How to Find Growth by Seeing Differently
The business press bombards us with all kinds of buzz about innovation and disruptive thinking. We are prodded into believing that in order to grow a wildly successful business that we have to develop a wildly creative idea.
It’s ridiculous to believe that growth only comes from a big disruptive idea. Growth happens for most companies when they uncover opportunities that already exist but often are hidden by traditional beliefs about what is promising or possible. The ability to see things differently, and as a result, do things differently is an essential capability necessary to tap into new sources of revenue growth.
What is misunderstood about great entrepreneurial minds – whether they are in start-ups or Fortune 500 companies – is their ability to see differently. Finding new opportunities by looking through a different lens allows these entrepreneurs to see what competitors overlook and create new value propositions with that insight.
See Customers as People Not Categories
We are told that in order to find growth we have to “think outside the box.” But growth leaders ignore this axiom; instead they use the boxes they already have. They think of their boxes as the sum of all of their experiences and they learn to see the world through their customers’ eyes. This ability to see inside and outside, at the same time, is what allows them to come up with ideas that sometimes seem obvious in hindsight.
The growth leaders I know are experts at tapping into their collection of experiences and are always looking to deepen their understanding of their customers. This understanding isn’t the impersonal assortment of segments and categories. Leaders of growth concentrate on giving customers what they want, rather than what everyone thinks they need. For them, business growth is personal. Growth results from understanding customers as people not as categories.
Don’t rely on market research reports. These reports are just as likely to hide real customer needs, as they are to expose them.
You have to go deeper than customers’ preferences and opinions. Growth leaders learn intimate details about customers’ daily lives. This kind of insight allows them to develop products and services in the context of the sum of the customers’ experience.
You can’t outsource this. Learning about the customer has to be less about standard market research and more about direct observation. Observing allows you to identify unspoken needs rather than merely solve known problems.
Growth is About Value Propositions Not Products
By making the customers the center of their attention, growth leaders are able to develop powerful value propositions. They take what they learn outside and use it to look within their organizations for different ways of thinking about their businesses.
Of course, new products and services are part of the equation, but other aspects of the business model are often just as important. Sometimes, organizations will have the capabilities, mindsets, and relationships necessary to make the new value propositions work. And other times there will be pieces missing. New skills may need to be developed, old ways of thinking will have to be discarded, new partnerships might need to be created, and challenges will have to be overcome.
Eyes Wide Open
Most leaders want organic growth, but they are too busy going to meetings and fighting fires – dealing with the day-to-day issues of running a business – to look for new opportunities.
Leaders of growth companies pay attention. To see differently, you have to consistently be looking for opportunities. Fortunately, they are already there.
What are the mental models in your industry or your company that are preventing you from seeing new opportunities?