Daily Archives: January 11, 2012

Find Your Next!

Our last post discussed the need for Next Practices and an innovative approach that will get the organization there so that it can continue to survive, and even thrive, in today’s harsh economic climate. Today’s post is going to review Andrea Kates’ Find Your Next, a new book that describes the Business Genome approach — which is a strategic toolkit that an organization can use to identify one or more strategies that could take it to the next level.

      The difference between a great idea and a great business result is the ability to integrate insights from lots of different sources and get an entire organization on board quickly.
     Mark Vachon, GE Company Officer

No single quote better captures the state of business today and the need for a 360°view of the market in which an organization is competing and an enterprise-wide response to market changes in real-time. That’s why SI agrees with Mark Vachon when he says that Find Your Next is a must-read. Very few books capture the spirit of the approach that an organization must to take in its strategy formulation efforts like this book. As business has progressed beyond the point where a single blueprint can guarantee success, an inquisitive approach that can help an organization identify all of the relevant factors that are influencing the market from a product, process, customer, talent, trend, and innovation perspective is desperately needed as an organization must be continually asking the right questions and identifying the right answers if it is to compete effectively. Getting to the heart of the innovator’s dilemma, this is one of the few books that accurately describes a strategic formulation approach that is both powerful enough to meet organizational needs and easy enough to be adopted.

One of the great things about the book is the author states right off the reality of business strategy generation: there is no science to prediction. You can sit down in a laboratory with rats for a month and track what you see. Even armed with data on how biological change has occurred in the past for each rat, you wouldn’t be able to figure out what changes will happen next. And why not? Because you have not been trained to see the world of rats through the subtle cues and environmental shifts that would allow you to see ahead to the next phase. In other words, there’s no way to know for sure.

In addition, Andrea then goes on to note that forecasting is rarely enough. The traditional tools don’t adequately address the significant trends that shape today’s competitive arena. This is partly because adding up the elements of the past doesn’t get you to the full impact that you can have in the future but mostly because no model is complete — the market is continually shifting — and you have to keep up with it.

Just like Nilofer Merchant provided us with a simple five-step approach for achieving The New How when he noted that we needed a framework for collaboration if we were truly going to collaborate on business strategy, Andrea Kates presents us with a simple four-step process to the business genome approach that anyone can follow. But that’s not what makes this book great. Anyone that has been keeping up with recent thinking on innovation and innovation trends can probably figure out a process. What makes the book great is the advice provided on implementing each step and the detailed lists of important questions that need to be asked, that are not always so obvious. And then there’s the case studies that explain the importance of asking the right strategies and using the business approach to Find Your Next.

Consider the questions posed in relation to your secret sauce:

  1. What is it about you that keeps your customers coming back? Do they see all that you are and all that you have to offer?
  2. Who stands a chance of stealing those devotees or encroaching on your competitive space?
  3. How can you stay wired to the market pulse, even as it vacillates?
  4. What will make your company a market leader in the next year or two?
  5. What’s the secret to differentiating your brand in today’s competitive landscape. Have others in industries outside off yours figured it out?

Each of these goes beyond the traditional set of questions asked by a company employing standard best-practices when trying to determine it’s next product. A typical company

  1. would ask what is keeping customers coming back and not if the customers are seeing everything they have to offer now — this is important as your company might already have it’s next killer product on the market or might be offering products and services the market doesn’t want, and mis-applying resources that should be reapplied
  2. would focus on current competition and not on potential new market entrants that could move into its space and change the game — like Netflix changed video rentals and the iPad changed laptop sales
  3. would be focussed on reading the market now and now how it could ensure it could read, and react, to the market as the product was released and competitors’ products were released
  4. would be focussed on now, and not after-now, and overlook the importance of minitrends to continued success
  5. would focus on its market space, and not other market spaces where a new market entrant might have figured out the key to new customer acquisition in what was thought to be a stagnant or non-existent market (like Starbucks changed the coffee shop)

Find Your Next is a great book and a must read for any executive or strategic planner that wants to understand the foundations for asking the right questions that will be the ultimate key to success in a strategic planning session. As Seth Godin says:

      Every great strategic thinker uses the ideas in thsi book … but it took Andrea Kates to write them down for the rest of us.