Still around the corner, there may wait a new road or a secret gate..
- J.R.R. Tolkien
I vividly remember heading to the movies with Laura in tow in 1979 to see Ridley Scott's new movie Alien. I remember the terror I felt as the unstoppable alien stalked the crew. The suspense was overwhelming, as we never knew what was around the next corner. In our business today I understand that doing new things and looking in unlikely spots for creative opportunities can be like Ripley looking for the next hiding place of the damn alien. I also know that many of the new ideas and answers you are looking for are probably just around a scary corner, too.
Our strategic platform THE BEYOND SERIES is all about what’s around that scary corner, and instead of an acid-blooded, horrifying creature we believe something special lies there for you. This entire strategy is about what is going on OUTSIDE your specific industry that can be just what you’re looking for, if only you were aware of it.
One of our clients asked if we could help with the structure of their internal meetings. A recent employee survey showed their meeting format as one of the lowest rated activities employees engaged in. One respondent said, “I am scared of the dentist, but I’d rather have a root canal than go to another meaningless meeting.”
Using the work we had done through THE BEYOND SERIES platform we introduced how companies can create a meeting format that both engages and enrolls participants. Not one example was from our client’s industry. They simply were not looking in the right place for their ideas. They needed to expand their thinking horizon and recognize a pizza restaurant holds better meetings than they do. We presented three meeting platforms with ideas we put together from a wide variety of other businesses. From there we created their new meeting structure. I’m jazzed to see the results of their next survey.
Their answer was just around the corner;
In a constant search for an advantage in the ultra-competitive hospitality business, JW Marriott is going a long way around the corner. Understanding that the battlefield they CAN CONTROL is in their hotel guest experience, they went searching for ways to train their guest teams to create a distinctly unique way of delivering service. Instead of turning to conventional experts in the hotel business, Marriott instead went beyond the traditional approach and engaged the world renowned Joffrey Ballet Company of Chicago. Marriott wanted to view new additions to their service model based on the poise and grace found in dancers’ training. The ability to tap into flow and movement as well as discovering a new way to connect to an audience enabled a very traditional company to expand their thinking well beyond the borders created by their own industry.
Cadillac moved from Detroit to New York to move beyond the traditional view of a car company and transform themselves into a luxury brand by taking advantage of a city whose citizens immerse themselves in the luxury lifestyle.
The challenge is that most companies find it hard enough to keep pace with what’s going on in their own industry, yet alone spending value-based time to take a look around the corner and beyond their demographic home. Couple that with the risk of doing something outside the norm, and you can see why most organizations stay within the confines of their comfortable myopic market view.
Your commitment to knowing the incredible opportunities that are being created in every blink of the eye will become critical to your ability to move beyond the commodity idea of your product or service. You will have to slip into explorer mode and discover what incredible concepts lie just around the corner and realize that not very much is really beyond your reach.
UNDERSTAND -In order to take advantage of the world filled with different but applicable ideas, you have to understand what you are looking for. Define the scope of your discovery mission. A vast sea of ideas needs to be efficiently navigated in order to find the right port. Make sure you have a well-stated purpose to your mission. For example, “We want to simplify our sales reporting format.” To start that voyage you would begin with examining the current reality of your sales reporting, then look at competitors, then leap to other industries that have simple, impactful reporting formats.
DOES IT MAKE SENSE? - You would be surprised (or maybe not) at the number of companies that just jump into an idea. They never ask, “Before we leap, does the scope of this application make sense?” That simple question opens critical discussions. If you are looking to simplify your sales reporting format you might want to start with one aspect instead of trashing your whole pharmaceutical sales reporting process to accept the entire simplified version you discovered in the robotic industry. The idea of a BEYOND strategy is about increasing the scale and scope of your knowledge. Some of the discovery will be interesting and maybe even adaptable but simply might not make sense at this time.
"BEYOND" IS ABOUT VALUE - The clients we are engaged with in our Beyond Series have made a value judgment. They have decided the search for ideas can give them a market advantage. They understand it takes time and resources to gain a global view of different market practices. What could they learn from the way a movie idea is pitched in Hollywood that could improve their chances for getting a bid? The idea of determining value is a very real process any company or organization has to determine with regard to resource allocation. Believe me, anything you do to create true separation and differentiation for your product or service will come from doing something different than you are doing today.
THE ASTRO PARK: In Houston, Texas sits the former 8th Wonder of the World, the Astrodome. It was closed in 2008, a victim of the need for luxury skyboxes housed in brand new gladiatorial splendor. There have been many ideas to repurpose (rather than destroy) the old home of Houston’s Oilers and Astros. Recently the Urban Land Institute positioned an idea to turn the Dome into the world’s largest indoor park, featuring an amphitheater, green gathering spaces, water features, walking trails, pavilions, and gardens. Though the project is vague on specifics, it is an incredible idea that would leverage the 3 million people drawn to the adjacent new stadium area, Reliant Park.
NIPPING AT NIKE:I’m not sure that 18 years ago, when Kevin Plank launched the Under Amour brand of athletic apparel, even he believed his idea would bring a totally new competitive spirit to the sports apparel market space. In 2014 Under Amour bumped Adidas to take over second place in the competitive industry. Second only to Nike (but a distant second…Under Amour does about $3.5 billion a year while Nike exceeds $30 billion), Under Amour sales are up 30%. Their stock is up 60%, and international sales are up 86%, impressive numbers by any company. Under Amour is not resting on its sweat-soaked laurels though. They are attacking footwear and engaging women at new strategic levels. Keep your eyes on Kevin Plank. He is one smart sports guy.
PUTTING YOUR BUTT ON THE LINE, LITERALLY: Want to get a handle on all the talk about the power of buzz and word of mouth? Sara Blakely, the billionaire owner of the shapewear company Spanx, has never spent a dime on formal advertising. Her risk-full approach to her product is legendary. In 2000 Oprah Winfrey decided to put Spanx on her “favorite things” list and asked Sara if she could film a staff meeting for her segment on the show. At the time, Sara’s office was her Atlanta apartment and her fulfillment center was her bathroom. She grabbed some friends and went down the street to the Mailbox Company and faked a staff meeting. Her first big opportunity came when she somehow snagged a meeting with the buyer at Neiman Marcus in Dallas. When the buyer was losing interest in her pitch, she yanked her into the bathroom, stripped down and put her product on. The buyer agreed to carry her product. It is often about your gumption to stick your neck out there…but it helps when you have a truly fine product or service