Uncovering the Art of Disruption Requires New Lenses and New Tools

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by: Idris Mootee

The reason why every executive is feeling
intense pressure from competitors or disruptive start-ups is likely because of
the fact that the models or dominant logic behind the business strategies are
constraining the companies’ ability to innovate. Have you wonder why it is so
hard it is to move beyond the “adjacent” opportunities to open up new
revenue streams?  Naturally you turn to your customer intelligence people,
next you are overwhelmed by those terabytes of analytical data, not that these
are not useful, perhaps the models you are using are not up to the challenge of
making sense in this information-rich, hyper-networked and customer-in-control

It is easy to say that innovation is the
answer to all this. But the real question is “how”. I’ve been talking
to many senior executives last few weeks about how to help them to set up
innovation capabilities and most of all how to put them to use for current
projects so they get immediate “Return-on-Innovation.” I showed them
different approaches and what works better in what environment. The key message
was that they need to start looking at different mental models that shape their
businesses thinking and start challenging them.

In any area of your life or business where
there’s an urgent need to change and transform oneself to stay relevance,
mental models play a central role. Yet we often have little awareness of what
our models are and how they shape what we can see and do (unless you have
direct access to your inner world through the use of medications). Mental
models can appear simple, and are often invisible, yet they are always there
and have a significant impact on our decision making process. Changing the way
we compete or changing the way we create customer value begins with changing
the way we think and imagine.

The world we live in is not out there on
YouTube or codified on a HBS business case study. It is in our own minds that those
circles and arrows (like Power Point) telling us the “what” and
“why”. It is those little unwritten and unarticulated ideas that
drive our intuition and logic. Until we recognize this, we will always be
running away from ghosts. In our business (and sometimes even personal lives),
we often fail to see the true threats and true opportunities because of the
limits of the way we make sense of the
I see that happening with my clients and some very
intelligent member of my strategy team. To see the true opportunities requires
one to go back deep inside to do a little tuning.

I personally don’t like the word
“user” or “consumer”. I do use the word
“consumer” because of habbit. Industries that refer to their
customers as users: software and gadgets. Industries that refer to their
customer as consumers: consumer packaged goods and general retail. I often try
to avoid it. Here’s an example, look around us today, “user-generated
content” is turning into the central connective system that holds together
customer communities, product and net services. These people all have different
“purposes” and “jobs”
to get done. But we use the word “user” referring to all those who
produce, share and distribute content. This is a wrong term. This reduces the
human being on the other side to someone who mechanically perform one thing
with one common reason. Why can’t we try to understand why these people are
doing what they are doing and what motivates them. If nothing else it would
probably help marketers keep stay focus on what these people are doing in mind.
Thing about this:

Flickr – Photographers Created Pictures

YouTube – Audiences Created Video

Stock Brokerage – Investors Created Advice

Hobbies – Prosumer Created Knowledge

Education – Students Created Thought Pieces

Vacationer – Traveller Created Journeys

Discussions – Participant Created View-points

Community – Members Created Stories

Parents Created Content

Well, what should we do? And can you give me
an example. One of the ideas I bring to client is stop looking at your
customers as “consumer”. Usually they’d say “what do you
mean?” Since our undergrad days, many of us studied Consumer Behavior as
part of Marketing, assuming that the job of marketing is to sell things to
people who consume them. This is true but not the whole truth. There’s more to
that. The job of consumer is “not” just to consume, there are many
motivations that drive the consumer to behave in many ways, if we use this over
simplistic view we are missing many of the unmet needs of these people. So I
show them some of the alternative mental models (this is now part of the
proprietary tool kit of Idea Couture’s Customer Engagament Innovation ). The
first one is using the lens from one of the following customer archetypes:

– Consumer as

– Consumer as

– Consumer as

– Consumer as

– Consumer as

– Consumer as

As John Seely Brown put it “In the old
world, managers make products. In the new world, managers make sense of
things.” Here is a good way to make sense of things. This is an example of
an idea may seem quite simple and but powerful enough to allow us to see the
world under different lens, and come up with powerful innovative ideas. This
transformation of thinking is where all the transformations of our business and
personal lives begin. Good luck with your journey. (Illustrations by John Wall
for Idea Couture Inc.)

Original Post: http://mootee.typepad.com/innovation_playground/2007/10/uncovering-the-.html