Assumptions. You have them. I have them. We all have them. Some are helpful (the sun will come out tomorrow :-). Some are irrelevant (I bet Joe will wear his Redskins jersey to work tomorrow). But some are deadly and clear impediments to the growth of your business.
For example, you have assumptions about your competitors which are holding you back (they’ll never try …). You have assumptions about your customers that are getting in the way of your growth (All they want is …). You even have assumptions about your prospects that are probably in the way (Everyone in this current market wants …). But, none of those are the assumptions I want to talk about today.
No, the assumptions I want to talk to you about today are those related to your industry—meaning those rules that “everyone” assumes are true (i.e. givens), because they’re the insidious ideas that are probably hindering your growth more than you can imagine.
Not buying it yet, let me give you a few examples.
Examples of Assumptions Challenged
For years, Hertz dominated the rental car business. Everyone competed against Hertz. And where did they compete? Exactly. At airports. Why? Because “everyone knows” that the place you rent a car is at an airport. Duh! But, Enterprise came up with a different idea. They challenged the assumption and started renting cars to people who lived locally who needed to rent a car. And the rest is history. Industry changed.
For years, Blockbuster owned the video rental business (interestingly, because they broke an “assumption” that you had to buy a whole box of videos from a studio to get a few copies of the hit videos you wanted at your video rental store—a given at the time). If you wanted to rent a video, where did you go? You went to a store. Duh! “Everybody knows that!”
But then Netflix came along with mail delivery (and then online delivery) for a fixed continuity amount per month. And then Redbox came along with a vending machine model which allowed them to put up 10,000 distribution centers at a fraction of the cost of a Blockbuster store—plus no one had to commit to $17/month when all they wanted was a couple movies per month at a little over a buck per movie. Industry changed.
For years, Barnum and Bailey dominated the circus world. If you wanted to see a circus, “everyone knew” what that meant. There would be a big top, with three rings of activity going on in it simultaneously. It would be a family affair, especially designed for children. You’d have a master of ceremonies. And you’d have tons of live animals, especially lions and elephants. Duh!
But then Cirque du Soleil came along and challenged the “everyone knows” assumptions. Instead of a circus for families, they created a circus for adults. Instead of live animals, they used humans dressed up to look like animals (major cost savings). And instead of three rings, they used only one to tell a story. Industry changed.
Right now, Square is doing this to the merchant account business. For years, “everyone” assumed that if you wanted to accept credit card payments you had to have a merchant account and a terminal. Duh! But then Jack Dorsey and his team created a little 1-inch square white dongle that you can plug into the headset jack of a smart phone or iPad or Android tablet and voila, you can accept credit cards wirelessly for a mere 2.75% charge per swipe. Industry changed.
How to Challenge Industry Assumptions
So, how do you uncover what these assumptions that are the bottlenecks for your industry? You ask your team and customers. You ask them, “So what assumptions do we make as an industry about _______________ (you fill in the blank)?
A couple of ideas to get you started.
• How to provide our solution to our customers?
• How much money people are willing to pay to solve this problem?
• How to make money in this business?
• What people want?
• Costs (i.e how much it costs to do XYZ)?
• Where or how people will access this service/product?
• How this is sold?
• How this is made? Etc.
Get your team brainstorming. Write down every idea/assumption. Put them up where everyone can see them. Then, noodle on them. Every innovation occurs when someone challenges an assumption.
Does fire only come from the sky or can we create it ourselves? Is the earth flat or round? Can you put sound on a piece of vinyl and hear it later? Can you make a phone do something more than call or receive calls on it? Can you use 3-D printing to create new organs for people using their own cells?
But, and this is the key, what happens to the company that figures out the bottleneck? What happens to the fortunes of those who challenge the “everyone in our industry knows” assumptions? Exactly! Their world changes. And not by 10 or 15%. Nor even by a multiplier of 10 or 15X. But by a multiplier that ends in the hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars.
So, what assumptions are hindering your growth (and the growth of everyone else in your industry)? Figure that out, and your company’s potential growth is astronomical!
To your accelerated success!
P.S. If you have some other ideas or illustrations of this principle, make sure you contribute them in the comments section below (or click here >> if you’re reading this by RSS or email).