Let’s go back to the battlefield, where we started at the beginning of part two in this blog series. Unlike chess, in a real battle you have no idea what capabilities the enemy has until you do a great deal of competitive intelligence. Even then, the information may be wrong, out-of-date, or may have changed as a result of your intelligence operation.
Sun Tzu, who has been offering advice to generals like you for over 2,500 years, suggested:
“Carefully compare the opposing army with your own, so that you may know where strength is superabundant and where it is deficient.”
You want to match your strengths to their deficiencies. That might sound like common sense, yet countless businesses enter the competitive arena every year without even trying to inventory their own capabilities let alone what they are up against.
The result is a painfully tragic waste of resources and energy that could have gone into profitable, effective business solutions to real problems. Imagine what the world look like if companies of all sizes weren’t going under at such a high rate but instead were actively solving the world’s biggest problems. The waste is even more painful because it is totally unnecessary.
As you assess your plan of attack, listen to Sun Tzu once more:
“Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances. Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions.”
This is the path of a flexible, agile, intelligent innovator.
Everything is about your strengths and how to use them in the smartest possible way. If you were an athlete, would you even think of building a career around your weakness or would you try to win an Olympic medal in something you don’t know? Strengthen your strengths, compensate for your weaknesses. But of course, you must know what they are before you can do that.
Building any competitive organization starts with building from your own DNA, now and over the long run. To explore which actions are possible for internal or external transformation you need to learn, gain insights, and experiment.
Test radical ideas and be ready to fail. In our own research on radical versus incremental innovators, mentioned in episode one, we found that radical innovators are more structured and there’s one very good reason for that. They need structure to test their boundaries, leave the cow path, and go out into no man’s land. Incremental innovators improve slightly but they never have a chance at survival because market dynamics and the world itself are changing faster than they can.
Our research demonstrates that radical innovation is a safer path in the long-run. Incremental innovation strategies improve a single S-Curve, which will eventually be destroyed and take the company with it. Radical innovation strategies generate new S-Curves that open a path to business continuity through continuously adapting relevancy.
Incremental innovation is about what you do, radical innovation is about who you are. Both are important and play a role in business success but one clearly deserves priority.