Over the past several months, I have been involved in a number of strategic planning exercises, both at work and with the boards on which I serve. I have noticed several common themes to these planning sessions:

  • A fixed mindset – seeing the world, and our ability to change it, as fixed
  • A dominant focus on competitive risk – seeking to position what we do differently to the same customer with a given set of largely known competitors
  • Product market fit – being in a good market where your product can fit a need

My overall takeaway from these exercises is that we need to intentionally, proactively train ourselves to reframe our thinking about where we look for revenue growth and how we think about innovation. To start, we first need to recognize that we are all capable of change. It’s never easy, but change is necessary for personal and professional growth. And changing anything begins with shifting mindset. How we label things can have a dramatic impact on our collective mindset.  

For example, if we call something competitive risk, we’re focused on competitors (and usually traditional competitors only).  If we call it product fit, we will limit our thinking (and usually our offering) to just that product.  

Challenge mindsets everywhere you work

PB-US-Blog-Inline-Strategic-thinkingWe can all benefit from changing the way we think and plan strategically. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this and I have an approach for how to work on shifting mindsets while conducting strategic planning. My hope is that this will spur  conversations for you at work, on the boards where you serve or with your own businesses or personal endeavors. Let’s change the nature of our traditional strategic approaches by challenging our mindset. 

Here are four areas to help you get started:

  • Challenge your revenue assumptions
    • Is all growth good growth?   
    • Can we focus on growth in value not just revenues?
    • What revenues are more valuable to the company?
  • Challenge your cost structure
    • Go to zero-based budgeting, not incremental budgeting. 
    • Does the cost curve change?
  • Challenge your workforce strategy
    • Hire an outsider who does not seem to “fit” or have industry expertise — challenge your hiring bias.
    • Does this make your workforce or business ideas more diverse and inclusive?
  • Challenge your approach to innovation or disruption
    • Move from competitive risk to market risk. 
      • Look for new demand, not how to position yourself to win more of the same demand.  
      • What percent of your revenue is driven from a new market?
    • Move from product-market fit to  “experience fit”
      • Approach it from how your customers experience it, rather than the product or service your offer. 

Challenge accepted: Welcome to the age of experience disruptors

Challenging myself in all of these areas has changed the way I see and approach strategic thinking. But beyond that, it has helped me change the conversation. In particular, moving to “experience fit” really struck a cord. Last week, I stumbled upon a great article on the subject in Sloan Management Review entitled The Experience Disruptors.  I have not deployed this thinking yet, but I am about to. You cannot argue with the logic it lays out and the companies it reviews. The basic challenges from the article include:

  • Move the idea of disruption from your product to your customer experience
  • Make interactions with customers frictionless
  • Personalize the experience and the associated relationship
  • Turn your customers into your marketing team
  • Trust your employees and empower them to act in the best interest of the customer

Companies are doing this today and they are winning market share at significant rates as a result. It has me asking why not us? 

How about you? Do you have the courage to shift your own personal and organizational mindsets? Can you facilitate discussions that make your organizations see things differently and dream about new possibilities? I believe we all can. It takes courage, and probably a little patience, but we all have the power to be the next experience disruptor.

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