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GILD 2013: Awaken your inner hunter

October 11, 2013

Someone once described Jeremy Gutsche as “an intellectual can of Red Bull” and he certainly turned up the energy volume for his session on “Driving Growth through Innovation.”

What are you trying to do?

Today, you are not selling a product, you are selling an experience. Harley Davidson understands this. Do they sell motorcycles? Sure. But the experience they sell is “the ability for a 43-year-old accountant to ride through town…and have people be afraid of him.” It turns out that your target market isn’t a demographic; it’s a state of mind.

Chaos = Opportunity

Some of the world’s great brands started in periods of uncertainty. Disney, CNN, MTV, Hyatt, Burger King, FedEx, Microsoft, Apple, Texas Instruments, Fortune, and Gillette are just a few examples. Chaos and crisis become a tool you can use. But you can create urgency as a shortcut to force change to happen. (Bob Knowling said the same thing in his session on “Leading Change.”)

Success makes us Complacent

When you find something you’re good at, you don’t have to try. We are farmers, and once we find our field, we focus on repeating and optimizing our processes. But we need to be hunters. How? Step 1: Awaken your inner hunter. Step 2: Hunt by actively fueling your team with inspiration from other worlds, markets, industries. And step 3: Disrupt by thinking in a different way.

We fall into the tendency of looking at what’s popular–but popular and cool aren’t the same thing. Popular is mainstream, but your job is to find the next big thing. We’ve become a culture of optimizers, because it’s easier to improve by 5% than to find something new. Your job is to fight that and to push yourself and your team to be methodical about hunting for new ideas.

In the hunt for new ideas, culture is more important than strategy and you need to build a cultural framework of:

  • Perspective – this is the mission you set for your team
  • Intentional disruption – you need to destroy what you did before
  • Failure – you need to be tolerant of experimental failure
  • Customer obsession

When you’re successful, you don’t have to try. But complacency will be the architecture of your downfall. Consider this instead: if you were young and hungry, how differently would you approach your job?

Fund Failure

Successful organizations innovate to optimize position on their hill, but to find a bigger hill, one must fail. Failure means you are innovating. Create a “gambling fund”–which can consist of not just money, but also time–to experiment. Rewarding decisions (not outcomes) can also enable a more innovation-friendly environment.

Relentlessly Obsess About Your Story

Does an emotional connection matter if it works just a little bit on everyone? They might remember your message but it won’t change their behavior. Understand the continuum of impact:

  • Telling – this is a functional list of attributes
  • Motivating – describes benefits
  • Connecting – creates the emotional tie
  • Empowering – this is the Holy Grail

Empowerment is cultural and this is what makes people tattoo the Harley Davidson corporate logo on their arms. When you make that cultural connection, you’re not talking to people, you’re talking with them. Too often, we try to communicate in a way that works with everyone, but that has no impact. We need to find a way to make the message irresistible–not to everyone, but to the influential target. When you create something that connects, your story will travel faster than ever before.

Analytics are good, but we rely too much on them and that causes us to optimize rather than innovate. We need to observe customers in their zone. Interact with them. Watch them choose. Observe usage. You’ll see things that won’t come out in a survey.

Portray your product as average, and that’s all it will ever be. You need to present your product as being irresistible, not to everyone, but to your specific audience.

How are you going to awaken your inner hunter today?

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