This Month’s Question
“A key competitor is launching a product line extension
in the next 3 months. My perspective is that the line extension could strategically
impact us in a few years. Some of my fellow executives see only minor impact
for the immediate future and no need for action in the short-term. We have
agreed to meet on this issue. How can I move their thinking?”
Some breakthrough thinking principles which help organize the
- Any projections about the future are just that … projections.
There are no facts. When you treat them as projections, it means that future
scenario could happen versus it will happen. This creates a freedom for
all to think differently.
- There is an implicit dilemma in this situation. You don’t
want to disrupt plans and allocate resources based upon limited competitive
intelligence. Yet, you don’t want to ‘miss the boat’ if
this is a true threat. Make the dilemma explicit.
- A good aim is to leave the meeting with actions to hedge
yourselves. You don’t know the impact of the competitor’s move
yet. You don’t know how disruptive it will be. You want to leave,
resourcing appropriate action. Leaving with actions to ‘hedge the
future’ also opens up thinking.
- Spend most of the meeting in your competitor’s
shoes. Looking from another perspective shifts the thinking.
We suggest the following agenda for your meeting?
- Get up front agreement on
reaching a new level of understanding that is in your company’s
- Assemble a collection of
candid viewpoints from all your fellow executives.
We suggest thinking of
this as a ‘Collage’ because you will have a number of very
different pictures tied together by a theme - the competitor’s
line extension. Aim for two side-by-side collages. (1) A best case for
the competitor; (2) A worst case for the competitor.
Have both collages cover
a range of timeframes, starting with now to 1 year… 2 years … through
5 years out.
Speculate on the motives
and intentions of the competitor. Stand in their shoes. What do you see
as the business opportunity?
What needs to happen for
your competitor to realize its best scenario? Its worst scenario?
- Take your
time on this one. Doing this well will move the rest of the discussion
freely expressing their views without interruption. This is essential
to move their thinking.
- You want
to find yourself thinking … hmmm, I didn’t think of it
that way. Or perhaps …. hmmm, I don’t agree and yet I see
the validity. This will convey your openness.
- It is
at these boundaries that our thinking changes. Discussing what is likely
only leads to entrenched thinking. Whereas, discussing the possibilities,
shifts our thinking. Keep the best case and worse case separate.
This calls for informed
speculation. Attend to:
What has been your company’s
traditional response to these moves by your competition?
- Get specific – presume
the competition has really thought through this line extension.
- In the
competitor, thinking through your company’s response, what response
would be part of their best case? Part of their worst case?
What can you now see to
do? (after discussing
have you typically done?
were you strong?
did you have regrets?
should you adjust your plans? Resources?
this offer you any new opportunities?
- What will
be an early indicator that the competitor’s move is big trouble
- How will we monitor the situation?
In summary: When assessing new developments
in the marketplace we are always doing so on incomplete information. Consider
the future as possible scenarios. Take action to hedge – plan your options.
Take action to look for subtle signals.
Good Fortune to You!
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