"15-minute competitive advantage"
Provable: The product can be demonstrated on a pilot basis. Customers can try it out on a smaller scale before committing to replace everything.
Divisible: It can be adopted in segments or phases. Customers can ease into it, one step at a time. They can use it in parallel with their current solutions.
Reversible: If it doesn't work, it's possible to return to life without it. Don't burn down the house to demonstrate the new fire extinguisher system.
Tangible: It offers results that can be seen to make a difference in something that the customer needs and values.
Fits prior investments: It is in an area where there have already been actions or investments, and it builds on them. The product helps make use of "sunk costs," rather than requiring customers to take losses.
Familiar: It feels like things that customers already understand, so it is not jarring to use. It is consistent with other experiences, especially ones that have been successful in the past.
Congruent with future direction: It is in line with where the customer is heading anyway. It doesn't require customers to rethink their priorities.
Publicity value: It will make the customer look better to itself and others.
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15 Minute Competitive Advantage
Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Which of these terms sounds quaint today? (a) Revolution (b) Transformation (c) The next big thing. As usual on multiple choice tests, the answer is (d) All of the above. Companies continue to thirst for innovation, but several years of economic un-certainty around the world have caused entrepreneurs and innovators to tone down the bold, grand rhetoric. It’s not just that geopolitical insecurities make comfort and safety a priority in purchases and investments. As many technology companies have seen to their peril, you can leap much too far into the future way too fast, leaving potential customers in the dust. Incremental innovation may not be dramatic, but slow and steady progress can win the customer race.
A story from one of my favorite “management philosophy.” Woody Allen, (who is actually a cinema comedian and satirist) conveys this message well. He imagined the first landing of UFOs on our planet and our first contact with an advanced civilization. When most of us worry about an advanced civilization, he wrote, we worry about one that is light years away and centuries ahead of us in technology. The aliens land here with devices we can’t understand or communicate with, so they take over every-thing. Not to worry, Allen said.
If we can’t understand or communicate with their systems, we’ll just ignore them, doing our work the way we always do until they leave in frustration. (Sound like the reaction to some of those dotcoms from outer space.) The advanced civilization that we should really worry about, he indicated, is one that’s just 15 minutes ahead. That way they’d always be first in line for the movies, they’d never miss a meeting with the boss.
I call the “15 minute competitive advantage.” The path to success involves staying a little ahead of the competition, while close enough to what customers can understand and incorporate. On my recent survey of barriers to technology success, newer companies identified marketplace barriers – that customers weren’t receptive or ready – as a primary obstacle. A major lesson of recent years is that human behavior is much slower to change than technology.
Products need to be cutting edge, but not too far ahead of what customers can grasp. Years of research on the diffusion of innovations show a bias toward incrematalism. The new products or services most likely to enjoy widespread adoption are those with eight characteristics.
There’s still plenty of room to sneak in revolutionary ideas under cover of evolutionary change. But to find and grow a market means staying close to what customers can adopt and then leading them to the next iteration. Think long-term trends, but short-term steps - 15 minutes at a time