Research & Design Strategy

Captain Contrarian: Innovation by competitive attack

April 12, 2016

Crafting a product, department or corporate strategy never happens in a bubble. It’s an ever-moving target because of trends in the marketplace, shifts in consumer behavior, and competitive actions.

Decades ago, visionary leaders would try to synthesize what was happing in the world around them into successful strategies that would be perfectly positioned when the world got “there.” It was an “I/we know best” approach that worked well for those few true visionaries who could pull it off.

Consumer-centric is common

It used to be that convincing potential clients of the value of consumer-centric thinking was the biggest hurdle. That’s no longer true. The benefits became obvious when success after success could be achieved in lieu of a visionary at the helm. Instead, the insights derived from consumer-focused research and Design Thinking defined the strategies. This was a more “customer knows best” approach, but the end result was the same—the product/company was perfectly positioned by the time the world “arrived.” If you were ahead of either of those curves, you were creating differentiation for yourself and products.

But as more and more companies prioritize consumer research and have customer centricity at the core of what they do, how does your strategy development need to change? In other words, if you are all talking with the same consumers how do you come up with differentiated insights?

Well, if you have mastered trend analysis and the subsequent determination of where to “be” when the world gets “there” and you are up to the chest wading in consumer insights and customer-driven innovation, maybe it’s time to raise your game in competitive intelligence.

Look, the world is full of smart people and the worst assumption you can make is that your team and colleagues are the only smart ones in your industry/product space. A better assumption to make is that they have a team of equally smart people who are noticing the same trends, drawing the same conclusions, and studying the same consumers as you. They have equally smart consultants (well, nearly so) at their disposal, with equally creative minds and divergent thought processes generating equally innovative solutions.

It's a better assumption to think that you would all come up with the same great solution were it not for differing internal capabilities and areas of expertise that will be leveraged to create competitive advantage. Wouldn’t it be great to know what your competitor is up to so you could have an even better strategy?

It sounds like it’s time for some contrarian exercises!

Oh, no, you didn’t ….

Besides just saying “no” a lot to aggravate your colleagues, what’s a contrarian exercise? It’s an activity that helps you pinpoint the weaknesses in your strategy. Knowing your weaknesses can help you identify where to focus in the face of a grueling competitive environment.

If you are all talking with the same consumers, how do you come up with differentiated insights?

Let’s talk about how we can help move your business forward.

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