The title of this article could have been, “Be Unpredictable” or “More of the Same, Won’t Be.” It also may seem to be at odds with another article in this series titled “Find a Popcorn Business.” That article described the advantages of having a portion of the business that does not need constant attention, just like the individual kernels being heated to make popcorn such as in the large popcorn machines at a movie theater. With a constant flow of predictable business, management can then focus on new opportunities.
Unfortunately, many organizations focus their strategic plans on only building on their current successful recipe. Unfortunately, “more of the same” will probably not yield more of the same results. Customers and competitors are always moving forward. You must too. Principle One of this series discusses the notion that someone will put you out of business. The only choice that you have to make is, will it be you or someone else? One of the examples given in that article is the Apple iPhone. The iPhone 1 was put out of business by the IPhone 2 and the iPhone 2 by the iPhone 3, etc. Apple clearly had a popcorn business with each iPhone iteration, but chose to focus on the next version. Unfortunately, many other companies that have initial success do not look far enough forward and, instead, simply extrapolate their past success into the future.
Thinking beyond the popcorn is the primary responsibility of those individuals responsible for strategy. Others in the organization may be preoccupied with cost reduction, product enhancements, defect reduction, customer support, or many of the other tactical items associated with the company’s current operations. Strategy organizations must focus on what is next as a logical extension of their business, or how they can leverage their current success into a new or expanded market. Apple’s iPhone was an extension to its iPod (MP3 player). Meanwhile, the iPad and Apple Watch are excellent examples of logical extensions of their iPhone business. Unfortunately, Motorola and Nokia, who at one time were the world leaders in cellphones, are now both gone. Both totally missed the transition to smartphones by trying to apply “more of the same” to their highly successful products. They focused on the popcorn instead of on the entire snack counter and their customer’s changing appetites.