During the New Year holidays, I finally found some time to read Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, the profound entrepreneurship book by Peter Thiel, the US billionaire, venture capitalist, and founding CEO of Paypal. (If you’re into entrepreneurship or innovation, do yourself a favor and read it, too.)
While going through the text, I was subconsciously pondering one of the excellent questions that Thiel posed in Zero to One: “What’s your 10 times factor that allows us to add more value and be 10 times better than your competitors?” Suddenly, the answer came to me. “Bingo!” Thinkergy’s 10 times factor resides in our integrated suite of innovation methods — augmented by experiential content delivery and unique branding. Let me explain.
Introducing the 10 times better-factor
“All happy companies are different: each one earns a monopoly by solving a unique problem. All failed companies are the same: they failed to escape monopolies,” writes Peter Thiel in Zero to One. He explains that these happy companies do something 10 times better than the competition. The 10x factor goes back to some combinations of proprietary technology, network effects, economies of scale, and good branding. But as Thiel goes on to explain, the first point is by far the most important:
“As a good rule of thumb, proprietary technology must be at least 10 times better than its closest substitute in some important dimension to lead to a real monopolistic advantage. Anything less than an order of magnitude better will probably be perceived as a marginal improvement and will be hard to sell, especially in an already crowded market.”
Then, Thiel concludes: “The clearest way to make a 10x improvement is to invent something completely new.”
How failure might turn out to be a blessing in disguise
Over the past one and a half decades, I have created not only one proprietary method for Thinkergy but four. I started with X-IDEA, our innovation process method, completed in 2010. But instead of exclusively focusing on marketing X-IDEA, certain things happened that led me to work on creating our other methods, Genius Journey, TIPS, and CooL. Some people say it was a huge mistake not to bet all on X-IDEA exclusively, and given that most companies in the innovation space focus on selling just one flagship product, they might have a point.
But funny enough, my failure to focus on marketing and selling just one method (X-IDEA) and instead, indulging my endless zest for creating new methods might turn out to become a blessing in the long run. My unusual creative productivity might turn out to give Thinkergy a “10 times factor” by having invented something entirely new – the first suite of blended innovation methods. Why? Our four innovation methods integrate into a Gestalt where the resulting whole is bigger than the sum of its parts. They form a product system that allows for additional functionalities and benefits through the integration of different products compared to using each product on its own.
Product system innovation: Bundle products to create additional value
Product system innovation is one of The Ten Types of Innovation that Larry Keeley distinguishes in his book of the same title. Keeley explains the essence of this modern innovation type as follows:
“Product System innovations are rooted in how individual products and services connect or bundle together to create a robust and scalable system. This is fostered through interoperability, modularity, integration, and other ways of creating valuable connections between otherwise distinct and disparate offerings. Product System innovations help you build ecosystems that captivate and delight customers and defend against competitors.
For example, Microsoft initially sold their work productivity software as individual products: a software program for word-processing (MS Word), one for spreadsheets tabulation (MS Excel), one for presentations (MS Powerpoint), one for emailing (MS Outlook), among a few others. Later on, Microsoft packaged all these programs in an integrated work productivity suite and called it MS Office. By bundling the individual software products together, Microsoft created a integrated product system that, through the integration of certain functionalities, created significantly more value than individual comparable software programs sold by their competitors. Consequently, MS Office became the go-to work productivity software bundle for companies and individuals alike, creating a quasi-monopoly for Microsoft in this space for many years.
Why our integrated suite of innovation methods is a product system innovation
Thinkergy is the only creative transformation company globally that offers a complete product suite of integrated innovation methods catering to the main challenges companies have when creatively transforming their products, processes, people, leaders, and culture. By bundling our four innovation methods together, we can offer additional functionalities and benefits to companies who use our entire product suites. Let me share with you a few examples:
- TIPS and X-IDEA integrate to improve people’s productivity in innovation project workshops. Here, we first profile all candidates a company desires to involve in an innovation project with TIPS. Then, we only invite those people to a particular process stage of X-IDEA who cognitively fit this stage’s thinking and work requirements. Alternatively, suppose the participants in an innovation event are given. In that case, we use TIPS to compose cognitively balanced innovation teams to ensure that all required cognitive styles are well represented in each group.
- X-IDEA and Genius Journey integrate to encourage better creativity: Our integrated product system allows us also to show would-be innovators how to play on all three levels of creativity by blending conscious creativity tools (X-IDEA) with subconscious creativity techniques and also give guidance on how to evoke super-conscious creative states and moments (Genius Journey). Here, I have also transformed the 64 creative thinking strategies that I dissected in Genius Journey into a corresponding meta-Ideation tool (called “I Ching”) that we bring into play in specific X-IDEA innovation projects that require higher degrees of flexibility and more spontaneous creativity.
- TIPS and Genius Journey can help provide insights supporting a CooL culture transformation effort: Before beginning a major CooL culture transformation initiative, we can use the TIPS profiling results to predict how likely a person, work team, department, business unit, and even the entire organization will resist the creative transformation effort. The TIPS profiling results can also give valuable insights into the likely conflict potential between different C-level members in the top executive team. Moreover, our Genius Journey Audit Tool can also give us pointers on how likely the leadership will support the creative transformation effort (or waste time with internal politics and B.S.).
In combination, I am confident that the time savings, productivity and creativity increases, and resolutions of people frictions and team misalignments can enable CEOs to make their companies innovate and creatively transform 10 times better.
A final word on the copycat issue
Am I worried that other players in the highly fragmented innovation industry might come up with a similar innovation product system? In the long run, that’s well possible. But I am not overly concerned that other peers will develop a comparable value proposition in the short to medium run. Why?
- It takes years of hard work and quite a bit of capital to develop one unique method and then test, fine-tune, and prove it in the field. Now multiply this by four, and then bundle the methods into one elegant product system where various features of different methods smoothly integrate and support each other. That’s quite an investment in time, brainpower, and money.
- While someone may copy or emulate specific knowledge components related to a particular method, one cannot copy experience on how to use it to make it work and produce results in real life (which one can only gain over time through hard work on real cases).
- You cannot easily copy how we create unique energetic experiences when delivering our wow know-how at Thinkergy. It is fundamentally founded in our unique values and branding built and developed over time.
To sum up, copying features of a product or service is comparatively easy and happens to most innovative businesses. However, copying or recreating a well-bundled product system innovation is much tougher and resource-intensive. In any case, it’s good to remember the insight of the Canadian writer Robin Sharma: “You know you are winning when you see you’re being copied,”And of course, as a true innovator, you already work on how to take our value propositions to the next level to stay ahead of the pack.
- What is the 10 times factor of your business?
- When would now be the best time to explore how to reposition your company to successfully ride the Sixth Wave and create a 10 times better business with an X-IDEA Strategy Xploration & Innovation Project?
- Contact us to tell us more about your company and your current innovation challenges.
© Dr. Detlef Reis 2022
Note: The title photo shows me working in our Thinkergy Office on the X-IDEA Innovation Method & Toolbox in early 2009.