I love year-end posts where we see the flood of “Best of 2009” lists of tips, tricks and ideas to steal.
I actually love getting these. I like to review them and see if we’ve used any during the past year, and whether they have worked for us. There are always nuggets to mine, and in a pinch we can compile all the lists we get and send them to clients, who love getting them too. (Yes, we always get permission first.)
So far though, no one has replaced the question Barry Nalebuff, co-founder of Honest Tea, and Oxford and Harvard economics guru asks: “What is your added value?” where “added value” means “total value, minus the value without you.”
How about it? If you asked your customers, suppliers and colleagues how you added value, would they have a clear answer? Here are some ideas we can all turn into New Year’s resolutions for 2010.
Write down and categorize everything you know about your industry: all the players, the laws and regulations, current perceptions, market definitions and so forth. Now you can see your industry as a game, with well-understood rules, traditional ways players can move, and a shared understanding of how the game is won.
Now, think of what would happen if you changed any of those elements. Start by examining the tactical rules; these are the moves that don’t fundamentally change the game, like opening gambits in chess. Then look at the strategic rules, or the ones that actual define the game; for example, the way a knight is allowed to move is one of the defining rules of chess, and if the knight moved another way you could legitimately ask if chess were being played any more.
Now you’ll start to see how to re-write the rules and make up your own game. What would happen if you could reframe the industry?
Game changing doesn’t always belong to the technology big boys like eBay and Google. When the first marketing consultant or ad agency renegade offered coaching to clients, in effect installing expertise instead of selling it, the consulting game changed. In 1984 Cirque de Soleil (with a government grant for struggling arts groups) offered a theatrical, character-driven spectacle that omitted the animals, and the circus changed.
Reframing the value equation is not a guarantee of success (Cirque de Soleil almost went under about three times). But it seems to me that as we head into what may or may not be a recovery, we need to ask the question of how we provide value. If we did not offer the products and services we do, would anyone notice? Would anyone care?