“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

George Bernard Shaw

 

The previous blog post introduced the DARE mindset in its entirety. In this post, I focus on the first element: Defiance. Join me on a journey into ‘corporate disobedience’.


Innovation starts with having the courage to do something. To defy and challenge. To provoke and be bold in breaking down the governing myths and beliefs in organizations and industries. It’s the rebellious mindset that challenges the status quo. The one that realizes that transformation can only occur when we don’t think outside of the box but discard the box altogether.

Defiance is an art. People who are really good at defiance resist – or sometimes even loath – conventions. They are keen on independent thinking. Their minds are never made up. You know who they are. They often disagree with the mainstream attitudes. They oppose precedent or popular opinion. They show little respect for rules. You might not even like them, especially the more persistent and extremist types. Yet they serve a purpose in any organization. Innovators with a high degree of defiance are often the contrarians. The heretics and revolutionaries. They don’t take no for an answer.

Although being an example much labored on, I like to refer to Steve Jobs as somebody who understood the importance of defiance. Apple’s iconic ‘Think Different’ marketing campaign in the late 90s is a clear reflection of his philosophy and his non-conformist ideals. It was clearly rebellious. It was an outright rebuttal to IBM’s slogan ‘Think’. The fact that Jobs even lent his own voice to the commercial demonstrates his commitment to thinking differently. In the end, Jobs decided to air the commercial narrated by Richard Dreyfuss as he decided the campaign wasn’t about him but about Apple. If you look at the copy of the campaign it reads: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently.”

apple think different

When working with clients on innovative growth strategies, I try to uncover the governing myths and beliefs of individuals, teams and organizations. These myths and beliefs are often the foundational tales of the organization. They are almost religion in cases. Defying those myths and beliefs is like blasphemy. Understanding the governing myths and beliefs of the organization provides great insight into what is keeping an organization on course. But they also provide great insight into what is keeping organizations from changing. Strictly held myths and beliefs become dogmas. They are founded on unchallenged, deep rooted industry practices and the proudest of institutional legacies. It is my rule of thumb that when we get to the root of those myths and beliefs, we are close to unleashing great innovative powers which in turn represent huge growth opportunities.

Unfortunately, the very nature of orthodoxies is that they are very hard to eradicate. They are so ingrained in organizations and industries that it takes a lot of trust from our clients to have them challenged. We often have to deploy a ‘burner team member’ in such an engagement, someone who is not afraid to challenge time and time again. Someone who questions the deep-seated assumptions about the ‘right’ way of doing things. How do you make money? Who are your competitors? Who is your customer? How do you differentiate yourself? How do you intend to drive growth in the future? What if all of that is wrong? What if all of those convictions are inherited from legacy? What if they prove to be obsolete? Outdated? Nothing more than gospel? You can imagine that the one prying into those matters is not the most popular. Yet, the role is crucial. It is the one who breaks the mold of the company or industry, if you will. We just have to make sure there is someone there who picks up the pieces after him/her.

One of our esteemed clients is a company called Vanderlande. Vanderlande is the global market leader for value-added logistic process automation at airports, and in the parcel market. The company is also a leading supplier of process automation solutions for warehouses. Many of their solutions revolve around conveyor belts and motors. Their solutions are implemented in 13 of the top 20 airports in the world. Quite impressive. When working with Vanderlande on their own disruptive growth strategy we had to deal with the fact that the majority of airports – their key market – was loss making. Selling a multi-million-dollar solution to a financially struggling client is a challenge. Furthermore, most hubs had hardly any physical space for new systems, and were always struggling with their performance, resulting in lost bags and delays. And on top of that annual figures of many hubs almost touched the double-digit mark year on year. With the Vanderlande team we observed that the majority of product innovations involved the deployment of conveyor technology. Furthermore, the Vanderlande business model required the customer to invest considerable amounts of money upfront, making the business case a challenge for most. It took an act of defiance to break through the conventional thinking of conveyor technology and investment-based (CAPEX) selling. The result was an immediate success. Conveyor technology was replaced with a totally flexible solution based on automated guided vehicles (AGVs) to cater to strong fluctuations in demand. This solution also opened up the opportunity to start charging customers per use (per bag if you will) since the technology is modular by nature (switching from CAPEX to OPEX). FLEET by Vanderlande is now enjoying its first implementations at various European airports. Moreover, Vanderlande was awarded the Red Dot award for design in 2018. A great compliment to the company’s defiant approach to innovation.

vanderlande coveyor

The key to defiance is – introspective – observation. Being aware of where you are. Who you are. What are your deeply rooted convictions about your company and industry? Being an engaged observer allows you to spot patterns which others simply choose to ignore. You can reconfigure yourself against your environment only if you can distance yourself from it.

So, how often have you challenged your own deep-seated dogmas or orthodoxies about your company and industry? Are you the engaged observer who can discern the patterns which keep innovative growth hostage? Take a critical look at your surroundings and commit to overturning conventions within them.


In the next post I will discuss the element of adventure! Do you have a specific question or case you want me to comment on? Drop me a line at eric@revelx.nl.

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