Like an Outsider

Here is this month’s piece from Brand Velocity, an Atlanta-based consulting firm that is putting Peter Drucker’s ideas into practice at major corporations.

Apple has a history of disrupting every industry it touches. Consider, for instance, how it has altered the music business, the movie business, photography and publishing. Next, some believe, it is going change the face of financial services.

“With Apple’s global reach, an iBuck could become the most popular payment method, both online and retail,” Robert Weinstein of wrote recently. “I can envision a day soon when a car buyer is reviewing financing at the auto dealer’s and instead decides to use iLoan to finance the vehicle through Apple.”

When a paradigm shifts like this, it puts everyone in the market back to zero. When Japan introduced the quartz crystal, Switzerland was put back to zero in the world watch market. Kodak, Blockbuster and many others were put back to zero by paradigm shifts. And now it looks like something similar may happen to banking and payments.

So, how does Apple do it? And why can’t more companies innovate this way?

Peter Drucker counseled that the best way to predict the future is to create it. But we find in our consulting work that many companies struggle with how to create a future that is much different from the past, even when they undergo “reinvention initiatives.” One big problem: Corporate leaders tend to be locked into conventional ways of thinking; they’ve become attached to what Drucker called “yesterday’s breadwinner” because, as he put it, “it is the ‘product which built this company.’”

Apple has an advantage in that it approaches markets such as banking as an outsider. Its executives don’t think like those at banks or payment processors. They are unencumbered by institutional inertia or the attitude that “This is the way payments are done.” They don’t just think outside the box; they practically ignore the box altogether.

Drucker recognized the power in such fresh eyes. “Many changes that have transformed enterprises,” he observed, “have originated outside the specific industry of that enterprise.”

So, pull your team aside and ask yourselves this question: “If a group of really smart people were looking at our industry from the outside in, what might they do today that could put us and our competitors out of business tomorrow?” Then go and start to work on this—before such an imaginary threat becomes real.

Sometimes you have to give up all that you are in order to become all that you can be.

Steve White