Outperform the Crowd with Loner Strategies

When we look at businesses that have done exceptional things to much success, we often see that they took a leap with their strategic decisions.  They’ve created a new market or product that shifts them to a new marketplace and differentiated them from their traditional competitors.

They’ve become ‘loners’ thinking unlike their peers and outperforming the crowd.

How can you develop similar thinking?

HBR’s Mark Chussil discusses two new skills that anyone can implement in their strategic thinking to create loaner strategies.

Broadening the Frame

Think what the crowd isn’t thinking by broadening the frame of the question you are posing.

Ask ‘could’ instead of ‘should

Just the mere replacement of words lends our minds to thinking bigger, outside of a fixed future.  Considering multiple futures with various scenarios, shifts in markets helps to develop ideas around how you could disrupt your industry and set yourself apart from your competitors.

Mark Chussil suggests doing the following to broaden the frame:

  • Imagine it’s the future and you’re saying “I wish we’d thought about X.” What is X?
  • Ask what would be the equivalent in your industry of something that’s working well in another
  • Ask what you’re afraid your competitors might do
  • Notice your favourite metaphor for business: chess, war, making deals, doing good, enriching share­holders, satisfying customers. Switch to another.
  • Apply humour — it opens up the brain.

Embrace Critical Thinking

When building strategy, we often focus on what ‘will’ happen, narrowing our scope of what is possible.  This tends to focus on internal factors and neglects to look at what else could occur, such as your competitor easily copying your strategy and adjusting to your disruption of the marketplace.

Replacing ‘what will happen?” with ‘what may happen?’ opens possibilities and allows you to critically review the assumptions you have put in your strategy.

Mark Chussil suggests the following:

  • Role-play other parties. (competitor, customer)
  • Listen for assumptions in the way a strategy is supposed to work, and question them as What could go wrong? How badly will it hurt?
  • Forecast your competitors’ results as well as your own. What will they do if those forecasts come true?
  • Be aware of the missing pieces in future forecasts.  Have you considered customer loyalty, industry competitiveness; are you assuming the future will look like the past by extrapolating trend lines?

The type of thinking above will help you to develop loner strategies, these generally carry greater risk than crowd / popular strategies but can also return great rewards.

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