The Next Big Idea:
Growing Christmas Trees in the Desert
It does not need to be a tree specifically and the desert is not the only option, but if you want to build a sustainable business with unlimited growth potential, you do need to live on the Edge of Chaos.
The balancing act is finding the edge, getting as close as possible and not falling over. This is the Goldilocks Zone, where entrepreneurship thrives. Stand too far away from the edge and you simply will not be distinct enough to thrive without significantly deep pockets. Entrepreneurs venture to build something that others have not or cannot. It is this type of entrepreneur that needs to find the Edge of Chaos and be very comfortable operating there.
I WOULD LIKE TO GET THIS IDEA OUT IN THE WORLD
I have an opinion on the definition of entrepreneurship; I believe it is being over applied. I see an entrepreneur as someone that builds something new and different.
That is not to say that becoming a franchise owner or purchasing a well-established business is any less significant and amazing. It is simply different than what fits my view of an entrepreneur. If you don’t buy that franchise or purchase that 30-year-old ice cream shop, someone else will.
Entrepreneurs venture to build something that others have not or cannot. It is this type of entrepreneur that needs to find the Edge of Chaos and be very comfortable operating there. This is disruption.
A business is far more akin to a biological entity than a mechanical one. In a biological environment the entities are impacted by the changing environment around them.
The Edge of Chaos is where conditions and circumstances overlap to allow the creation of a new product or service that others have not been able to produce. Operating successfully at the Edge of Chaos puts a business ahead of others and makes it difficult for others to catch up and replicate.
If you have a great business idea you are afraid to share because you think others would steal the idea and beat you to market, then you are not living on the Edge of Chaos. If you have a method and process to get evergreens to thrive on inexpensive desert soil, you’ve found the Edge of Chaos.
Finding Your Goldilocks Zone
Let's explore how you can find your edge of Chaos. Some entrepreneurs are naturals at spotting opportunities and gravitate toward the warm glow of chaos. Sometimes it is as simple as being in the right place at the right time. Bill Gates saw the opportunity for disruption and built a highly agile software company during a time when the industry was dominated by slow moving, cautious, corporations. Not all of us are this lucky.
Fortunately, for the rest of us, there are few reliable methodologies to find the elusive Goldilocks Zone - where entrepreneurship thrives.
THE GOLDILOCKS ZONE
Subject matter experts, customer feedback, and crossbreeding winners are three very attainable and successful approaches. I should note, this NEEDS to be an intentional effort. Your organization needs to put a priority on this quest and allocate resources to pursue.
Solicit your SMEs and customers for feedback on your current products and services. This inquiry needs to go much deeper than your traditional satisfaction survey.
You need insights into what is missing, what works well, what goes unused, what excites them, and what enables them.
What problems do they have that you are not solving? What don’t they like about how you deliver service or product? You need to fully understand the emotion your service and product invokes and where you are missing opportunities to thrill your customers.
THINK AMAZON PRIME
Amazon already had a very successful business model and significantly disrupted the retail industry. They were founded standing with their toes on the Edge of Chaos. The environment around them continued to evolve. Other retailers added more and more features to their own eCommerce platforms to compete with Amazon.
Amazon responded to the growing number of big box stores entering the eCommerce space by launching Amazon Prime, which leverages capabilities and resources Amazon has that no other retailer has under one roof.
Walmart could beat Amazon at deliveries and returns, but is not positioned to serve up massive digital content and extend its accessibility through a smart speaker. Netflix and Hulu could beat Amazon at digital content, but no one considers Netflix or Hulu an authoritative source of which crock pot has the best consumer reviews. Amazon can fulfill all those consumer needs in one brand.
JUST DO IT
Once you find that opportunity you must put the plan into play. This might include modifications to existing services or products, creating new, or changing the way you deliver your services and products.
The key here is to make sure you are working within your capabilities and combining your resources in a way to create more value for your current and future customer base.
Remember, you are planning to move in snugly to the edge of chaos. One should not stand there very long without checking to make sure the right results are happening. Consider setting up a few focus groups or meet with current customers to get their feedback on this new offering.
If you are bold enough, you might even consider sharing your idea with a competitor to gauge their reaction. If you have truly found the edge, they will not able to quickly replicate it. Their reaction to your new product could offer valuable insight.
Amazon lives, quite successfully, at the edge of chaos. When something shifts in their environment, they adapt and move to a new Goldilocks Zone. Embrace feedback and be willing to make changes to stay at the edge. Keep in mind your business is more like a biological entity. To survive at the edge, you must be alert and swift in making decisions.
Crossbreeding the Winners
As I have discussed previously, we view businesses as more akin to a biological entity than a mechanical entity. Businesses do not exist in a vacuum and their success, or failure, is influenced by the environment around them. In order to thrive as a business, it is important to innovate. The most powerful innovations are ones that live at the edge of chaos. This is where the conditions and circumstances overlap that enable the creation of a new business offering that is difficult for others to replicate.
This approach is more powerful than the prior, as you are not limited to crossbreeding your own products and services. Rather you can pull for a nearly unlimited list of ideas and combine them in new ways that create offerings your business as the resources and capabilities to deliver. We do this regularly in our business and it has given rise to some of our most successful solutions. Here is how to get after it.
BUILD THE LIST
Brainstorm a list of winning products and services. I recommend looking both within and outside of your industry for ideas on highly successful solutions to add to your list. Do not slow down your process worrying about organizing or sorting this list. In fact, capturing the ideas in a random order or grouping will support this process. There really is no way to go wrong in this phase, the more ideas the better.
PREPARE FOR THE GENETIC MODIFICATION
Break your list into two or three groups. Random selection is the preferred method, at least for your first attempt. You may find a grouping strategy you prefer after completing the process a few times. Invite a few team members to join you in this part of the process. Provide everyone a copy of the same information. Working independently, each person should select one item from each group and work on one hybrid at a time.
For example, let’s say we want to combine jalapeno poppers, hot sauce of the month club, and virtual reality. All three are successful business offerings, yet they are unrelated as products. The key is not to focus on combining the literal products, but rather bringing together the features and benefits that made them successful and then create a new offering based on those design goals. Following our example, you would create a chart something like this:
BREEDING THE WINNERS
The next step is to combine the features and use them as a guide to create a new idea. It is not mandatory to use all the features and creativity is strongly encouraged. In our example, we will use the following features: Now each person should brainstorm a list of new products or services that would have these features.
Let’s imagine our company provides door delivery of common grocery store items. Using this list, I might create a recipe of the month club that uses exotic spices. Each month we would send our customers a new recipe card and sample packs of the unique spices and a link to a pre-populated shopping cart containing the rest of the recipe ingredients.
This offering would encourage them to continue to use our grocery delivery service, generate additional revenue from the recipe membership, and introduce them to new unique spice products they might not otherwise purchase. This is just one of many new ideas that could be generated with the same list of features.
Continue this process independently until each person has 3 to 5 new ideas. Then each person should present their ideas to the group, take feedback and update their idea to incorporate others' ideas. Have each person pick one they like the most. Using this one idea each, create a short sales pitch, ad, or product sheet. Present and review the final selections with the team.
PRIORITIZING AND ORGANIZING THE CHAOS
I prefer to start by evaluating the Degree of Difficulty for each idea, then take the top 3 on for further consideration. You could also add in a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats). If you have the resources available, you may even consider doing focus groups or public surveys to help whittle down the list.
The two most critical factors are to ensure that you have an idea the market will want to buy and that your company has the resources and capabilities to produce this new product or deliver this new service.
I always recommend doing a pilot release of any new offering. Use feedback from pilot customers to refine and improve the offering before a full scale release. The frequency at which you create new offerings depends on your business model and the markets capacity to consume new offerings.
DO NOT BE AFRAID TO BE BOLD
Gather data and adjust your approach and frequency over time. Your new ideas are based on winning features that have been proven in the market. Add description If you continue to do the same things, you may not continue to get the same results - you may get left behind. Entrepreneurs venture to build something that others have not or cannot. It is this type of entrepreneur that needs to find the Edge of Chaos and be very comfortable operating there. This is disruption.