Friday, March 12, 2010

Evolution, Revolution, At the Edge or Out of the Box

I'm reading Seth Godin's Free Prize Inside. The book is about marketing and how to get your product out to the edge so that you have differentiation from everyone else. Being a little faster, stronger, taller won't help because then it will still be a battle just on price. He uses Trader Joe's (my favorite grocery store) as an example. They don't have stuff cheaper, they have really good stuff at a lower price than brand names because they have their own label.

So I contrast this idea of going to the edge to the project I am on. We are automating a number of manual processes, but because we also have a tight delivery timeline, one of the project themes is "evolution, not revolution." In other words, we'll look for some simple improvements but we aren't trying to re-invent the organization.

One of the criticisms of this type of approach is that is stiffles that ability to think outside the box and come up with that idea that will really set you apart from the competition. So how do you decide if you should aim for evolution or revolution? The Kaizen approach would say make the small improvements, but what is your competition doing. Did Apple set out to build a slightly better MP3 player when it invented the iPod? Can you afford to make yourself just slightly better? What is your competition up to?

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