In Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible co-authored with John David Mann and published by Harper Business, Daniel Burrus discusses a skill that uses “the data of your five sense, as well as that intuitive sixth sense we all have that some call a gut feeling or hunch. But flash foresight goes further, because in using it you synthesize those sensory and intuitive faculties and project them forward through the dimensions of time. A flash foresight is a blinding flash of the future obvious. It is an intuitive grasp of the foreseeable future that, once you see it, it reveals hidden opportunities and allows you to solve your biggest problems – before they happen. Flash foresight will allow anyone to both see and shape his or her future.”
How valuable would someone be to an organization if she or he mastered that skill? How valuable would a team be if all of its members had mastered that skill? How to do that? Burrus explains the process in his book.
As he explains, there are seven “triggers,” any one or several of which can produce a flash foresight:
1. Start with Certainty (i.e. identify and verify hard trends)
2. Anticipate (i.e. determine degree of probability of relevant contingencies)
3. Transform (i.e. leverage technology-driven change)
4. Skip what you think is your biggest problem (in fact, it isn’t…and never was)
5. Go opposite (e.g. look where no one else does, see what no one else sees, do what no one else does)
6. Redefine and reinvent (i.e. leverage your unique strengths in new and better ways)
7. Direct your future (or have someone else will do it for you)
Zappos offers an excellent example. Its leaders were certain that online sales would continue to increase and that it was probable that the process of purchasing commodities would be more important to the consumer than the products themselves would be. They concluded that the most efficient operations (e.g. order processing) would be driven by high technology and that returns rather than sizing was its biggest problem. They defied conventional wisdom that that selling shoes online could not be profit. Until Zappos, that was true.
As for #6, consider these comments by CEO Tony Hsieh: “We hope that ten years from now, people won’t even realize that we started out selling shoes online, and that when you say ‘Zappos,’ they’ll think, ‘Oh, that’s the place with the absolute best service.’ And that doesn’t even have to be limited to being an online experience. We’ve had customers email us and ask if we would please start an airline or run the IRS.”
FYI, I’ll have a separate post on #7.
Meanwhile, I think that Flash Foresight may well prove to be the best business book published in 2011. Is it that good? Yes.
In today’s global business world, companies “win” if everyone associated with them throughout their value chain also “win.” The title of this review refers to a question that Rick Kash and David Calhoun ask their reader: “Do you have a proprietary understanding of unsatisfied demand in your marketplace?” Those who gain that understanding have a significant, perhaps decisive competitive advantage. They will thrive but only to the extent that they can sustain that advantage. I agree with Kash and Calhoun that there are valuable lessons to be learned from the exemplar companies they discuss such as Allstate, Anheuser-Busch, Apple, Ball Park Franks, Best Buy, Hershey’s, and Hewlett-Packard, to name but seven and listed in alpha order.
For example, Kash and Calhoun assert that what the leaders at Hershey’s learned is what leaders in any other company must also learn, whatever the size and nature of their company may be:
• Know who your customers are (e.g. their demographics and motivations)
• Why they buy (i.e. their demand by profit pool and the need states they experience)
• What they buy (i.e. a detailed understanding of the brands, packs, tastes, and textures most customers prefer)
• Where and how they buy (i.e. shopper missions and channel preferences)
• When customers consume (i.e. the key usage occasions and locations)
Credit Kash and Calhoun with providing a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective game plan and operations manual to design, introduce, implement, and then strengthen an appropriate demand chain; that is, “a collaborative network composed of manufacturer, retailers, and media companies [or their equivalent entities] that enable each participant to better understand – and more completely and precisely fulfill – customer demand.”
In my opinion, Crossing the Chasm (1991) and Inside the Tornado (1995) are most valuable when read in combination. In fact, I strongly recommend that they be read at least once a year, in combination, because Moore’s insights in both will become even more relevant as a global marketplace that both exands in terms of scope and depth and contracts in its of terms of engagement, especially focus on localities, niches, and analytics. Moreover, the relevance includes but is not limited to the high tech community.
Chasm “is unabashedly about and for marketing within high-tech enterprises.” It was written initialky for he entire high tech community “to open up the marketing decision making during this [crossing] period so that everyone on the management team can participate in the marketing process.” In Chasm, Moore isolates and then corrects what he describes as a “fundamental flaw in the prevailing high-tech marketing model”: the notion that rapid mainstream growth could follow continuously on the heels of early market success.
Moore defines a market as a set of actual or potential customers for a given set of products or services who have a common set of needs or wants, and who reference each other when making a buying decision. The final point may be the least intuitive, but Moore says, “the notion that part of what defines a high-tech market is the tendency of its members to reference each other when making buying decisions– is absolutely key to successful high-tech marketing.”
Many business plans are based on a traditional Technology Adoption Life Cycle, a smooth bell curve of high tech customers, progressing from Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority, and finally Laggards. In turn, this model becomes the foundation for a high-tech marketing model which says the way to develop a market is to work the curve from left to right, progressively winning each group of users, using each “captured” group as a reference for the next. Moore demonstrates that in fact, there are cracks in the curve, between each phase of the cycle, representing a disassociation between any two groups; that is, “the difficulty any group will have in accepting a new product if it is presented the same way as it was to the group to its immediate left.” The largest crack, so large it can be considered a chasm, is between the Early Adopters and the Early Majority. Many (most) high tech ventures fail trying to make it across this chasm.
Early Adopters are the rare breed of visionaries “who have the insight to match an emerging technology to a strategic opportunity driven by a ‘dream’. The core dream is a business goal, not a technology goal, and it involves taking a quantum leap forward in how business is conducted in their industry or by their customers…Visionaries drive the high-tech industry because they see the potential for an ‘order-of-magnitude’ return on investment and willingly take high risks to pursue that goal. They will work with vendors who have little or not funding… As a buying group, visionaries are easy to sell but very hard to please… because they are buying a dream…They want to start out with a pilot project, which makes sense because they are ‘going where no man has gone before’ and you are going with them. This is followed by more project work, conducted in phases with milestones, and the like.”
According to Moore, “You can succeed with the visionaries, and you can thereby get a reputation for being a high flyer with a hot product, but that is not ultimately where the dollars are. Instead, those funds are in the hands of more prudent souls who do not want to be pioneers”
The Early Majority are pragmatists who “care about the company they are buying from, the quality of the product they are buying, the infrastructure of supporting products and system interfaces, and the reliability of the service they are going to get… Pragmatists tend to be ‘vertically’ oriented, meaning that they communicate more with others like themselves within their own industry than do technology enthusiasts and early adopters… It is very difficult to break into a new industry selling to pragmatists. References and relationships are very important…Pragmatists won’t buy from you until you are established, yet you can’t get established until they buy from you….”
Moore notes that, “On the other hand, once a startup has earned its spurs with the pragmatist buyers within a given vertical market, they tend to be very loyal to it, and even go out of their way to help it succeed. When this happens, the cost of sales goes way down, and the leverage on incremental R&D to support any given customer goes way up. That’s one of the reasons pragmatists make such a great market: “They like to see competition… Pragmatists want to buy from proven market leaders because they know third parties will design supporting products around a market- leading products… aftermarket…
“Overall, to market to pragmatists, you must be patient. You need to be conversant with the issues that dominate their particular business. You need to show up at the industry-specific conferences and trade shows they attend. You need to be mentioned in articles that run in magazines they read. You need to be installed in other companies in their industry. You need to have developed applications that are specific to their industry. You need to have partnerships and alliances with the other vendors who serve their industry. You need to have earned a reputation for quality and service.
In my opinion, the best sources for those with a special interest in disruptive technologies are the books that Clayton Christensen has authored or co-authored, notably The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail, The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth, and Seeing What’s Next: Using the Theories of Innovation to Predict Industry Change.
In The Right Fight, published by Harper Business (February-2010), Saj-nicole Joni and Damon Beyer explain how great leaders use healthy conflict to drive performance, innovation, and value. “What it really takes to lead people and organizations is this: if you want to succeed at an ever-increasing complexity you have to establish clear vision, set strategy, and build alignment. Then you need to systematically orchestrate right fights – and fight them right.”
They identify three major benefits:
1. Right fights lower risk. “Effective systems of checks and balances always depend on vigorous dissent.”
2. Right fights create value. “They live at the heart of innovation, breakthrough, and real change.”
3. Right fights grow better leaders. “They are surest way to develop the leadership skills and strategic thinking necessary for the twenty-first century.
“You can learn to create healthy conflict and positive change by choosing the right fights. Of course, you have to be careful. You’ve probably seen right fights fought wrong that failed to produce [desired] results, and of course wrong fights, even of fought right are worthless.”
The Opposable Mind
Crucial Conversations and
Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler
Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman, and James O’Toole
* * *
Saj-nicole Joni is an internationally known business strategist and advisor to CEOs and other top executives across the globe. A frequent speaker with a regular Forbes.com column, she has also appeared on numerous television programs and published several articles. She has taught at MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and Wellesley. Joni is the founder and CEO of the Cambridge International Group. Damon Beyer is a senior executive advisor with Booz and Company and a founding member of the Katzenbach Center for organizational innovation. He is a former partner with McKinsey & Company and has also published several articles in major business journals, including Harvard Business Review.
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