Right side down

Right side down

The secret to breakthrough business success mightn’t be where you think it is – where you’ve been searching, where your competitors think it is.

Most businesses still exist in a build-a-better-mousetrap world. They’re looking to tweak existing processes, technologies, packaging etcetera to create a point of difference.

That’s not where the real breakthroughs exist. They exist in a different place altogether. And they reveal themselves by taking a different approach from the one most of us take.

The breakthroughs exist when you challenge an accepted fact. Something that is intrinsic to the way a service is delivered or a product is designed.

I wear glasses. In the traditional business model, optometrists open shops in shopping malls and customers like me go in to try on frames. Over the years, business owners have worked on making the instore shopping experience better – with more frames on display, and mirrors around the walls to view yourself in each style – so customers can browse at leisure, try frames on and see how each style looks on them.

Instead of making this instore experience better still, Warby Parker reversed the usual procedure. Customers still get to browse styles at their leisure and try frames on – but in the Warby Parker business model, they do this at home. Simply select up to 5 frames that interest you from their online store and Warby Parker box them up and send them to you. Choose the style you want to buy, send the box back and Warby Parker make up your selected glasses in your prescription.

Toms is another business that has changed the traditional spectacle retail model. The Toms approach is a little different from Warby Parker’s. Use your computer’s or phone’s camera to capture your face. Once uploaded to the Toms computer, you can select a style of frame and your selection magically appears on your face on your computer screen. Turn your head to the left and the glasses move with your face. Tilt up, tilt down. The glasses tilt with you.

The whole electric car industry is built on this challenge-the-industry model. Instead of making petrol-burning cars burn petrol more efficiently, electric car makers questioned whether cars needed petrol engines.

In London a few years ago, Farringdon Little Bay restaurant challenged the industry-standard model for setting prices – costs x 3. The restaurant introduced a pay-what-you-want model. Diners set the price based on customer experience. Since then, the PWYW model has popped up in restaurants around the world.

At least one professional service provider has introduced a similar model to consulting. They provide a service, then tell each client to pay a sum commensurate with the service’s contribution to the client’s business.

Instead of looking for ways to improve the accepted model for your industry, use a creative thinking tool such as Z to A or Outlaws to challenge, break or reverse what everyone else is doing, and what your customers expect.

Look at something familiar upside down or back to front and you’ll likely turn your industry on its head.

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