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Looking For Ideas In All The Wrong Places

by David Brock on December 28th, 2011

Top performers–whether they are individual contributors, managers, or executives are always looking for new ideas.  They are driven for improvement and innovation.  But too often, our efforts are stymied.  It’s hard to improve or innovate.  Often, I think it’s a result of looking in the wrong places.

When I get into discussions about this with people, I pose the question, “Where do you look for new ideas?”  Often, the response are, “We look at our competition!”  Sometimes, it’s, “We look at others in the industry.”

When I hear these responses, I’m reminded of the terrific quote from Gary Hamel:  “Ideas that transform industries almost never come from inside those industries.”  There are dozens of examples of this–the start up that has a completely different take on things, the game changer that was never on anyone’w radar.  The Amazon’s, Apple’s, Facebook’s and others.  It’s a dismal but too accurate observation–but we can do something about this.

Benchmarking our competition, looking within our industries is an important element of our business, sales and marketing strategies.  We have to have competitive practices, we have to understnad the critical issues in our markets.  But at the same time, it limits us.  We restrict ourselves to the familiar, to the known, to our experience base.  We become prisoners of our own experience, blind to what is happening outside our worlds.

The good news, our competitors and our customers do the same things!  They are also blinded and limited.  This creates a tremendous opportunity — both to outcompete and outperform our competitors, and to bring ideas and innovation and value to our customers.

If we just started looking in non-traditional places–the web and social media may be one of those new places for us to hang out.  Different industries, different regions, different cultures, different business models all give us new ideas.  The ideas we may be looking at could be old and stale in their own industries or regions—but they could represent great innovation in our own.

Innovation doesn’t need to be tough, it just means looking in different places, exposing yourself to new ideas.  If you live in a B2B world–look at retail and B2C.  If you live in a box/product solution world, look at services, subscriptions, knowledge based industries.  If you live in high tech, look at high fashion.  If you are a Boomer meet some X, Y, Z’s (and vice versa).  Expose yourself to different things–different art, different music, different people, different ideas.

You could learn a lot.  You might find ideas that twisted, tweaked, artfully adapted could have great applicability for you and your customers.  They could set you apart from everyone else.  You might also get a chance to see your new competitors–perhaps before they become competitors.  That opens a whole new realm of possiblities.

Are you looking for innovation innovation and ideas in the right places?

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