Provocative Propositions

In the hyperactive and challenging world in which we all live, it is becoming harder and harder for business leaders to find time to read, reflect and gain insight from the many valuable sources at our disposal.

In "Provocative Propositions", The Beacon Group attempts to fill that void by offering our opinion, often rather pointed, on a wide array of issues we believe are relevant to leading a modern organization.

The articles are catalogued into 12 categories so you can quickly and easily find a topic of particular interest. We then offer three easy steps under the heading "In Our Opinion" to help business leaders take action on the key themes.

Simply click on the category and read away.

Benefits of Boldness
You don't want safe. Really, you don't.

"Our company is facing significant market challenges. It isn't a good time to take a risk with new ideas and strategies, because we can't afford to make mistakes in this environment".

How many times have you heard a manager or executive shoot down an idea with this statement?

It's the same excuse in good times?

"Our company has been printing cash for the past few years. Why would we throw that away by taking risks with new ideas and strategies? We shouldn't try to fix things that aren't broken."

Bernd Schmitt from his book "Big Think Strategy" he explains this is the essence of Small Thinking.
  • Safe
  • Conformist
  • Truncated
  • Conventional
  • Incremental

The fact is most companies think small. It's all about the bottom line, the next quarter and Wall Street expectations.

The problem is this kind of thinking puts you behind the curve. It means that your company is always responding to the advances of others.

The outcome is a lack of vision, uninspired products and an incoherent strategy... if you can even call it a strategy in the first place.

The solution is to get your coworkers thinking about big and bold ideas. Foster an environment where this becomes as normal as a trip to the water cooler. Get them to draw unusual connections across industries and products.

How do you think?
  • Kellogg's Corn Flakes and Spirituality
  • Chanel and Fear of environmental hazards
  • Northwest Airlines and Health and wellness

Do you see the links? Probably not, because there aren't any. That's the point.

This isn't how your company thinks. We're all familiar with silos, sectors, product categories, and the list goes on and on. Think outside of your box at your own peril.

There's no room for...
  • Creative
  • Visionary
  • Bold
  • Integrated
  • Lasting

And yet it's these kinds of links that are the basis of Big Think Strategy.

Killing the sacred cow

Have you ever noticed that each industry has its prevailing conventions. There are certain ways of doing things, certain assumptions about the customers and of course ideas that are just "impossible".

It's impossible to deliver packages overnight...

Fed Ex killed that sacred cow. They flew packages daily through a hub in Memphis. Turns out people were actually willing to pay for the speed and convenience.

People will never buy a computer without seeing and feeling it at a store...

Dell killed that sacred cow. They sold computers online, getting rid of retail square footage and minimizing inventory overhead. Turns out people were more than willing to trade the "touchy and feely" store experience for lower prices and customization.

Big think is about killing your sacred cows. You'd be surprised what customers are willing to pay for.

Big Think Culture

When CEO Jeffrey Immelt arrived at GE, the company was a well-oiled profit machine. There wasn't much he needed to do. Yet he decided to make a leap from Small Think to Big Think. He required his direct reports to come up with three "Imagination Breakthroughs" a year that produce at least $100 million in growth. The ideas are reviewed and evaluated by a committee panel.

Google lets its employees use 20% of their time to work on personal projects. 20% of their time has resulted in 50% of Google's ideas, including AdSense and Google News.

Similarly, Apple isn't scared to kill its own product lines prematurely to replace them with newer products. It's about maintaining innovation.

In Our Opinion

The Beacon Group's Keys to producing Big Think Strategy

Big Think strategy isn't about incremental steps or small improvements in your product line. We're talking about revolutionizing product categories and drawing new links between industries.

Here are a few suggestions to get this process going in your company...

Look at other industries - Get your co-workers to draw a list of most admired companies in other sectors. What do they do to get ahead of their game? What are the key points of their strategy? This should be a regular brainstorming session. Don't box yourself in one sector.

Sacred Cows - We talked a bit about sacred cows in various industries. Which ones exist in your industry? Draw a list and see which strategies you can implement to meet them.

Customers - Take those sacred cows to the customer. Are they willing to pay for a product that transcends those needs? Customers can be great for telling you how to improve your products through their feedback. But that's just incremental... Find out what they really want to do, but are unable to.

Execution - It's not enough to have a good idea. The whole plan has to fit within a marketing, product and customer service strategy. Then you need a leader with passion to execute, otherwise the idea will get truncated before it leaves port. This is the tricky part for any organization.
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