Louis Pasteur said “Chance favors the prepared mind.” In competition, this is key because most of the time, people only see what they want to see. This is commonly known as “inside the box” and when we all want to highlight our strengths, we identify ourselves as “out of the box thinkers.” I have sat through many interviews discussing with candidates their work ethic and the value they could bring only to hear “I always find solutions, and I think out of the box.” I would like to know what it means to think “out of the box” and to be prepared in the changing landscape of commerce and capitalism. If we are continuously thinking outside the box and preparing our minds for eventualities, will our business be favored?
In a product driven company, there are three dimensions of competition – product leadership (otherwise known as innovation), customer knowledge and operational efficiency. If we just look at product innovation, the sad truth is that no-matter what innovative or ground breaking product you are able to bring to market, eventually, someone else will copy it, and most likely do it better. I mention this because recently Sony announced that after 30 years, it was stopping production of the Walkman as it is no longer relevant in the world in iPods and MP3 players. Truthfully, I was surprised it took them this long to make the announcement. In our industry, we watch our competitors and see what new and innovative products they believe will be the “next big flavor” and prepare ourselves for creating innovative and relevant flavors. And then we will watch someone else do it!