Your Strategy is Lopsided

The case for reciprocal value creation

Customer-centricity is an eye rolling term these days. Sadly it’s still mostly lip service. Every organization claims it wants to be more like Apple; or the Uber of [insert industry]. But few have the vision, values and discipline to pull it off. Related, I believe the recent popularity of Design Thinking is largely due to its user-first perspective. The designer’s approach — and her accompanying toolkit — relentlessly puts the consumer at the centre of decision-making. So DT in effect forces the pretenders to adopt a set of more customer-oriented activities and embrace a more human perspective. But design also has its detractors. Many argue that user-centricity is not enough to build a successful business.

At Idea Couture we talk a lot about combining empathy with economics. Today, competitive advantage requires innovation strategies that serve both consumer and corporate interests. In this hyper-competitive and connected age, one-sided approaches are simply shortsighted and risk obsolescence. The only sustainable way forward is to find ways to create reciprocal value for both customers and shareholders.

A dual-sided approach is not a new notion. But sometimes simple ideas need revisiting to remind us why they took hold in the first place. Yes, your company might be more customer-centric than it once was, but relative to today’s customer expectations you’re likely still a long way off. The above 2x2 is a good little plotting tool worth bringing into your next team meeting to facilitate some real talk.

DISRUPTORS* | The New Class

Apple, Google, Uber, Airbnb, Netflix. These are the guys everyone wants to be and everyone is frightened of. Unencumbered by the systems, processes and practices of days past, they have built a new way of doing business. And now that they’ve established leadership in their respective categories they are stretching into new markets with little sympathy for the old ways of working.

(*Disruptors referenced in the colloquial sense, not Clayton Christensen’s technical definition.)

INCUMBENTS | The Land of Legacy

Viewed by customers as necessary evils, these are the most disliked companies in America. Giants in the worlds of Health, Financial Services, Airlines, Cable & Telco are commonplace here. Characterized by legacy systems and industry oligopolies, these behemoths were once protected by high barriers to entry. But today’s technological advances should have stakeholders more anxious than ever.

STARTUPS | Dreaming of Disruption

Here’s where you’ll find a flood of hungry entrepreneurs dreaming of disrupting the status quo. These nascent companies strive to put the audience first, keep costs low and often put users before profit. The large majority of these businesses will fail, but a few will emerge as legitimate challengers to The Incumbents.

ZOMBIES | The Cautionary Cases

Blockbuster, Borders, Kodak. We all know the horror stories. Customer definitions of value are more dynamic than ever. In hindsight, these guys should have seen it coming. But when you’re in it, it’s beyond hard to reset and alter course.

‘The only sustainable way forward is to deliver reciprocal value for customers and shareholders. Lopsided approaches are short-sighted and risk obsolescence.’