For Guest Post Monday, we have a post by a gentleman I met while speaking at a conference in Bogota, Colombia, recently. Frank Gamez, a strategic planner, speaker and thinking-tool creator, offers a fresh perspective that is beneficial no matter where or what you sell. I encourage you to pay close attention to his wisdom and allow it to motivate you in new ways.
That is the number of business titles offered at Amazon at the moment I am looking at its website. Extraordinary. Would you have anticipated that before it was released about 15 years ago?
And this is the price of many of these books. Would you have believed that in those days?
This is the sound of bookstores receiving the impact of phenomena such as Amazon. Stupefied owners see how traffic increases in their stores with a decreasing sales rate, unable to explain why. Their years of expertise and success incapacitates them to discern the new reality: their physical stores (and by the way, very nice looking, with great merchandising, lighting, textures and peripheral services) now operate as free shopping windows of Amazon. Now book lovers can consult titles of their interest with great comfort… that an hour later they will buy online from the web giant.
THE PRINTER FORM HELL
Consider a much closer and compelling case: your business. Imagine somewhere in the city, at this very moment, a small printer prints laboriously a Business Plan entitled, “Death to my competitor.” It could be a term paper as many others printed every day in the world. Except that this document is particularly written to confront the business that you currently manage. And hurt it.
Contemplate in your mind the eager hands of the two young men at the other end of the printer receiving the sheets of paper. Pay special attention to them. They hardly are into their third year at college and yet they have been able to generate an idea based on a bold variation of your business, an idea that will be instantly magnetic to your until-now-satisfied customers. And you know the chances they will switch are very large.
Your mind tries to think of viable solutions to face the new threat, finally clinging as a castaway to the lifesaver of your traditional model which has made you successful for many years… (which is about to be invalidated).
Your current success can be the ditch in which you will fall tomorrow. It is possible that your today’s HIGH CREATIVITY corresponds to a wrong objective. While you debate this intriguing thought, a huge problem approaches inexorably.
Is it an exaggeration? Is it absurd? You are right. But it was also absurd that day, 15 years ago, when someone spoke of a virtual store that would attract the customers of the most distinguished establishments, located in high traffic areas and with a wonderful smiling staff who even knew their names. The impact of a new idea against an old paradigm is often cause of rejection. You may be legendary for conducting your company through the path of Creative Evolution, but… what is its value when a competitor presents a Creative Revolution, which will end the era of your current successful model? The price to pay is the highest of all.
INTERSECTING THE EVOLUTION AND CREATIVE REVOLUTION CURVES
We have believed that we will be alright being creative presenting new news to our targets groups. Even more so if our ideas are great, if everything we touch turns into a substantial improvement and differentiation: faster or slower, larger or smaller, more, less, clever discounts, raffles, more models…
More (and better) of the same.
And this is true: it is not possible to dominate a market, or even continue to live in it, if there are no interesting new news, valuable, attractive, magnetic, relevant. These tasks are all legitimate daughters of creativity. Creativity is the mother who makes customers, clients, suppliers and employees to be attracted to you. You need all of them in love. Without Creativity, that is impossible to happen.
This type of Creativity, however, is valuable only in those cases in which there is no need to jump from the curve of Creative Evolution to the Creative Revolution. If you need a Creative Revolution Strategy in business, even the most ingenious Evolutionary Creativity will not do any good. On the contrary, it may be cause of distraction and resource diversion from the true path that in this case should be taken: the one of Creative Revolution.
Evolution. Revolution. A simple “R” can be the difference between life and death of a successful business.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), the Creative Revolution is neither usual nor easy, and it may require extraordinary amounts of talent and resources. Once accomplished, companies can extend their presence in the market place through its dedication to the Creative Evolution.
A JOURNEY THROUGH TIME
Imagine it is the year of 1976. You are in the recess of a Creative Exploration meeting of the leading typing-machine company. While you have a coffee and prepare the overhead projector and markers for the second part of the meeting, you over hear someone commenting about the important events of the year: the Viking descends on the surface of Mars, the Concorde accomplishes its first flight, there is a murder attempt against Bob Marley, Microsoft is registered, the Peronist Government is overthrown in Argentina, IBM launches a printer and a company called Apple is formed.
You think that the world is becoming interesting and almost without realizing it, it is again time to go back to the meeting. The group returns to the point before the break.
“Lets continue with the Creative Evolution of our type writing machines. We need to generate interest, new news. Lets consider how many new things there are in the world! We also have to contribute! Lets look for areas for innovation.” And, placing a new overhead on the projector, you write in red: “larger keys.”
Someone at the back shouts,
“Inked ribbon that lasts twice!” You write down the idea.
“Glow in the dark keys,” a woman says form the second row.
“A ‘zero visibility’ deletion mechanism,” someone else says.
You write down ideas, one below the other.
Your boss, inspired, proposes,
“Think about the weight of the machine to differentiate it dramatically from competitors. Portability could be another interesting area. Even electricity!”
“Ergonomics” suggests again the woman in the second row.
The meeting continues, and you realize there is something bothering you. You stop and express it openly,
“I am wondering if IBM could become a problem some day… Imagine a printer combined with a computer…
“I don’t think so,” the General Manager says impulsively. ”There are no points in common: different niches, essence, target groups, price, portability, weight. Lets focus on what we have accomplished so far. Let’s go where no other typewriter has gone before.” And, taking a marker, goes to the overhead and writes with quick strokes,
Small keys large with sensors
with memory with own light ergonomics
The boss knows he is not wrong to think that in the Creative Evolution world, his typewriter will be king… until that morning when two guys will realize the idea of a strange machine that will invalidate the complete typewriting industry and several others as well, less obvious at that time.
RETURN TO REALITY
Let’s not be pessimistic. It is likely that your industry’s structure will be governed under its current model and rules for 10 years, maybe 20 or 30. Not every day new visionaries will appear to revolutionize the world. And the world is not necessarily ready for every revolutionary change.
But we also need to be realistic: many products and services reached the end of their days in spite of the most amazing ideas born in the heart of the most sophisticated creative evolution.
It would seem a smart thing to do is to keep the GPS on, searching, tracking, and monitoring signs of the possibility for a Creative Revolution. And while doing so, not stay behind, but immerse into the fascinating depths of Creative Evolution.
SO, CREATIVITY — YES OR NO?
Yes, of course. A business without creativity is like cereal without milk, lungs without air. Romeo without Juliet.
Without creativity there can be no added value, no dramatic, magnetic, relevant and profitable differentiation. Without creativity there can be no new or renewed products, services, processes and models. Without creativity your consumer and employees will become bored and seek something more interesting. Every business, organization, institution, country, association and person needs to stay on a Creative Evolution state as well as in a perennial state of alert for a Creative Revolution.
JUMPING THE CURVE
It is vital to know if your trade or business can be annihilated by a new, revolutionary, simple, unexpected, absurd idea that can come from an unexpected flank. This requires the ability to sense that something is wrong, or that something could be better, or different. Be suspicious when your clients are visited by someone with strange ideas. You need courage to constantly ask yourself if your current path is the right one. Doubt what seems to give you the feeling of being safe. Challenge the status quo.
Explore if there isn’t a better way of doing those things that are going well now, if what makes you successful is precisely what is becoming outdated at an dangerously imperceptible speed.
It is impossible to persevere if there is a lack of creative skills rooted in the structure of a Creative Process, either to follow the path of Creative Evolution, or to continue towards Creative Revolution.
This process involves the exploration of ideas from many angles. It is necessary to have revealing information: MARKETING can provide light on an unexpected maneuver of the competition, PURCHASING DEPARTMENTS can do the same regarding suppliers (which bring the same news to you and your competitor), SALES, in contact with the line of fire, can bring valuable information about channels, peripheral and distant guilds non-related to the natural course of your business. MANAGEMENT and FINANCE can provide information about new laws, new models in other markets or countries. HUMAN RESOURCES can study innovative programs from other fields to attract the best talent and retain it. Talk with BANKERS, PRIESTS, PSYCHOLOGISTS, TEACHERS, LAWYERS. Study what the new inventions are solving, consider the local, regional and global developments. Consider changes in consumer behavior, the configuration of the family, new needs and situations, levels of crime. See what other countries are doing.
Involve everyone in the company.
The smallest piece of information can generate the initial spark of change: a supermarket with drive-through, a green hair gel, the death of a famous artist, the discovery of a new planet. Everything can be useful and revealing. Everything around you may contain an indication of change. I have called this concept “neurostarter®”. Everything can mark a consumer and an employee and influence their relationship with you, thus opening the door for you to start a Creative Revolution. Your customers possess experiences of how they are served in fast food restaurants; maybe as a result they have acquired expectations about your speed and processes as well, even if totally unrelated to you?
Live in “search mode” for a Creative Revolution. Do not do it only when you suspect that your business is about to be attacked or during the week of strategic planning. Keep a creative alert condition. Search for innovative associations between the various elements of the information you collect. Invite employees to provide their personal insights. Do not underestimate the silent arrival of a Creative Revolution disguised with subtle changes: a new, bold collection method, a focus on a channel that represents 0.1% of the market, an unexpected target group without apparent purchasing power. Pay special attention to providing your team with non-traditional thinking tools, both at individual and group level. Learn about the Creative Process and train yourself by continouslly inventing ideas at a Creative Evolution level. Explore, associate, believe, synthesize.
AN UNFORGETTABLE BIRTHDAY
It is possible that this visionary genius that will invalidate your business has already been born. It may be that somewhere in the City his family is celebrating his twenty-first birthday. Listen to them encouraging him to take “the step” and launch his business. See him seriously considering the development of his revolutionary idea with which will put you out of the picture.
But it could also be that the visionary that invalidate a whole vision of the market is you. Why not? After all, if someone’s going to hurt you, shouldn’t that be you?
Frank Gamez is the originator of the term “neurostarters®” and “proyepción®”, creator of “SPIO-37 problem solving model” and “N.E.R.D. Creative-Conversation model.” A real-life strategic planner, speaker, business creative consultant and thinking-tool inventor. His dedication to the creative process, idea-exploration and problem-solving techniques make him a high impact speaker and consultor, helping companies differentiate themselves by inventing original and exciting ideas, solve problems in new ways, create significant added value and generate interesting news inside and outside the organization.
This article is owned by Frank Gamez and it is prohibited the total or partial reproduction without prior agreement in writing from the author (Frank@ideas-nuevas.com).