The entrepreneur: Preparing for the next big novel idea

Technological breakthroughs, innovative thinking, tossing out the old for the new; this is the picture of the world of business as it stands today.

The recent financial crisis of 2008 has further reminded us that change is the only constant, and what stands true today may not be so tomorrow.

One thing is for sure, tomorrow will change and businesses will deal better with the changing environment if they change accordingly.

Paraphrasing the immortal Albert Einstein, we cannot hope to solve our problems today with the same level of thinking that created them yesterday.

In recent times you may have felt inundated with the term, “app” (short for application).

In the world of smart-phones, social networks and the internet we often hear this word tossed around in this and that conversation but most of us may not be cocksure as to its true meaning.

Well, in their best seller unleashing the Killer App…Digital strategies for Market Dominance, Larry Downes and Chunka Mui define the killer app as “an invention whose usefulness goes far beyond what its inventors intended, creating new industries, organisations and inadvertently destroying existing ones”.

Furthermore killer app can be described as an application that dominates the competition, or becomes the industry standard.

Think Google in the internet search engine game. What do you tell your friend if he/she wants to find information on a specific subject?

You tell them to “Google it” right?

The telephone, TV, microprocessor and the internet are all killer apps, with internet-based social media, the most recent and most influential.

In the social media sphere Facebook sets the standard for now.

The emergence of new apps makes it an imperative for businesses to alter the way they relate to their customers and one another.

In many cases new apps are spawning new industries while declaring some existing ones obsolete. An obvious example today is the travel industry.

Who needs a travel agent when you can now go online and personally secure yourself the best deal possible in just a few minutes?

Some agencies have adapted to this new way of doing business, but many more have gone out of business.

In today’s fast-moving world killer apps are appearing faster than before and changing the way we do business.

From Edison’s light bulbs to Bill Gates’ Windows software, change often occurs not slowly and incrementally but discontinuously and in great leaps.

The arch, the pulley, the compass, eyeglasses, the steam engine, lifts, personal computers, and ATMs: these are inventions whose impact has extended far beyond the activities their creators originally built them for.

They established entirely new categories of goods and services and, by being first, dominated the market, returning several hundred percent on the initial investment.

But then you may ask what does killer app thinking have to do with companies that sell products and /or services?

The answer is pretty straight forward: the primary forces at work in spawning today’s killer apps are both technological and economic in nature.

Invariably, killer apps wind up displacing unrelated older offerings, destroying and recreating industries far from their immediate use and throwing into disarray the complex relationships between partners, competitors, customers and regulators of markets.

According to Ian Widdop, a reputed technology and business insider based in South Africa, you as the businessman need to apply the killer app thinking to your client’s business and stop concerning yourself with the mundane sale.

In supplying any product or service, you want to do it in such a way that you have a real and sustainable impact on the business, shifting it from where it was before.

The killer app creates generational change and has an impact that endures beyond the window value that is initially identified.

The key is to think radical innovation and breakthrough implementation: it’s not just about what the product or service will enable in the here and now, it’s about the impact all the way down the value chain.

Every product or service has a defined lifecycle. You must be able to identify when, where and how you are going to replace your existing offering for that is part of repeat selling.

This requires a deep and abiding level of commitment to your client’s business. It is only by building profound understanding of their business that you will invariably be able to develop killer app thinking.

This includes understanding every aspect of the business, the business case, the business vision, and what the consequences of products or services will be to the business.

Killer app thinking can take your client to the next level, enabling them to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Killer app thinking involves reshaping the landscape and building new connections, and ensures continuity not only for your client, but for your own business too.

Renewal of contracts, repeat orders and advocacy are three most important elements of client service provider interaction and are fundamental to long-term successful relations.

Finally Widdop says if you want to know what’s important to prospective customers don’t ask, “what’s important to you?”

People will almost always tell you things they think sound rational, even though those points may not enter into their final decision to buy at all.

In some cases, people really don’t know what’s important to them because they haven’t taken the time to consider all the possible answers or to weigh the importance of one factor over another.

And most people in the business world will never acknowledge that they are swayed by emotional factors, even though in many cases it can be proven that they are.

The late management guru Peter Drucker identified the key management challenge of our time as the ability to lead change, and he believed the most important policy for doing that was “to abandon yesterday”.

Yet for most of us abandoning yesterday is excruciatingly difficult.

Yesterday is comfortable, and the fact that it used to work inspires hope that it will work again.

We’ve fully accepted the idea that most jobs don’t last long, though that was a traumatic notion 20 years ago.

It’s time to face a similar reality about companies.

In this new world where business models can change every three to four years, maybe it’s foolish to think that a company should survive for more than 20 years.

Perhaps many industries may begin to conduct themselves on the Hollywood model where the right mix of people come together for a few months or a few years and then move on.

The world of private equity companies works on this basis today.

Comments are closed.