Submitted by J. Russell
Looking for the next new business idea? It is a strategic process that works in a down economy, a stagnant economy and an up economy. It works in all economies because it concurrently focuses the company in two directions—inward (core competencies) and outward (marketplace definition) while empowering employees. When looking at the marketplace, it calls for the company to examine the future and look outside the norm.
The status quo of business today is change. Accordingly, any modern business strategy must be dynamic and embrace change. Furthermore, emotional intelligence (intuition) may be the distinguishing factor between competitive equals. Combine these two themes and you have the title of the process—Dynamic Intuition.
The core of Dynamic Intuition is Thinking Strategically and at the nucleus of Thinking Strategically is the question: What business are we in? To answer that question properly means moving in two directions: first, focusing on a company’s core competencies; and secondly, using the core competencies to broaden the field that you serve.
To determine a company’s core competencies and then broadening that knowledge requires a listening skill characterized as dynamic questioning as an intuitive analyst. This listening skill demands that a listener hear what is not being said and/or focus additional questions to ascertain what is not being said. It requires a listener to determine an individual’s or a company’s needs as opposed to wants. In the marketplace, the questioning determines who is our customer and their wants and/or needs.
To best illustrate this questioning process let’s look at a possible result of this process in the domestic airline industry. As has been reported, the domestic airline industry is suffering economically and had been distressed prior to September 11, 2001. If today we were to survey several people to write a typical domestic airline’s vision statement, (describing the essence of what they are), we might get something like the following:
We will transport our customers to their destination safely, on time, in comfort and at a reduced stress level. (It is debatable whether everyone would include the words “in comfort and at a reduced stress level.”)
Next, let’s assume that after applying the concepts from Dynamic Intuition we adopted a new vision statement as follows:
We will meet our customers’ needs by getting them to their destination safely, on time, in comfort and at a reduced stress level.
Note the change from the airline (we will transport our customers) to the customer (we will meet our customers’ needs.) Let’s further assume that all airline employees have bought into this vision and adopted it.
Now consider a scenario where the ticket agent has been informed there will be a 30-minute “equipment delay” in the flight. From past experience, the agent knows that a thirty minute equipment delay described at this point in time is usually further delayed more than half the time.
When the agent checks in a business passenger with a critical connection that now may be missed, the agent, with the customer’s permission, immediately switches the passenger to a competitor’s flight in order to meet the customer’s needs. How often has this happened to you while flying an airline? Has an agent ever made the initial suggestion of switching to another flight, let alone a competitor’s, or did the request come from you the passenger?
In this example, the agent is meeting the customer’s need of getting to their destination rather than the old airline “policy” of transporting the customer on their own flights. It is as simple as recognizing that you are not in the business of flying customers on your planes but getting your customers to their destination—a critical difference. It may be that some airlines have adopted this vision; however, I have not had the pleasure of experiencing this high level of customer service, nor have I heard of anyone else who has.
Let’s look at a second circumstance in the same delay situation. A family of four with two small children arrives for their flight. Knowing that the vision statement includes “comfort,” the agent alerts the family to the possible delay. Recognizing that small children may have special needs and do not understand delays, the agent then advises the travelers where in the airport they might most comfortably wait out that delay. Again, the emphasis is on meeting the traveler’s needs and not the airline’s.
Finally, consider today’s situation with the one “carry-on” rule. A passenger approaches the ticket counter with two “carry-ons.” The ticket agent knows, however, that the 200-seat plane is carrying only 15 passengers. Under today’s rules, the carry-on rule will be enforced. Under the new vision it would not have to be (ignoring for the moment any security concerns or problems).
By having the vision, rather than hundreds of pages of “policy,” the agent can respond quickly, accurately and for the customer’s benefit. Furthermore, the vision in place of policy has simplified the agent’s task and this helps in our day and age of information overload. “… Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon … and his colleagues’ most important findings, … is that the most human beings … can hold in short-term memory, without forgetting something, is six or seven pieces of data.” Furthermore, by empowering the agent (employee) quality will also be enhanced.
To sum up, the process developed a vision that has multiple benefits by answering “what business are we in?” in two directions—focusing first on a company’s core competencies, and secondly, using the core competencies to broaden the field served. Clearly, in this case it has focused the company on customer service and responsiveness. Most airline passengers, I believe, would select an airline that adopted this vision.
Dynamic questioning as an intuitive analyst further requires a company to look at the future. It forces the company to recognize that what works today may not work in the future. In so doing, it aids the company in getting ready for the changes that will inevitably come.
To understand the success of this process, look at the success of these private companies:
- The successful launch of a new division which achieved immediate profitability and had more than $20 million in revenues in thirty months.
- The turnaround and growth of a company while simultaneously reducing overhead 35% within twelve months.
- The acquisition of a company with $250 million in assets and a book net worth of $24.5 million for an out-of-pocket pay-out of a negative $2.5 million, (i.e. the seller paid the buyer!)
- The growth of a division 15% per annum while facing systemic reductions of customers of 20% per annum.
To further understand the success, we need only list some of the more successful public companies in recent years that clearly went outside the norms existing at the time.
- Federal Express
- Dell Computers
- Charles Schwab
The process also may point to why one company, Apple, has such mercurial results. Apple has not, in my opinion, determined what business they are in. They continue to think (act like) they are a hardware company—initially not allowing clones, then allowing clones and finally shutting down the clones—when they may truly be an “operating system” or “software” company. This may reflect what happens to many companies that act on the perceptions of their company and then have results based upon the facts of their company.
To conclude, the Dynamic Intuition process forces companies to think strategically by embracing change, examining their core competencies, reviewing who their customer is, looking to the future and creating a vision that empowers employees.