One of the key responsibilities for Product Managers is to establish and maintain competitive advantage for their products in the marketplace. Good intelligence about the industry and the competition give Product Managers and the teams they work with the edge and expertise to strategize and act with purpose and clarity. The more Product Managers know about their industry and the competition, the greater credibility they have as leaders.
Kaizen is a Japanese term typically translated to continuous improvement that covers the processes and theory for ongoing improvements. The theory (and term) was introduced to the West by Masaaki Imai in his legendary book, Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success. Imai outlined the following principles of kaizen:
Good processes bring good results
Go see for yourself to grasp the current situation
Speak with data, manage by facts
Take action to contain and correct root causes of problems
Work as a team
Kaizen is everybody’s business
Guerrilla warfare is typically performed by a small force battling a larger, more highly equipped enemy. Guerrilla forces are typically comprised of small units that employ continuous raids, ambushes, and attacks on opponent’s weaknesses to put ongoing pressure on the larger force (most often psychological pressure to wear-down morale). In addition, the supports of local populations help sustain the smaller force and provide safety. Several examples of a guerrilla force succeeding against a much larger opponent are the Chinese Civil War, the Vietcong against the French and U.S., Castro’s Cuban revolution, the Sandista revolution, and jihadists fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. Business leaders should learn and adapt guerilla tactics to their sales and marketing efforts to keep competitor off-balanced and customers continually excited about new, surprise offerings.
The rise of new technologies is changing traditional industries. As new trends gain momentum – VR, IoT, automation, robotics – traditional businesses are applying new technology to traditionally un-sexy products. From medium-sized manufacturing firms in Germany to family-owned private manufacturers in the Midwest, small to medium sized companies are out-innovating larger incumbents. Industry 4.0 is gaining steam and being adopted by the least-likely industries, far away from Silicon Valley. Industries from tractors, hand-tools, and front-end loaders are adopting new technologies to meet the needs of changing customers.
I wrote this article in 2016 but it still rings true. You must take advantage of opportunities, especially when your competitor is losing public confidence. You must take advantage of opportunities quickly, and focus on attacking your competitor’s strengths. It will be interesting to see how Lyft fares in the future of ride sharing.
Adopting a proactive mindset to transform an organization into an innovative market leader is critical in today’s business environment. The global business environment is becoming increasingly turbulent. Socio-political changes, technological trends, and aggressive competitors are impacting every facet of modern business. Business leaders need to adopt a creative and proactive mindset, and incorporate new practices based on accepting ambiguity, maintaining flexibility, and keeping competitors off-balance.
As I spend a lot of time on planes, I have plenty of quiet time to read. I just knocked the dust off (again) a classic from Sergio Zyman, former Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Coca-Cola. Zyman is the guy who will be forever known as the New Coke architect (good or bad, usually bad). His book The End of Marketing As We Know It is an excellent read for any marketing or general business enthusiast.
Unconventional business strategies can ignite growth. Developing a culture that promotes and rewards creativity and innovation is critical in today’s turbulent global business environment. Moving faster than your competitors and developing creative strategies and products will force competitors to continuously react. As you continually surprise and disrupt the market, your organization will drive forward while competitors remain flat-footed. Stop relying on outdated and routine strategies. Reignite your organization with unconventional methodologies. Embrace discomfort and ambiguity. Connect disparate pieces of information. Rethink how you think.
When people talk about Genghis Khan and the Mongols, the discussion typically focuses on the Mongols reputation as a ragtag band of nomadic warriors raping and pillaging across Asia and Europe. The reputation of the Mongols as ferocious killers have spurred countless stories of terror and destruction. Unfortunately, most of these stories were fiction. Interestingly, the Mongols were an amazing propaganda machine and created most of these false narratives to create fear and terror to ensure enemies surrendered before a fight was needed.
Beyond the Mongols legendary success as fearsome warriors, they were also amazing economic innovators. Genghis Khan was the masterful strategist and tactician, who created the Mongol empire. Khubilai Khan, his grandson, was the society builder. Khubilai Khan’s innovations have such direct influence on modern society it is amazing that it happened almost 1,000 years ago.
Most of us have heard about the book The Art of War – or maybe it’s even on your bookshelf. Chinese General Sun Tzu is the reported author. I say reported because everything about him is not clearly identified in history – there is a lot of ambiguity of who he was – no one knows for sure who wrote the book, or who Sun Tzu really was. But for simplicity, Sun Tzu was a Chinese general who lived around 400 BC. His book has been used by military and business leaders for decades. The book should be an essential part of any business professional’s library.