caught in the same old marketing rut. It challenges your thought process on being creative and innovative. Success in today’s markets is always driven by identifying the most innovative ways that you can connect with your core consumers. So use innovative thinking to develop and challenge the status quo, then discuss it openly and frankly with the management team, vet it, and conclude if new strategies can create opportunity for your business.
Free Yourself from Conventional Thinking
by Brian Klapper | 2:00 PM May 6, 2013
Groundbreaking ideas are no longer a luxury when success is contingent upon an organization’s ability to adapt, innovative, and improve. We need look no further than Kodak, Sears, or Sony for validation that status-quo thinking is the fast-track to failure. How, then, can organizations break free of conventional thinking to spark creativity?
The first step is to consider the way you have always done business — and stop. Failing to do so not only prevents truly innovative thinking; it also ensures failure.
Consider Blockbuster’s failure to recognize the changing video rental landscape. If they had challenged their long-held beliefs, they might have considered the seemingly unorthodox decision to buy Netflix in the same way that Best Buy bought Geek Squad. At the time of the Geek Squad acquisition, it was considered foolish by many; a decade later, the $3 million purchase price has been repaid hundreds of times over.
Killing the status quo requires that you:
Impose artificial limitations
It may seem counterintuitive, but imposing strict limitations on your thinking can be an invaluable way to spark creativity. By enforcing artificial constraints, you are forced to dig deeper to uncover more inventive solutions — solutions you would not likely have discovered otherwise. Imagine, for a moment, your organization limited by the following restrictions:
- You can only serve one of your existing consumer segments
- You must move from B2C to B2B, or vice versa
- You must slash the price of your product or service by 50%
- Customer acquisition has been halted; you need to maximize value from existing customers
I recently employed this principle with a large asset management firm. During a strategy session, I asked them to focus their thinking exclusively on their existing customers, assuming new customers were no longer a revenue option. By sharply focusing their thinking, the team realized they were shortchanging themselves by not pursuing cross-selling opportunities within their current customer bases.
The team realized that to increase share-of-wallet, they needed to shift their perspective. They began grouping clients by practice and focused sales associates on developing industry trends and insights. The decision to shift focus did not come lightly, as such changes had never been attempted in the industry, and the risk of failure was great. The results were dramatic: the following year, the company reached its annual sales goals three months into its fiscal year.
Alter Your Point-of-View
A compelling study from the University of Michigan verifies that people often refuse to relinquish their deep-seated beliefs even when presented with overwhelming evidence to contradict those beliefs. I come across this phenomenon rather consistently in large organizations.
Take, for example, the CEO of a large U.S. furniture manufacturer, who asked me to help him reduce customer fulfillment time from 12 weeks to four weeks. The company was using an automated conveyor belt assembly line, and when the workers were unable to keep up with the pace, they hurriedly removed the pieces from the line and put them on the floor — reminiscent ofthe candy factory scene from “I Love Lucy.” Beside each operator was a large pile of partially assembled furniture.
I suggested to the CEO that unplugging the line and allowing the workers to set the pace would not only result in faster turnaround, but also significantly higher quality furniture, given that the furniture incurred tremendous damage when moved from the belt to the floor. However, management was not convinced. To demonstrate the effectiveness of our suggestion, we set up a pilot line in an abandoned factory, which we ran for a month. Thru-put was 30% higher, quality reached record levels, and morale was way up. Still, management remained unconvinced, believing that workers must be directed, tightly managed, and never allowed to set their own pace.
Yet to innovate, you must be willing to look at all possibilities from a new perspective.
A few years ago, I was asked by New York Life to help them reinvent the end-to-end customer experience for one of its rapidly growing product lines to produce a “game-changing level of customer delight.” I was inspired by an experience I had purchasing a Mini Cooper as a surprise birthday gift for my wife: my Mini salesperson not only agreed to let me pay for the car two days after taking possession, he also drove the car to my house with a box of Mini “gifts” and took care of all of the paperwork. He didn’t even ask for a credit card.
The NYL team was so thoroughly inspired by the story that they rethought their entire customer service experience. They drafted a personal hand-signed welcome letter, redesigned their collateral, created a beautiful box that contained interesting and important product and service information, and added concierge-level customer service. Today, the offering stands out from the competition because of the insights the team gained from an experience outside of the conference room.
Compare Your Organization to Others
This approach can be a powerful driver of new ideas — particularly when you compare your organization to those outside of your industry. Steve Jobs said it best: “Expose yourself to the best things humans have done, and then try to bring those things into what you are doing.” This strategy is not about emulating other organizations; it’s about stimulating surprising ideas that might not come to light otherwise.
When Avon Products decided they wanted to create a world-class help desk for their agents, they compared themselves to a company known for its superior service: the Four Seasons Hotel. By comparing themselves to one of the best service providers — even in an industry far different from their own — Avon discovered new ways to better serve their agents. Ultimately, Avon implemented a Four Seasons Hotel-inspired “white glove” service for their top representatives, which included greater access to new products, discounted prices, and a one-stop issue resolution process that contributed to increased agent retention and productivity.
Look for unorthodox opportunities
Don’t constrain your thinking to improving only products or services. Instead, rethink every touch point between you and your customer to improve how they currently interact with your organization. Key touch points could range from how your customers become aware of your company or service to how they refer your organization or service to others.
As an example, Barnes & Noble focused on creating a unique multi-channel experience for its customers to learn about its Nook tablet. They built a Nook desk at in their physical stores to demonstrate the product and answer questions, as well as a user-friendly online experience to do the same. Barnes & Noble can serve as an example for every retailer trying to master the multi-channel strategy as they meld their online, mobile, and physical presence.
When organizations build their business strategy around practices of old, they fail to recognize and thus capitalize on new opportunities. In clinging to the status quo, they fail to adapt to the rapidly changing market and the evolving demands of the customer.