Lateral Thinking In Business(The Helicopter View)

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PRETEND YOU ARE DRIVING a car in the middle of a thunderstorm and you happen upon three people on the side of the road. One of them is a frail old woman, who looks on the verge of collapse. Another is a friend who once saved your life. The other is the romantic interest of your dreams, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet him or her. You have only one other seat in the car.

Who do you pick up?

There’s a good reason to choose any of the three. The old woman needs help. The friend deserves your payback. And clearly, a happy future with the man or woman of your dreams will have an enormous long-term impact on your life.

So, who should you pick?

The old woman, of course. Then, give the car keys to your friend, and stay behind with the romantic interest to wait for the bus!

This dilemma is an exercise in lateral thinking. It’s the kind of puzzle in which the most elegant solution is revealed only when you attack it sideways. —excerpt from Smartcuts

Imagine that you and your family have managed to wriggle your way
to the front of a jostling crowd in Disneyland, where the street parade is about to start. You and your
children can’t wait to see Mickey Mouse and his friends riding past on their beautiful floats. Donald Duck
sails past and your children wave in excitement. Next comes Goofy, and then Pluto, and wow… is that
Mickey coming up next? That’s how we see life. We have a linear perspective and we see events unfold
day by day. However, God’s perspective is different. He has a “helicopter’s view”.–excerpt from Joseph Prince’s Destined To Reign.

How Do You Apply Lateral Thinking To Your Business?

Start with this question, “What is the highest level of development I can create in this industry/product/delivery mechanism/system/strategy?”

The follow up question should be, “What is the highest level of value we can give our clients?” This will eliminate linear thinking. True innovation is when you provide more value than the client expects.

For example, Dell’s innovation was not merely technical.

“At the time, no one had thought it possible to offer a totally “customized” PC at a competitive price. Nor did conventional wisdom believe that a customized PC offering could be scaled beyond a VAR business model.

Taking advantage of the Internet’s disruptive forces, Dell’s second innovation was to create a configuration order entry system making it simple for the average user to design a PC to their unique requirements. Dell also created a back end supply chain processes to build and deliver the completed PC to the customer’s home or place of business within days, not weeks.

Dell is a great example showing how breakthrough business results don’t necessarily have to be in the dimension of product innovation…3 types of innovations a company can explore and exploit:

1. Product and Service Innovation: For example Apple’s iPhone

2. Process innovation: Often happen behind the scenes to provide customers with expedited and customized service at a price advantage – like Dell’s PC configuration front and back end processes.

3. Business model innovation: Like Dell’s model to sell computers directly to the end customer and skip the middleman.

Don’t get me wrong, Dell computers were good, but really nothing exceptional that the rest of the competitors couldn’t offer. In fact, value added resellers’ primary differentiation was supplying its customers with custom configured PC’s (hardware and software) to get specific jobs their customers needed to get done. What VAR’s couldn’t master though, was creating a business model and supporting processes to scale the way Dell did.

The then competing PC firms at the time (i.e. IBM, HP and Compaq), could not respond to Dell’s business model either because their business models were too depended on their distribution channels and mass production lines.

Specifically, the competitors were both “channel locked” and operationally constrained (mass-customization was not built into their manufacturing processes).

It would have been too much of a risk for them to disturb their channel relationships and change their core production process. To do so would be to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. So they thought.” Read the rest here.

Conclusion
In my consulting business most of my “competition” are into teaching the client what to do. My innovation was to give the client an exact plug and play marketing system. I take out as much confusion as possible and do the work for them. As simple as this seems, many people think it’s too difficult to do.
Think about how to give the customer exactly what she wants regardless of what the norm is.

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