Do you remember the Steve Jobs’s „reality distortion field“? He is known for advancing the limits of Apple’s capabilities by bending the reality. He was certainly aware of Apple’s reality but relentlessly asked for more to strengthen design, technology, usability.
But how much can you bend the reality before it becomes unrealistic?
Fujifilm provides a good example. In the early 2000 Fujifilm faced a fading core business (film) due to upcoming digital technology. Unlike Kodak, Fujifilm decided to rededicate know-how and facilities to enter a new market: cosmetics. They discovered a chest full of gems in their existing know-how about chemical substances and about the production of collagen. They had no prior experience with cosmetics. In 2006, the first cosmetics products (Astalift) hit the market and now contribute significantly to Healthcare sales of Fujifilm*.
At the first glance, the idea did not seem realistic. Fujifilm had no experience with cosmetic products, had no tested market access. Nevertheless, there were a lot of things positively contributing to the starting position. In addition to the strong technical knowledge, the production facilities, logistics, cosmetic products have a similar product life cycle compared to photographic films. Also they are often offered in the same retail stores (drugstores). Of course, strong beliefs and a healthy dose of bravery have helped to make this idea successful too.
How can you check the ideas against the reality?
1: Check the idea with the existing capabilities
Considering the chances of a new idea in your organization, do not be put off too quickly. Examine the business model, the market access, the cycles of typical products in the marketplace, the value chain, the capabilities and knowledge base, and the innovation aptitude of your current organization. If you find that the idea matches with your organization’s current business to a high degree, then there is a good chance for the idea.
2: Map missing capabilities
The exercise is also helpful to uncover the gaps in capabilities and then to close them. If you see that only one or two skills are missing than the gap can be closed by e.g. hiring new people, acquisitions, or partnering. If you find more skills are missing, than it becomes increasingly more difficult to turn the idea into a success.
3: Check tailwind in external factors and trends
External factors and trends can provide tailwind for the idea. To evaluate the idea, check the trends, the political, economic, social and technological environment. If you enter a new market, also check your future competitors to find your specific advantage.
In conclusion, if internal factors resonate, external factors and trends are supportive and you only miss one or two skills, you know, that your idea is heading in the right direction.
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