Tag Archives: competition

For innovation firepower turn weakness into strength

I’m not a fan of the idea of only working on your strengths and ignoring your weaknesses. It’s too one-dimensional and leads to ‘more of the same’. This idea of only working on your strengths surely leads to continuous improvement no doubt but not dramatic change. Only by working on your strengths ‘continuously’ and turning your weaknesses into strengths can you have superior capability.

On Saturday night I was watching UFC 124 and . His opponent, Koscheck, had to much respect for him that he decided to be tentative and never showed any intent in fighting. And thus made all of us watch a boring fight.

Why didn’t a guy that was aggressive pre-fight, look like a punching bag at fight time?

Because Georges St. Pierre is a superior all-around-fighter, and made Koscheck’s game plan irrelevant. GPS is versatile and can adapt to any fighting style on the fly. This is what makes him so good. He has no obvious weaknesses. The guy is a strategist.

What GSP does, is work on his weaknesses and turns them into strengths. This has lead to a dramatic change in his fight style and more importantly how his opponents perceive him. His opponents come prepared with a strategy to defeat him, but GSP adapts to it. This leaves his opponents in limbo as their game plan is now made irrelevant by a fighter who shows no weakness.

What does this have to do with innovation?

Working on improving/eliminating your weaknesses leads to dramatic change. It’s like renewal. A few weeks ago wrote a great post on how there are basically :

  • meet existing needs and expectations that customers are aware of,
  • anticipate needs that customers are not (yet) aware of (perception).

The first is short term focused and relies on an organization exploiting it’s known strengths. The second, relies on going beyond the known. Sometimes even relinquishing some of it’s strengths and turning their weaknesses into strengths. The majority of organizations focus on meeting existing needs (known by analysis) but not on anticipating needs. This logic is pervasive. It’s what you’re taught in school to do. Anticipating needs (imagination+insight), which was taken away in school, is done by very few.

As Ralph noted in his post: Successful companies of the future will most likely be able to combine both capabilities.

Basically, most organizations are good at exploiting existing capabilities but not good at creating new ones. Among other things, it’s this lack of imagination that is the weakness of most organizations.

Do you see the connection?

Last week I wrote that in the world of innovation there should be a . You have ‘projects’ that are intended to improve your product or service, but also have ‘projects’ that are beyond your known domain that are meant to either stretch your existing capabilities or acquire new ones. This is the way to go! By only improving your strengths you’ve already setup your tombstone.

To be built to last is to be built to change, and that only happens by continuously improving what you’re good at and relentlessly working on turning your weaknesses into strengths. Your strengths might save you in the short term, but your next source of advantage most likely will come from turning your weaknesses into strengths. And thus, will keep you relevant in the long term.


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The Opposition Strategy

One great way to stand out and differentiate, is to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing. An opposition strategy is usually the result of challenging long held assumptions of how things are done, this is the domain of us ‘crazies’ who question authority.

I spotted a . Street Dinner’s concept is based on using the element of surprise for location and everything else that goes into a dining experience. Instead of having dinner at a determined location, knowing what the menu is and having it served the same way at a traditional restaurant; it does the opposite:

Make your own game

Here’s my latest post on @Oninnovation:  


The essence of strategy is choosing to perform activities differently than rivals do; and the most vital competitive weapon is not lower price, but new ideas.

Across the border in Mexico, we  have a taco shop in every corner. They all sell the same thing and their business name usually starts with the name of someone plus “tacos.”  It’s safe to say that their businesses all operate very much the same way; the only difference between them is where they get the meat and ingredients.

We live in a world of sameness, and the only way out of it is to innovate.

There are brave souls who choose to question the dominant logic of competition; who chose to do something entirely different. There is one taco shop in Tijuana which doesn’t follow conventional logic; it doesn’t sell tacos, but rather, art.

Tacos Salceados created what is known as the “Quesataco,” which starts with flakes of cheese spread across the flat iron stove. Your choice of cuts are then lined down the middle and then ultimately encased in the crisp golden cheese. The stuffed crisp cheese roll is then placed in a fresh thick tortilla, and topped with house dressings and avocado. The Quesataco later spawned other creations, such as shrimp tacos covered in a sweet tasting sauce.

It is this fresh perspective which makes it stand out among the rest of the taco shops.

The thing people forget when they compete, is that you must stand out in some manner. Too many people copy their competition too much. They assume if it is working for the competitor, then it will work for them. Passion for what you are doing, consistency, and a sprinkle of uniqueness is just the start. Sticking with it and always looking for that unique tweak is key.

Here are 4 ways to help you think about defeating sameness:

Purpose matters

Conventional logic says that businesses exist to make money. Why not exist to deliver meaning? The difference between you and competitors is nothing more than how you answer the ‘why’ of your intentions: Why are you doing this? Online retailer Zappos knows why they are in business; not to sell a lot of shoes, but rather to deliver the best customer service in a meaningful way.

Reset expectations

Your customers have interacted with your competitors, as well as with other businesses, and have an idea of what to expect. These same expectations will be put into play when they interact with you, and if you deliver the “same,” then you’ll be easily ignored. You must reset those expectations by going above and beyond the normal, delivering equal or more value in a faster, more convenient, easier and meaningful way.

Define yourself by what you know not what you do

Over the time your business has existed you have accumulated a portfolio of abilities and strengths. Think about these bundle of skills that you have accumulated over time, things that you are good at and that when combined provide new value to your customers. Stop looking at your company as a provider of specific products or services for specific markets, and start seeing it as a reservoir of skills and assets that can be exploited in different ways or different contexts to create new value.

Be something your competitors are not

In order to compete businesses follow the logic that they have to target the middle of the market, the mainstream consumers. This also means they configure their business just like competitors who are already ahead of them. The problem is that everyone else is going after the same market and with so many choices, so many brands, so much noise it isn’t enough to be good at everything. You have to be the most at something. What are you the most at? Are you the fastest? The most responsive? The most innovative? The most transparent? Look up field or downfield, go to the edges, to the extremes where you can be the most at something.

Key Takeaway: Compete differently and play the game you know you can win.

What do you think?

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One question to ask yourself everyday to trump the status quo

Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself. – William Faulkner

You know the future looks very different than it does today, your business needs to evolve to meet the challenges of tomorrow. What brought you success yesterday might not work tomorrow, you need to keep pushing boundaries, testing new tools, trying new things, experimenting with new approaches to not let complacency set in.

You need to keep one foot in the present and the other one moving towards the future, for this you need to ask yourself one question everyday:

How can we do better tomorrow than we did today?

P.S. John Jantsch has .

An analogy for using the Blue Ocean Strategy framework

If you’re a strategy guy, I’m sure you’re familiar with the , where you set out to create new value by not competing but rather creating and capturing new demand (new market) where you’re the only guy holding the flag.

In a nutshell, here’s what Blue Ocean Strategy proposes:

blue ocean strategy red versus blue

Sounds pretty damn good. But, the problem is it’s difficult to imagine and do. Worse yet, is it’s difficult to understand if you’re someone who’s not a CEO, strategist, consultant or marketer. To tackle this problem, I thought I’d uncover the hidden truth behind some of the key ideas of the approach.

The imitate to benefit syndrome gets you nowhere

Every once in awhile, I get an email that asks me to give out ideas (strategy) that previous clients used to achieve a particular goal. I’ve attached part of an email conversation below. It only explains part of the story, but let’s just say that I’m being asked for a secret recipe that they can plug-and-play and voila!

I can give you this information, but it’s no use to you because if all you want is to try to copy their success, let’s just say you’re going nowhere.

Best practices that worked for someone else don’t necessarily mean they’ll work for you. You shape your business based on your own strategy that works to your unique mix of strengths and weaknesses.