Forward motion and momentum are keys to business growth, but where do you look if the path ahead is completely blocked? Creative problem solving is all about stepping sideways, outside your usual lane, and absorbing a different perspective. Ken Courtright shares how stepping sideways may just be your key to overcome challenges in your industry that no one has yet been able to solve. This kind of outside-the-box thinking is capable of creating innovation which, in turn, can be converted into growth for your business. Perhaps a slight detour is what you need to really get ahead in the industry race.
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This is episode 76. I’m calling this, Step Sideways. I got the idea from Jeff Hoffman, one of the Cofounders of Priceline. Jeff was speaking at our Digital Footprint Event and he mentioned the phrase, info-sponging. He described how he takes 10 to 15 minutes a day every day and Googles any random thoughts. He might look around his room. In my room, I’ve got some old frames from about many years ago from my grandma. I might Google old-fashioned photo frames. I bought a carriage light where it’s got a candle in the front, glass in the front and mirror in the back. There are two of them in front of a horse-drawn carriage. Those are headlights. It’s one candlepower. I might Google, “Old-fashion carriage headlights,” and study that for ten minutes. The point is Jeff does that every day because Priceline came out of info-sponging.
His company was stuck. They were looking for the next thing. He was Googling how perishable food perishes quickly. He was trying to figure out what perishes faster than perishable food, which has a shelf life of 3 to 7 days. He realized that the fastest perishing item is an airline seat or a hotel room because at a given moment when the clock strikes, when they shut the door on the airplane, that seat cannot be sold again. It was his info-sponging where he’s sponging for information via Google and looking at completely different industries that planted seeds. He started doing all this info-sponging and he put two and two together and he said, “That’s an amazing idea.” A thought struck him for what is now known as Priceline.com.Sometimes, your challenge has already been solved in a completely different industry. Click To Tweet
I want to take this sideways. There’s another story, it might be Jeff Hoffman that told this one as well, but it is relevant. There was a fairly well-known restaurant chain that did a SWOT analysis and found that internally their biggest weakness is they do not get food out in a quick enough fashion. They could not service the customer fast enough. They knew there were other franchises that can serve almost 30% faster. This gentleman did what is known as the Super Duper Service Diagram. He drew a circle and he said, “Many years ago, the average person could deliver food in X minutes. Later it went down to even fewer minutes and fewer minutes.” He was looking at it and he’s like, “We’ve got this about as tweaked as we can. We’re not the full-blown instantly fast burger joint.” They wanted some customer service and custom made food but they knew certain people were not going to drive by their place in pull in because of the length of time it took.
He’s like, “How do other people service faster more conveniently?” He got in his car. He started driving around. He pulled over and he saw a massive amount of construction going on at a bank. He goes, “That’s a totally different industry.” As a growth consultant, as well as many other growth consultants, I know that sometimes your challenge has already been solved in a different industry. To a degree, this gentleman started driving down the street and in a way it was info-sponging. He pulls into the bank and he says, “What’s all this construction going on and how come it’s only on the one side of the building? Did you guys catch fire? What happened here?” He was intrigued and they go, “We’re adding a drive-through ATM. We’re going to pass a tube with a vacuum line between the cars and be able to let people do deposits right here at the window in their car under a canopy.” He didn’t even let the guy finish his statement. He was already in his car flying back. He was the first restaurant chain to offer a drive-through window for a food establishment. He found that because he was info-sponging and talking to people in a different industry.
My recommendation is, when was the last time you were at a hotel and there was a conference going on for a completely different industry and you found a way to get into that meeting? When was the last time there was an email that came to you for a webinar, a seminar or a training video online in a completely different industry? You poo-pooed the idea, “That’s not for me. That’s for accounting,” or, “That’s for this or that. That’s for a roofer. I’m in the lawn maintenance.” Here’s what I’m here to tell you. You might want to set an agenda that either once a month you sit on a fifteen-minute webinar from another industry or once a quarter, once a year, you or send someone to a two-day seminar in a completely different industry. I would bet a tremendous amount of money that you’re going to leave that seminar in a completely different industry with much surprise of how many ideas you have for your company. You’re getting complete outside the box thinking from probably intelligent people who happen to be in a different industry. I am suggesting in this episode 76 that instead of going forward, step sideways into a completely different industry. Get educated about different processes and different ideas from a different mindset and bring that surge of information into your company and be surprised at the growth that is possible. See you on the trail. Take care.