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Posts Tagged ‘innovator’s dilemma’

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Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal had a great article about how Obama is trying a new approach to win South Carolina. In the past, the way to win in the South has always been to use established networks and leaders, get the endorsements or preachers and politicians, and roll on to victory. In part because Hillary has tied up some crucial endorsements, and in part because he’s going after a younger audience, Obama is going direct to the voters, establishing his own infrastructure, and trying to motivate voters who might not otherwise participate in the primary.

When I first read the article, I thought to myself, Obama, you better stick with what works if you want to win this state. And then I realized that what’s playing out in South Carolina is what plays out in the business world all of the time. The established players stick with what works, and newcomers innovate to create new approaches, products, services and businesses. Often, the newcomers end up building very large businesses very quickly. The established players, sticking with what works and playing the same old game, end up with much slower growth. It’s the classic Innovators Dilemma as described by Clayton Christensen

It’s also something I’ve been encountering at home. When our nanny of two years was leaving, I wanted to stick with what worked – finding another nanny to replace her so that our combined school/nanny schedule would stay the same. It hasn’t worked out very well (more on this later!) and now we’re mixing it up – trying to have the boys in school more and considering not even looking for a new nanny.

It is scary to try a new approach when there’s so much history telling you that the old one worked really well. Sometimes you try something new because you can’t go the established route, like Obama not getting the support of some key established players in South Carolina. Sometimes you try something new because you try the old way and it fails, like me with the new nanny. And sometimes you try something new because you have a hunch that it might work.

I’m keeping an eye on the South Carolina primary – I hope that Obama’s campaign innovation strategy works. And I’m keeping my fingers crossed about our innovation in the childcare routines, too.

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