Hey, everybody! We’re already through September?—?back to school, back to work, back to thinking about Q4! This monthly wrap-up of my weekly Thought Sparks news pieces will give you a short summary and links to the complete articles if you’re interested in a deeper dive. The ideas you can use are: Creating compelling marketing campaigns, managing digital transformation the right way, analyzing and managing a growth gap and finally, learning from prototypes.
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How often have you heard this presented as though “new” were a compelling reason to pay attention to a category, product, process or service? The sad fact of most new things, unfortunately, is that they are not going to work out in the marketplace, as Schneider and Hall point out in an article aptly titled, “Why Most Product Launches Fail.” One major reason is that while the engineering and techie types may have been laboring away at improving the features or attributes of an offering, they postpone the work of marketing till really late in the launch process.
Here are three factors that are essential to make sure that marketing campaign gets off the ground.
- A well defined target audience that is distinctively likely to appreciate what you have to offer;
- Targeted content and an editorial calendar?—?you don’t just want to spew messages into the void, you want to be strategic about them
- A systematic follow-through process for the leads you generate.
In this environment, where customers expect relationships rather than transactions, building marketing into your approach right from the start can give you a major edge.
Talking about digital transformation has a way of freaking people out. They then do the exact wrong thing, which is to throw money and effort at anyone who can promise that?—?Poof!?—?digital is right around the corner! There’s a smarter way to approach it.
Big, expensive digital programs are failure prone. McKinsey reports that 70% of transformational programs fail. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Using the principles of discovery driven planning, you can steer your digital programs with the right disciplines.
- Define success before you start. What would it look like if your digital program were successful?—?will it create more satisfied customers? Faster processing times? A better employee experience? Define that first and work backward to make it happen.
- Focus on the from/to of your digital shift. What is the current state and how will that change in the future? Be specific! You can use a concept we call “Return on Time Invested” to measure the success of your digital program.
- Define your competition broadly, and remember often the most significant competition you face is the choice to do nothing.
- Tend to your ecosystem?—?today, nobody plays in isolation. You need to think about collaboration partners and how you will share value throughout the ecosystem.
- Test your assumptions through relentless experimentation.
See the full article for details.
It’s always easy to project rosy growth goals that will happen in some misty future. The trouble is that you need to be making hard decisions today about appropriately resourcing those growth ambitions.
OK, strategists, let’s talk about growth gaps. A growth gap is the difference between what your base business and any new business you might be developing will deliver, and what your strategic ambitions are. This rather charming explainer video from our buddies at Innosight lays it out. Most organizations are thunderingly bad at taking the kind of action that would not leave them with a growth gap. In the full article, I offer a way to analyze growth gaps and the timing associated with them.
The implications of this work?
- Mind the gap! Do you even understand what your growth gap is? The process is actually not that complex?—?simply look at the growth trends of your existing lines of business and compare them to where you think your strategy needs to be at some point in the future. Usually, there will be a gap.
- What portfolio of projects might help you fill it? Some combination of acquisitions and organic growth are probably attractive. When time is tight, you’ll place more emphasis on acquisitions. If you have time, organic growth makes more sense.
- Third, get away from linear thinking about how your growth initiatives will unfold. All living things, businesses included, have a non-linear pattern to their growth. Tools such as the logistic model can help you be more realistic about what you can achieve within a given timeframe.
- Finally, don’t allow your assumptions to become facts in your own mind. The growth journey is about learning, discovery and finding a business model.
Prototypes are a great way to get customer feedback about elements of your proposed innovation before you have to invest a ton of resources in them. But there is a bit of science to how you draw the lessons a prototype can teach you.
Lesson 1: Believe in the vision but test out the approach in the real world. For example, the original, highly successful Palm Pilot device started out as a block of wood in the entrepreneurs’ shirt pocket.
Lesson 2: Mind the false fails. You need to really understand why something failed?—?don’t jump to a conclusion without really testing. For example, one of the things that made Peter Thiel a rich man was seeing how sticky even awful social networks were?—?that encouraged him to invest in Facebook and the rest is history.
Lesson 3: Create a safe space to unleash design thinking. The process of creating something new often involves a circuitous journey and a lot of ‘tinkering.’ That is very normal.
Lesson 4: Find a Sherpa. All of the above fly in the face of business-as-usual practices, so you are going to need someone to guide and protect your projects as they move along their long and winding paths.
Lesson 5: Tailor your prototyping strategy to your goals. Remember, the idea is to help you work out specific challenges?—?understand what they are before you design the prototyping process you plan to use.
Prototypes are an essential part of the new design thinking, but we can be smart about them, or not so smart.
In the Press
- 8 Books That Will Help You Sharpen Your Strategic Thinking?—?Inc.?—?Article
- The Imagination Premium: an anticipative performance metric?—?Emerald Insight?—?Article
- The non-consumption barrier to our vaccination drive?—?Mint- Article
October 1: Friday Fireside Chat with Peter Cappelli
Peter Cappelli and I go back a long way and I can’t wait to get caught up with him in this Friday Fireside Chat. Cappelli was one of my professors at Wharton and had a huge influence on the way I think about talent and people strategies. He’s a high-impact scholar who looks at questions of HR through an informed and wise lens. He was recently named one of the top 20 international thinkers by HR Magazine. I can’t think of a person to have a more timely conversation with?—?about culture, WFH (or not), labor relations, “the great resignation”?—?and so much more.
October 15: Friday Fireside Chat with Jennifer Moss
If you could pick someone to lead you through an intelligent conversation about the new world of work, you couldn’t do better than to consult with Jennifer Moss. Author of the forthcoming HBR Press book “The Burnout Academic,” Jennifer has written a best business book of the year, won awards for her success as an entrepreneur and spoken to audiences all over the world. I’m excited to get to know her and to learn about her book, which provides a guide on an incredibly timely topic.
Leading Strategic Growth and Change (Live Online) is a five-day virtual program focused on the process of finding opportunities, launching new ventures, and leading necessary organizational changes to revitalize and transform an organization in times of uncertainty. Participants will learn how to thrive in rapidly changing and highly uncertain environments and will be able to immediately apply their learning to make rapid progress on an issue they identify.
Join global executives and thought leaders from world-class organizations for an expert-led exchange on strategy, leadership, and transformation through our 2-day virtual event.
October 29: Friday Fireside Chat with Ray Wang
Everybody Wants To Rule the World. When R “Ray” Wang says it, he isn’t just channeling a popular musical line, he really means it. In his view, digital giants are pulling further and further ahead of the rest of us and will eventually reshape our economic future into one of extreme capitalism. He anticipates we will have huge data-driven networks, extreme consolidation, extreme investing and extreme monetization. He’s going to be my guest to talk about this phenomenon which is part of his new book, and to help us think through how the digital age doesn’t end up in catastrophe. I’m very much looking forward to it. He’s the Founder, Chairman and Principal Analyst of Constellation research and co-host of the DisrupTV program.
Replay Past Events
September at Valize
The SparcHub and LearningHub programs are moving along nicely although the crush of September work always slows me down unexpectedly. We’ve done a ton of demos (write to email@example.com to schedule one), gotten some great feedback and have the first few customers ready to go.
Here are some ways we can work together:
- We can help you kick-start the design of your innovation program in a 30-day sprint.
- We can review your innovation portfolio, free up resources by killing a few zombies and make some space for your future business
- We can help you diagnose your level of innovation mastery
- Have a team with issues? We can help fix that with a simple team effectiveness program
- And of course, you can subscribe to my regular publications on Thought Sparks