The Power of Your “Next”

As she explains in her brilliant book, Find Your Next: Using the Business Genome Approach to Find Your Company’s Next Competitive Edge (McGraw-Hill, 2012), Andrea Kates defines an organization’s or an individual’s “next” as the result of a four-stage process: (1) sort through the options and assess hunches; (2) match the given genome (different with each company) that have already achieved the given objectives; (3) “hybridize” the company by adopting (“grafting”) what works for others; and (4) adapt and drive after breaking old habits and fostering new traditions in the business.

Over a period of 15 years during which she was involved in 250 strategy projects, Kates formulated what she calls the “Business Genome,” an approach whose core DNA consists of six separate but interdependent elements. They are product and service innovation, customer impact, process design, talent and leadership, “secret sauce” (i.e. the recipe of differentiation and competitive advantage in a new world of unprecedented transparency), and trendability.

I twice re-read Find Your Next in order to formulate questions for a two-part interview of Kates. While doing so, it occurred to me that old-fashioned common sense in combination with necessity (alleged to be “the mother of invention”) could also help to identify a possible “next.” It need not be a head-snapping revelation or a breakthrough invention. For example:

A family-owned barbershop in a small town was located on Main Street. One day, the father and son barbers were upset to see a sign in the window of a shop across the street: “Coming soon! Super Duper Cuts! The world’s greatest haircut! Only $5.00!” A third family member, Gramps, who was retired, stopped and asked why his son and grandson were so upset. “We can’t compete with that price. We have to charge at least $10 just to pay the bills.” The old man went into the back room and when he came out, he carried a handmade sign. “Here. Put this in our window. The sign read, “We fix $5.00 haircuts.”

Here’s another example, about another family-owned business also in a small town. It sold pizza and as the town’s population rapidly increased, several national pizza chains opened local franchises. Unable to compete with their resources, the owner came up with an idea. He ordered magnets with “PIZZA” and only his parlor’s telephone number on it. Then he placed an ad in the weekly newspaper offering a 50% discount on any pizza in exchange for the Yellow Pages listing of all pizza parlors.

You don’t have to be a genius or a geneticist to find your “next,” whatever it proves to be.  You do need to read and (preferably re-read) Kates’s book. You also need to understand the method she recommends. It’s even more important that you develop a mindset on which creative thinking (make it new) and innovative thinking (make it better) depend. It is a mindset that almost anyone can develp and then continuously strengthen.

Please click here to read Part One of my interview of Andrea Kates.

Please click here to read Part Two.


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