How To Recognize Emerging Opportunities Ahead of Your Competitors
Listen to Episode 84:
Episode 84 Transcript:
This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − enabling successful leaders and companies accelerate to their next level of success. On the web at BusinessAdvance.com. And now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks, Chris. I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated, and with me is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi Pam. It’s great to be here with you again today for another episode of Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. And for those of you who are listening for the first time, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration, and immediately useful ideas for visionary leaders to accelerate themselves and their companies to their next level of growth and success.
Pam, we’re just past the Labor Day holiday in the United States and, for many companies, it’s the beginning of the strategic planning season for the new year. Many, many companies and their leaders are thinking about “how can we go from where we are – our present state of success – into the next level of success? What are we going to do that’s different? What are we going to do that’s the same? How are we going to extend ourselves?”
Pam Harper: The challenge is that even the most innovative companies are subject to being disrupted. This, of course, is something that we hear a lot. “I want to be the disruptor and not the disrupted.”
Scott Harper: Or the disruptee. Okay, yeah. You’re right.
Pam Harper: They are right because what’s new and notable today can quickly become outdated, or even irrelevant. The world is changing about that fast.
Scott Harper: Oh, yes. There’s new technologies, there’s new customer needs, there are new competitors popping up all over the place.
Pam Harper: That is a big difference because think about the competitors. We think, okay, it’s the up-start companies.
Scott Harper: Right.
Pam Harper: Now we’re seeing it’s not just the up-start companies.
Scott Harper: That’s true. In fact, companies of all sizes can be disruptors of companies of all sizes. Even GE, for instance, there was an article in The New York Times about how GE, this 124 year old engineering giant, is adopting many of the principles, practices, and mindset of a digital start-up.
Pam Harper: That’s right. What it does is it puts a myth to the idea that was out there for the longest time. The big companies can’t grow, can’t change, can’t go into some other level of growth. Our competitors are all around us.
Scott Harper: That’s right.
Pam Harper: That’s certainly one thing.
Scott Harper: Absolutely and there are new technologies emerging all the time, apps, the cloud, new engineering, new medicine. Of course, there are new demographics and changing expectations in our established markets and in places maybe we haven’t thought about.
Pam Harper: That’s right. People are interacting with our world differently and this sets up a lot of different opportunities that we might not be thinking of.
Scott Harper: The question is, how do we become aware of them? How do we expand our minds?
Pam Harper: Sometimes, that means recognizing emerging opportunities coming through market research, which is a time honored thing to do.
Scott Harper: Sure.
Pam Harper: Just as often it can come from looking at your existing situation in new ways. By this, we’re talking about changing the game.
Scott Harper: Okay.
Pam Harper: People hear this and say, “Oh changing the game. That’s jargon.” Let’s de-jargonize it.
Scott Harper: All right.
Pam Harper: What we’re talking about is redefining what’s possible. That could be in your industry, in your niche, who the competition is, who your employees might or might not be, how work gets done, and more. We talked about this with GE and we’ll have a link to the article under Resources for episode 84.
Scott Harper: Right.
Pam Harper: Another example that comes to mind is a client that I worked with, a number of years ago, where they were having profound changes in their industry because of the economy, in this case.
Scott Harper: Right.
Pam Harper: Their trajectory was not going to be a good one. They were a successful company, solidly middle market, there were a lot of things that were going well for them. The issues of trying to figure out where they were going to go, what was going to be their next move on the growth journey, was a troubling one for them.
Scott Harper: Right, because they were looking at a spiral staircase going down, at that moment. Their market was shrinking.
Pam Harper: That was not going well. The question was, how did they do it? The short answer, in this case, is they made a decision to change the game. Their traditional industry was not growing because of the economy but they had an amazing technology.
Scott Harper: How did they change the game?
Pam Harper: They started thinking as a team about how they could use that technology. How could they apply that technology to new industries.
Scott Harper: They stopped looking at is as something they were selling and they started looking at is as a platform that they could innovate off of.
Pam Harper: Fast forward and that company, by making that decision, was able to grow seven-fold in four years.
Scott Harper: Wow. For them, the benefits of adopting this new thinking and expanding their playing field, as it were, allowed them to redefine what was possible and change the game in a way that really increased their momentum and changed their trajectory. It also put them in a playing area, a new game with new competitors, that did not have their technologies and their advantages. They went from where things were shrinking to where expansion was radically possible. Dramatic story.
Pam Harper: It takes us back to our point, which is recognizing emerging opportunities ahead of the competitors. Their competitors did not have those advantages.
Scott Harper: Yeah.
Pam Harper: This can apply to anyone. By adopting a consistent, game-changing mindset and enabling others to join us on the journey from big idea to big results. We talked about this quite a bit in episode 66.
Scott Harper: Yes we did.
Pam Harper: We’re going to take a quick break now and, when we come back, we’ll revisit parts of episode 66 where we talk about what it takes to cultivate a game-changing mindset so you can recognize emerging opportunities ahead of your competitors. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: Thanks for listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. We’re brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated and we’re on the web at businessadvance.com. We enable successful leaders and their companies to generate momentum to accelerate to the next level of growth and success. If you like what you’re hearing, spread the good word. Go to growthignitersradio.com, select episode 84, and use the share links for Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter at the top right of the page to tell your social media communities all about us. While you’re there, sign up for our weekly alert of upcoming episodes so you’ll always be up to date.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio, with Pam Harper − that’s me − and Scott Harper. Scott and I are talking with each other today about the secret of achieving game-changing results. Now, you can find links and other information on this episode by going to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, episode 66. Scroll down under “Resources”, and you’ll get those links.
Scott, one of the things we’ve seen from the most game-changing, visionary leaders is that they have what we’ve been referring to as a “gaming-changing mindset.” Let’s discuss what that means.
Scott Harper: Sure; 0kay − game-changing mindset. Well, we all know that to be able to change the game, to do anything differently, especially profoundly differently, the mind needs to be open to opportunities. “Tell me something I don’t know.” The trick is-
Pam Harper: Yes, “tell me something I don’t know…”
Scott Harper: The trick is that to make this happen is… It’s just easier said than done. We get hooked into how we do things because, quite honestly, from an evolutionary standpoint, habit is functional. We can’t always be exploring, going off in every single- every possible direction. We talked about the power of constraints in our last episode.
Pam Harper: And we’ve talked about the power of habits.
Scott Harper: Well, that’s right.
Pam Harper: We’ve spent a lot of time looking at books and studying this, and listening to people who’ve just done a lot of research on habits. What comes back, time and time again, is that habits are possible to change, but you’ve got to want to.
Scott Harper: Yes; and you have to do it in a disciplined way, because that’s how you’re going to reduce the risk of squandering resources and possibilities.
Pam Harper: The habit then that we’re looking at specifically here, is understanding your customer like you’ve never understood them before. I mean that literally, literally.
Scott Harper: Sure, and you have to really get into the heads and the hearts and the minds of your customer and not just talk to them, not just do focus groups, but observe and watch and experience it yourself. You can then start to open up your mind and look for things that are right there in front of you but you’re not necessarily looking at and thinking about.
For example, a case in point, was a number of years ago when you had email and people were going nuts with email, especially people who were out of the office as at meetings or sales calls or whatever. They go back, and they say, “Oh, I gotta go back to my office; I know I’ve got a hundred emails waiting for me.”
Pam Harper: I think you’re going in the direction of BlackBerry, aren’t you?
Scott Harper: Well, I am going in the direction of BlackBerry. You had cellphones, and you had email back in the office. Looking at − here is this conundrum − and now, hooking that up with the changes in telecommunications hardware and software, Research In Motion was founded. BlackBerry was founded. I had a BlackBerry; I had a number of BlackBerrys…
Pam Harper: Sure, but let’s talk about what actually happened there − the observation, the willingness to have an open mind, right?
Scott Harper: Sure, and hooking up disconnected things. “I’ve got email that’s haunting me. I have a cellphone. How can I securely get to my email remotely and in an easy way?” It’s hooking together a number of things that are not naturally connected, and being willing to sort of unhinge your mind and then go, “Oh, wait a second. There’s an opportunity.”
Pam Harper: That’s true. That’s true.
Scott Harper: Of course, the problem with BlackBerry, as with TiVo, is that once they became dominate in the market, the innovator’s dilemma took over and they really became hooked into how we do this. They discounted the next wave.
Pam Harper: There’s a cautionary tale in here, too, which goes back to what we were talking about in the first segment. You have to keep changing the game and expect that whatever you come up with is going to become a commodity, whether it’s a service, like say Uber, or whether it’s a product, like BlackBerry.
Scott Harper: Right. The question is how do we do that?
Pam Harper: Well, one of the things is we need to be able to do is reframe questions. Again, not a natural thing. Our brains are naturally wired to interpret these situations, and then we reflexively respond. Think, for instance, about a classic kind of thing. You’re driving along the highway, and it’s a beautiful day. You’re going down, and you see a police car in the median. Now, what do you do?
Scott Harper: Well, one of two things − either I take my foot off the gas. I might be going fifty-five, but I take my foot off the gas anyhow…
Pam Harper: I look at my speedometer. How fast am I really going? In every case, my mind is trained to say- cue is “see the police car.”
Scott Harper: Stimulus-response…
Pam Harper: Stimulus-response. The most visionary leaders that we’ve seen are good at looking at analogous situations that are outside of the literal situation that they’re in. Let’s take that, again, out of the theoretical and into something real. You had the experience with the tartar-control toothpaste.
Scott Harper: Well, sure. I mean, I used to be in oral care research and development, product development. Back a while ago, a problem was tartar, calculus, on the teeth. It’s painful and time-consuming to remove at the dentist. The people at Procter & Gamble were asking the question, “How can we keep this stuff, this hard deposit, from forming on teeth, without hurting teeth?” They actually turned to a completely different frame of reference, a completely different industry.
In water treatment, the coils, and so on in water treatment plants get caked-up calcium deposits. The folks in the water treatment industry were using pyrophosphate salts to prevent these deposits from forming. Lots of R&D and safety tests and so on later, they found that if you put certain types of pyrophosphate chemicals in toothpaste, you can slow down tartar development, make it softer, make it less.
Pam Harper: Sewage treatment plants and my mouth….
Scott Harper: And your mouth. Well, yeah.
Pam Harper: Interesting.
Scott Harper: The point is that you have − here’s an analogous situation somewhere else.
Pam Harper: Okay, so if you think about that, you were talking about calcifications, right? Well, how about if we take another mental leap, and we’re trying to change the game. We can say, how can we take the calcification of a mouth or a sewage plant and apply that to our organizations?
Scott Harper: Okay. Yeah, so organizations can be calcified, metaphorically at least.
Pam Harper: How can we change the game that way, using that?
Scott Harper: I mean, going to analogy is a classic way of changing perception. You frame the question − how can we keep something from being hardened and stuck in place, without harming the underlying structure?
Pam Harper: What we’re really talking about is using a little bit of the constraints that we were talking about with Whitney Johnson in our previous episode, and framing questions so that we can look at our situations in new ways and come up with new opportunities that we wouldn’t have thought of before. I will say, also, that when you’re looking at competitors and some of the things that are coming out, you can build on that and say, “Okay, that’s there, and how can we take that and apply that to something that we’ve been doing the way we’ve been doing it for years? How can we yet push the game to a different place?”
Scott Harper: Competitors in, directly, our industry − also places outside our industry … Another way to do this − We can think differently, but how can we stimulate these new perceptions? A lot of it is through opening up conversations that aren’t happening, that maybe should be happening.
Pam Harper: That’s right. That’s right. They have to happen. They’re critical. What we’re talking about is you can start… This is like a virtuous cycle. You can start with an idea. You can come up with it all by yourself, but then, you have a conversation. Maybe it’s with somebody in your organization, initially. Maybe it’s by going to a trade show. Maybe it’s working with a mentor or an advisor. The point is you’re talking, and you’re getting these conversations out. Now, you go back again. It prompts you to think differently, and you build. It becomes a cycle, a virtuous cycle of and.
Scott Harper: You can observe and create thought experiments and confirm this, right.
Pam Harper: It works and works to create the beginnings of thinking faster and having that route to new opportunities. In fact, in our resources area, GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, episode sixty-six, you can scroll down and see that model that we’re talking about, the virtuous cycle of opening up opportunities.
Scott Harper: And opening up perception through conversation.
Pam Harper: That’s right. We’re going to take another quick break, and when we come back, we’re going to talk more about immediately actionable ideas that you can use to change the game for yourself, your company, and your industry, just faster. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: You’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, on the web at BusinessAdvance.com.
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Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Over the last two segments, Scott and I have been discussing how to get rid of those myths surrounding changing the game, and really open up our minds to more quickly changing our perspectives so we can make these game-changing results happen even faster. Ultimately, everything we’ve been talking about leads to this. To really begin to change the game, we need to bump our thinking out of the habitual frame of reference, right?
Scott Harper: Right.
Pam Harper: And make those new connections that can inspire us. That’s what we’re going to focus on for this last segment. The first one, I’m going to take, which is looking at the paradoxes surrounding the needs of your customers and market. Now, for us, just for example, Growth Igniters Radio came out of the paradox of people telling us that they really wanted to get great ideas. They wanted world-class leaders to talk about their experiences. They wanted to get more ideas, and yet, they didn’t have time. They didn’t have time to go to conferences, no matter how good the conferences were. They wanted things quickly. They’re always on the go.
Scott Harper: Didn’t have time to read.
Pam Harper: Mm-hmm (affirmative). The connection was that technology has improved; the credibility of podcasting has improved. Paradoxes were all around, and also, the world had changed. This is an example of understanding the paradoxes, and also what’s changing, to pull together some new opportunities.
Scott Harper: You’re enlarging your frame, and you’re asking the same question in a new way.
Pam Harper: That’s right, and notice that I said people were telling us in conversations. We never ran a focus group, nothing like that. We spoke with a lot of people. We watched what people were doing. We watched, also, what was happening in the news about how podcasts were being improved and their increasing credibility. That virtuous cycle- that’s in episode 66; scroll under “Resources.” That cycle is really a model for beginning to enlarge the frame of reference.
Scott Harper: Well, that’s right. Another way to change our perceptions and spark these new insights that will get the ball rolling is to look for unrelated things − just as I was talking about for tartar-control toothpaste-.
Pam Harper: Okay, so let’s take this. This is immediately useful ideas. All right, let’s imagine, for those of you out there- Let’s see. Take the first thing you see. Maybe it’s food. Maybe it’s a magazine. Maybe it’s a towel.
Scott Harper: Wow.
Pam Harper: Maybe it’s a traffic light. Okay? Draw a connection to your industry. Maybe it’s telecomm. Maybe it’s marketing services. Maybe it’s consumer products.
Scott Harper: Whatever it is.
Pam Harper: Whatever it is.
Scott Harper: Something ridiculous- I mean, what does a towel have in common that can help me think about marketing services differently? Well, we have to soak up new ideas and then bring them out. Get them out there. That just-
Pam Harper: We want to do that for our customers and our market, and maybe there’s a new market out there that has to do with soaking up ideas. We don’t know. The point is that when you’re taking things and you say, at first, “Oh, it’s irrelevant.” What we’re really talking about here, people, is looking at the things that are irrelevant, seemingly irrelevant, because they’re not immediately actionable, you would think. They can be.
Scott Harper: There’s frequently a trigger in something. Take Isaac Newton and the falling apple, for crying out loud. There’s a trigger in stuff that doesn’t relate to what you’re doing that can really change your thought, if you open up your mind to it.
Pam Harper: If you allow yourself to. One of the things we’re going to be doing in Growth Igniters Radio is we’re going to be looking at some ideas that are pretty high-flying now.
Scott Harper: A bit out there, yeah.
Pam Harper: Well, they’re not necessarily going to be the thing that you do tomorrow, but maybe they could be. Those are the trends that we’ve been talking about. The more that we get used to thinking about, not just what we can do tomorrow, per se, but what else is out there, and how could I apply that − no matter how different it is from what I would normally be looking at for trends? What’s the next big idea?
Scott Harper: Well, that’s right. Another way that, really, you can use to facilitate this different thinking is don’t stick in your head. Go out there and have conversations.
Pam Harper: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, improvisation. For instance, in an earlier episode, we had a conversation with Kelly Leonard, author of the book “Yes, And”, who’s a creative director at Second City.
Scott Harper: Improvisational theater, right.
Pam Harper: That’s right. The whole idea behind improvisation is to not necessarily know what’s coming next. The excitement and the opportunities come from building on each other’s conversations by always keeping an open space and saying, “And.”
Scott, I’ve just told you that we need to keep building on conversation.
Scott Harper: … What we can do to do this is find new people to have conversations with and open ourselves up to talking to people that we might never talk to.
Pam Harper: We can find ways to do that by going out there and looking at whatever the trade journals are. We can find ideas from you letting us know. As you’re listening to us, maybe you have an idea. This is just a quick example of how you can build opportunities. It doesn’t have to be a big, long, drawn-out kind of thing to get it going. Obviously, there’s much more to it to bring it out there into reality.
Scott Harper: To refine and flesh it out and so on.
Pam Harper: It starts with the willingness to change your perceptions, to open your perceptions.
Scott Harper: To really have that game-changing mindset.
Pam Harper: That’s right.
Scott Harper: Pam, any final thoughts about changing the game?
Pam Harper: The secret of achieving game-changing results is really accessible to anyone. It hinges on being willing to step out of your habits, perceive things differently, and have the conversations that enable you to redefine and make decisions about what’s possible. When you do this on a regular basis, those opportunities will seemingly appear out of nowhere, and the route to game-changing results will open up as never before. We promise you.
Scott Harper: Yeah. Thanks, Pam, and thanks to you out there for listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To check out resources related to today’s conversation, read our bios, share on social media, find out about upcoming episodes, or open a conversation with us, go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com and select episode sixty-six.
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper…
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper…
Pam Harper: Wishing you continued success, and leaving you with this question to discuss with your team:
Scott Harper: What can we do today to bump our habitual thinking out of its normal path so we can more quickly and easily open up our perceptions about what is possible?