Looking to competitors for inspiration can be useful, but innovation will always have a greater impact. When reaching for excellence and striving to win, it’s common to compare and contrast.
How does my work compare with my peers?
How is my work different from my peers?
These are great questions … at the right time and for the right purpose. But pursue this line of questioning with caution because it can lead you down a path of compromise. Down a path that aligns you with your competition instead of differentiating you.
Undoubtedly, a ‘compare and contrast’ analysis of your competition can be very valuable. It can identify gaps, competitive weaknesses, and where your business is lagging. Sometimes it can even stimulate new ideas; however, there is a lurking, subtle and yet dramatic impact of this approach, in isolation, that is often overlooked.
When you frame your work and design your offer through the lens of ‘compare and contrast’, you run a very real risk of converging to the middle ground. Without your conscious awareness, your perspective is filtered through the lens of your industry and your peers, and as such, your ideas will be influenced accordingly. Your inspiration will be limited by the nuances inherent in your industry. Although this path leads very nicely to valuable and impactful improvements to your offer, it rarely inspires innovation. Over time, although your offer may improve incrementally, it will tend to converge to the norm and lose any competitive advantage.
Innovation is truly unique. It is the introduction of something new and it depends on fresh thinking, new experiences, and broad inputs. Innovation comes from connecting seemingly disparate concepts that align to create new ideas.
This can only happen when your influences are diverse, your interests are broad and your experiences are stimulating. The expression: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” takes on a whole new level of value when we think of it in this context.
More and more, our North American lifestyles are converging. We are busier than ever, we have more meaningless distractions than ever, and we are subjected to an endless stream of ‘Google-curated’ influences that, by design, limit our exposure to accidental discoveries. Why this is a good thing, and why we’ve yet to rebel as a culture, I’ve yet to figure out. Accidental discoveries are at the very heart of innovation, not to mention their value in making us feel “alive”!
If you truly want to innovate and significantly grow your uniquely valuable boutique business, here are 5 steps to get you started:
- Actively seek a variety of new and stimulating inputs on a regular basis (experiences, environments, ideas, etc.).
- Expand your perspective. Be curious. Ask a lot of questions.
- Dedicate down-time to reflect. Give your brain the mental space to make its own connections without your constant guidance.
- Consciously merge your myriad, unconnected ideas together. Experiment with your thoughts. What would be the result if you put two very random ideas together?
- Grab the one or two ideas that excite you the most and put them into action.
Naturally, some ideas will be better than others. That’s part of the journey and an important agreement that you’ll need to make with yourself. Innovation is the result of relentless trial and error. There are no shortcuts.
Are you ready, willing and motivated to become a true innovator in your industry? If so, start today by exploring new territories, for no other reason than to broaden your mind.
As always, I wish you Success, Differently.