Big Dogs Lose: Thoughts on Innovation
Innovation is a challenge for any company, but especially for market leaders in one sector looking to enter into an established market with entrenched competition
"Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower" -- Steve Jobs
Frankly I think being a new entrant into an established market space is a far better place to be than to be the market leader, the big dog.
The new entrant can redefine the playing field, turn the leaders' defensive moves back against them, or play a new way to attract a new customer that is looking for a new, innovative solution, rather than the same-old, same-old. The dominant competitor has invested too much in playing the game the old way and so is extremely resistant to change. They don't want to take the risk.
The secret to beating the big dog on the porch is not to think like a big dog, but a little dog. The big dog always loses when he tries to run with the faster, smarter little one.
"It's easier for companies to come up with new ideas than to let go of the old ones" -- Peter Drucker
Bolt Bus is a perfect example of a game-changing innovator transforming the market for inner city bus travel. With its distinctive orange buses equipped with leather seats, wi-fi and electric plugs; their offer of a certain number of $1 tickets for every route making Bolt Bus a social media darling; and pickups in popular gathering spots like malls, not downtown bus terminals, Bolt Bus has made bus travel cool for the college crowd. What makes Bolt Bus noteworthy: Bolt Bus was created by 'big dog' Greyhound Lines thinking and acting like a 'little dog.' For more ideas, check out a story in Fast Company that profiles the seven deadly sins of innovation here http://bit.ly/e7o8YK
Essential to true innovation is exploring the possibilities. Innovation means thinking beyond the business and marketing paradigm created by the big dog competition and defining the playing field in a new way. Being the big dog has some advantages, surely, but it also leaves you at the mercy of a small dog that can take risks, move fast, bite at the margins, then move out of the way when the big dog gets mad.
Think about the big dog Blockbuster, now taking its last breath, beaten by Red Box on the one hand and Netflix on the other.
Or Borders, the first to innovate with 'big box' book stores, now on life support as Barnes & Noble thrives by envisioning a new way to sell the same thing.
Or Bed Bath & Beyond, the big dog that now owns the home furnishings retail space having done in their chief competitor Linens & Things. The retailing world is ready for a new innovative and expansive type of home furnishings retailer that has never been thought of before. The market is there for the taking by someone who can imagine the possibilities, and not just try to beat Bed Bath & Beyond at their own game.