If you've ever heard someone say or said it yourself, "we'll know it when we see it." That phrase describes an approach to tackling a complex subject. Just pinpointing an elusive area of your business can be challenging.
And anyone who's approached a multi-faceted issue knows that you wish you knew as much before you got into the issue as you did afterward. So we're inventing and "making it up" as we go along anytime we approach new territory.
Yet we often can't think creatively because we specify too tightly. A simple example: the need is to fasten two boards together, yet just by using the phrase screw two boards together you've limited the ways to fasten the boards together.
Reading the history of Proctor & Gamble in the book Rising Tide (Harvard Business Press, 2006) provides a candid look the starts and stops in developing and marketing new products . . . or making changes in diversity policies in plants for example.
Change is tough.
Tide detergent was such a difficult product to develop, that the R&D manager of the developer required the developer omit it from his project status reports because it was taking so long to work out the problems.
Can you imagine that happening today? It would take a gutsy manager.
Crest toothpaste had real issues of being accepted by the dental community. However, because there was a focus on what customers needed, these products have been two most successful . . . and lasting. So what we have is "staying the course" but also learning as they go along.
However, there's another facet: these successful products were built around customer needs. Have many of our businesses today become obsessed with making a deal or doing a transaction, not with a purpose that serves a customer need?
Contrast Toyota and GM on developing hybrid cars. Even though Toyota may be losing money initially on hybrids they bet on the future. GM dropped its hybrids. Its focus this past spring was trying to make a deal to buy Chrysler--before that Renault and Nissan. The Wall Street Journal never took GM seriously and pinpointed the ultimate "buyer." Yet I wonder how much energy was spent on this endeavor?
Will GM know it when they see it? I doubt it.
Tide, Crest and Toyota hybrids all have one thing in common: solving a customer need. So yes, they knew it when they saw it or when they would have to work on it further.
Except for making a deal, it's pretty uncertain what GM has in mind--and how it solves a customer need is fairly dubious as well.
Can any of the merger and acquisition people tell me how they will know it if they see it? Much less how it will produce any business traction for GM?
Daimler Benz may come out pretty well. Well, maybe not unless divesting will help them move forward.
Copyright 2007, Traction. You are encouraged to pass on so long as attribution is given to Traction.