In your business or your life, are you a competer or an innovator? No, “competers” is not a misprint. It’s an original term for those who reflexively compete rather than seek to gain a strategic advantage through innovation. Staying “competitive” in today’s market is actually more about innovating rather than competing.
Since you’ll be spending the rest of your life in the future, doesn’t it make sense to think about it and plan it rather than just let it happen? Identify the Hard Trends that will impact your business and industry, and then list the opportunities that create the new advantage each represents. Identify the soft trends that might happen and list how you could change them into opportunities to gain new advantage. As you plan your future innovative path, ask yourself these five questions based on the Hard Trends and opportunities you have identified:
Your answers will enable you to stop competing and start creating by thinking in terms of innovation. They’ll help you open your eyes to the future possibilities so you can stay ahead of the curve rather than simply keep up. Remember: If you want real advantage and innovation, you have to think beyond what you’re doing now and plan your future wisely.
Do What the Masses Don’t Do
Most businesses copy successful competitors and then wonder why they aren’t further ahead. For example, chances are that in your business you use a word processing program, and if you’re like the majority of people, you use Microsoft Word. Did you know that there are over four thousand features in Microsoft Word? How many of those four thousand features do you use on a regular basis? Probably less than ten. How many did you pay for? All four thousand! Do you think your competitors are using Word the same way you do? Most likely, yes.
Taking it a step further: when a new version of Word comes out, your competitors purchase it, just like you. They even use the same features in the new Word program as they did in the old version—again, just like you. As you might guess, you could easily substitute Word for all of the different software programs you use. Few people are going beyond what everyone else does in a way that produces any real advantage or leads to innovation.
The key is to dedicate yourself to finding advantage and using it to innovate. Using the word processing program example, ask yourself, “What are the features in Word that my competitors are not using that can give me an edge?” In other words, don’t just copy what the competition does; rather, look at what they’re doing and then do what they don’t do.
Change Your Customer
If you truly can’t find ways to innovate, then ask yourself if there’s a better customer you can go after—one that’s better and different than what everyone else is going after. Can you innovate by customizing your product or service for the better customer so that the better customer would want what you offer and not what the competitor offers? This is the process that gives you the advantage, and it all boils down to simply being more innovative on an ongoing basis.
Shaping Your Future
One thing is certain about the future: competition will intensify. So why play that game when you can own the game? Stand out by innovating again and again! Granted, keeping track of what your competitors are doing is a good idea; however, letting what they’re doing dictate your next move is not the best strategy. Instead, focusing on innovation based on the direction Hard Trends are taking all of us is the way to go for long-term profits. In fact, when you become an innovator rather than a competer, you’ll be the company that is taking the industry into the future – the company all the others strive to imitate. That’s when you’ll truly be a leader and have the upper hand and the innovative outlook that enables you to turn tomorrow’s opportunities into today’s profits.
Author: Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading futurists on global trends and innovation, a top 50 LinkedIn Global INfluencer, and is the founder and CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous untapped opportunities. He is the author of six books including The New York Times bestseller Flash Foresight. Follow Daniel on Twitter and LinkedIn. www.burrus.com
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