Innovation technique: Define your ideal competitor

Paul Sloane's new book, The Innovative Leader: How to Inspire Your Team and Drive Creativity, contains a fascinating innovation exercise that can help you to identify new opportunities for your business, and hopefully prevent it from being blindsided by an unexpected competitor. Here's how it works.

Paul Sloane’s new book, The Innovative Leader: How to Inspire Your Team and Drive Creativity, contains a fascinating innovation exercise that can help you to identify new opportunities for your business, and hopefully prevent it from being blindsided by an unexpected competitor. Here’s how it works:

“Imagine that an immensely wealthy corporation has decided to enter your business market. This corporation plans to create a powerful competitor that will use innovative approaches to seize your current organization’s customers and wipe you out. It will deliberately exploit your weaknesses to hurt you in the marketplace. This corporation has hired your team to put together the new competitor and given you immense resources.  What would you do?”

After hearing this scenario, your job is to brainstorm innovative ways of reaching the customer, delivering better services and seizing a leading market share. Assume that you have unlimited resources, without any of the encumbrances that hold you back in your existing business.

After you have brainstormed a list of innovative ideas and business models, ask yourself:

  • What would have to happen for our organization to become like this ideal competitor, and do these things ourselves?
  • What steps do you need to take to ensure that your organization doesn’t get blown out of the water if such a competitor does emerge?

The beauty of this “sleight of head”exercise is that it frees you from all of the “mental baggage” that otherwise acts like blinders on your thinking. As Paul points out, “once the constraints are off, it is much easier to conceive of radical, innovative business models.”

Why not try this innovative thinking exercise today?

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