If you were your competition, how would you put yourself out of business?

posted by Ross Yeast on Monday, August 20, 2018 in Office Equipment Blog

If you were your competition, how would you put yourself out of business?  Well, that’s a heavy and potentially depressing question!  Especially considering all of the effort, emotion, wins and losses that come with building and sustaining a successful business. That question, however, is one of extremely high value as you think about navigating your strategy for the future.

There’s no question that technology and digital capabilities are changing or disrupting the landscape of how business is done today.  Just recently I had the privilege of attending an event where Joseph Bradley, the Global Vice President of Digital and IOT Professional Services Organization at Cisco, presented.  Joseph is an industry leader when it comes to optimizing performance through the dynamic interaction of people and technology.  In addition to Joseph’s executive role with Cisco, he also recently authored a book entitled “Questioneering: The New Model for Innovative Leaders”.  Questioneering focuses on generating high value questions that lead to high value answers that in turn lead to breakthrough innovation and solutions. It was through the lens of Joseph’s Questioneering methodology and his industry expertise that he presented how digital capabilities are affecting business and behavior.

Although Joseph’s entire time presenting was engaging and thought provoking, I have opted to highlight just a few of my many take-aways.

Reversing the Corporate Value Flow

How do you get really, really close to your customers?  After all, getting close with your customers allows you to ask deep and high value questions that can lead to your goal of getting to high value answers.  A traditional proposition for adding value to an organization is to first drive shareholder value, followed by connecting with customers, and finally taking care of employees.  Reversing the corporate flow means flipping that cycle and starting with employees.  Empowered employees who are focused on understanding the needs, demands, and desires of customers will lead to deeper connections that lead to invention and execution.  This invention leads to solution adoption and implementation that eventually leads to profit and shareholder value.  There you have it -- a complete sequential shift that puts employees first in the corporate value flow.

Identifying your Blind Spots

Of course, one of the most difficult things about blind spots is that we often don’t know where they are.  One of the greatest blind spots we may have is our past or current successes.  We tell ourselves, “The strategy has worked extremely well in the past and continues to perform today, why would I change what is currently working?”  It’s somewhat sad to see it, but once very successful companies like Blockbuster, Kodak, and Toys R may be examples of companies that were blinded by their past success and weren’t able to adjust future strategies based on changing consumer behavior.  To help identify blind spots, try challenging your assumptions about who your customers really are as well as focus on the customer experience as an input rather than an output.  Ask yourself, “How do I want my customers to feel?”  In addition, and as previously mentioned, one of the most valuable questions you can ask in the pursuit of identifying your blind spot is, “If you were your competition, how would you put yourself out of business?” It’s important to do this as a leadership group to gain perspectives other than your own.

5 Technologies Reshaping our Future Now:

1. Quantum Computing

No longer are things being done in a linear processing fashion where x must come before y.  Quantum computing is a complex string of algorithms following the law of quantum mechanics that has the potential to model, forecast, and predict human behavior – at mind-boggling speeds.  What types of transactions could quantum computing impact in your business?  What if it could speed up the sales process and help better identify qualified prospects?

2. Machine Vision

Image based automation that has the ability to inspect, adjust, and act.  The machines are watching…what could they see and react to in the office environment?

3. Artificial Intelligence

Simply google “Sophia the robot”, or check out “Lil Miquela” on Instragram.  Miquela is a fashion trend setter and music artist that has over 1.4 Million followers on Instagram.  She’s also not an actual person.  Oh, and you thought the chat box that popped up while you while surfing the internet or scoping out new vehicles was an actual person?  There’s a very strong likelihood that was a “chat bot” and not a human being. What questions could a chat bot answer in your business for your customers?

4. Maker Technology

The use of 3D Printers and other maker technology has really began to shift how things are constructed.  NASA now has the ability to drastically reduce the inventory of tools and parts needed aboard a space shuttle given that it can create those items via 3D printing on demand.  Could maker technology affect your supply chain or be an equipment line in your product offering?

5. Trust Technologies

It’s predicted that by 2020, nearly 60% of all information will be false.  Trust technologies like blockchain are already changing the landscape of information and data integrity through cryptographic record storage.  Blockchain is also the foundation of popular cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ethereum.  Data integrity as well as information security are also highly relevant topics in the ever-changing world of office equipment technology and automated document storage.  With over 60% of IT professionals not confident that they can protect printer data, how confident are your customers that they can protect against a data breach involving network connected devices?

As I collected my thoughts following Joseph Bradley’s teachings, I realized that so much of what he presented is already affecting business and consumer behavior today.  I encourage all of us to challenge the process in terms of how we define the customer experience, as well as to strive for high value questions that can eventually lead to game-changing solutions.  Also, keep in mind how future technology and digital capabilities have the ability to change or disrupt your business, and focus on creative ways to help identify your blind spots. Taking time to proactively think strategically about our businesses in new and different ways will surely help us all remain relevant well into the future.


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About The Author

Ross Yeast currently serves as a Vendor Relationship Manager in the Office Equipment Group at GreatAmerica Financial.  Prior to joining GreatAmerica, Ross served in an operations leadership role for the bulk of his professional career.  Ross obtained his Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Coe College, a graduate certificate in Human Resource Management from Cornell University, and his Masters in Business Administration from Mount Mercy University.

  1. future
  2. innovation
  3. leadership
  4. technology
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