Pick how you are going to be a winner - outperform or change the game!
Updated: Aug 24, 2021
Aim to change the game, not to outperform! When I and my two great co-authors published "Gear Up" there was a part somewhere in the middle of the book that caught people's attention - we never thought that was going to create the attention it did. What we did - any a lot of what we wrote was inspired by brilliant scholars insight (Clayton Christensen never to be forgotten!) - was that we made a distinction between being a company with an ambition to outperform other companies in an existing market or being a company to change the game; either in an existing market space or by creating a new market space. We even visualized the out-performers and the game changers (if you log in and look at the tool you will see how we did it :-).
An Out-Performer (OP), is in short, a company that wants to grow per the rules, the existing demand in an established market space. The goal is to perform better than other companies - every other company is primarily seen as a competitor. An OP ambition is to steal existing customers from other companies by being a little bit "X" than others. The "X" could be: affordable, smarter, safer, cooler. The most crucial part for an OP is to be just "a little bit", not a whole lot, just enough to get that extra that will make existing customers move from buying from one company to another. To execute on "a little bit" the company often turns to the tactics of drumming up more sales, increasing the sales force, finding efficiencies in current channels, moving from off- to on-line, i.e., changes happen in the execution of an already set strategy.
I don't look down at OPs, rather I find them fascinating and I try to understand how they do it; how they find ways and means to, probably constantly, viewing the work they are doing as a war, using all the necessary war-related metaphors to drum up energy and new tactics to yet again win a battle.
Admittingly though, I urge "my" entrepreneurs to at least imagining another route to sustainability, doesn't matter if they are ideating or in a growth situation and that is - no surprise really - to position themselves as Game Changers (GC), i.e., change the layout of an existing market space or creating a new. And to do that already in how they identify their business opportunity, i.e., before execution.
The ambition for a GC is primarily two things: First, to get so-called non-costumers to enter into the market space. Previously being non-costumers either because they couldn´t afford the available products and solutions, or because they could get access to buy or use them. Second, to get so-called overshot customers to start buying from them instead of buying from incumbents because the over-shoot customers realize that they have been paying too much for their needs or they have been paying for part of something that they don't need.
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about changing the game is to do that by introducing a different painkiller, i.e., a product, solution, service, etc. that is a little bit X for the customers. Not to be disrespectful but this is a very "engineering" way of changing the game. Not used often enough are instead changing the game by innovating in customer acquisition and retention, business model, delivery, manufacturing, etc.