The Uses of Discomfort

May 12, 2011 at 3:29 PM 1 comment

In my last post I talked about how success at a certain business model tends to create an organization that’s invested in that business model. When it’s time to more forward, the organization rebels and sucks you under. Think of GM producing cars for a vast local market that was shrinking as imports went from an exotic choice to a commonsense one. GM was such an attractive edifice, no one was willing to tear it up to make it work in a new market. So the market tore it up instead.

Which raises the question: how and when do you innovate in order to prevent being swallowed in the mire?

It’s probably too late to do disruptive innovation when your business model becomes threatened – the time to do it is before your business model becomes too stable.

Google is a great example – from search to ads, to cloud to mobile, it keeps disrupting itself, and stays footloose.

Another example is Netflix. When they started, they could have been MailFlix – after all, they delivered all their goods by mail. But they knew that they were entering a Net-based world, and tying their fate to the postal system was not the way to go. They chose the unsettled, ever-changing idea of the Net.

Sure it’s uncomfortable working without a firm underpinning of stability. That’s why we need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

That’s not as unnatural as it seems. Yes, we all desire comfort and security, but we also have the need to be creative. Discomfort can be very energizing for the creative process. Look at Intel, a huge company that can only survive by innovating at a ruthless pace. Intel is constantly working to make their own technology irrelevant. Their former CEO, Andy Grove, called it constructive paranoia.

And paranoia means never having to say you’re comfortable.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Robert Barzler  |  May 13, 2011 at 8:45 AM

    Awesome – Seth Godin says it this way:
    Brand exceptionalism

    Your brand is your favorite. After all, it’s yours. You understand it, you helped build it, you’re obsessed with the nuance behind it. Your organization’s actions make sense to you, you sat in the room as they were being argued about… you might even have helped make some of the decisions.

    So, your brand doesn’t do anything wrong. What it does is the best it could do under the circumstances. Someone who knew what you know would make the very same decision, because under the circumstances it was the only/best option.

    Of course we should buy from you. You’re better!

    When your brand starts falling behind a competitor (Dell vs. Apple, Microsoft vs. Google, Washington Mutual vs. Everyone and then Apple vs. Android, Google vs. Facebook)… you say it’s not fair, nor expected.

    The problem with brand exceptionalism is that once you believe it, it’s almost impossible to innovate. Innovation involves failure, which an exceptional brand shouldn’t do, and the only reason to endure failure is to get ahead, which you don’t need to do. Because you’re exceptional.

    In the battle for attention or market share, the market makes new decisions every day. And the market tends to be selfish. Often, it will pick the arrogant market leader (because the market also tends to be lazy), but upstarts and new competitors always have an incentive to change the game or the story.

    Brand humility is the only response to a fast-changing and competitive marketplace. The humble brand understands that it needs to re-earn attention, re-earn loyalty and reconnect with its audience as if every day is the first day.

    Reply

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Thompson Morrison

Thompson Morrison

About Thompson

As CEO of FUSE Insight, Thompson Morrison uses powerful new web interviewing technologies to help businesses better align their brand with the needs and aspirations of their customers. Learn more at www.fuseinsight.com

 

"The single most significant strategic strength that an organization can have is not a good strategic plan, but a commitment to strategic listening on the part of every member of the organization." -- Tom Peters

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