The Need to Think Differently

If we always do what we’ve always done, we will always get what we’ve always got! Put another way, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is madness. There are of course many famous examples of large household brands who failed to think differently and always did what they always did, with catastrophic results: Kodak, HMV, Blockbuster – the list goes on. So, if we want different outcomes we need to think differently – makes sense, right?

In 1997, Apple encouraged the World to ‘think different’. They reminded us that the rebels, the misfits – the ‘crazy ones’ are not fond of rules and have no respect for the status quo…but we can’t ignore them – because the people who think they are crazy enough to change the world – often do.

The latest report from Forrester, on customer experience (CX), shows how companies that deliver authentic experiences to their consumers by aligning CX and brand vision, outperform competitors and gain the trust of their customers. But another Forrester survey in 2017 (the Forrester Data Global Business Technographics Marketing Survey), revealed that 57% of marketing decision makers don’t focus on aligning their brands with CX – in fact, they don’t regard it as either critical or high priority![i] This is certainly madness in the 21st century when customer expectations and demands – entitlement even –  have completely changed. Brands need to think differently when serving customers if they are to thrive.

To ‘think different’ requires a shift in corporate mindset and culture. In fact, thinking differently is best done with a diverse mindset i.e. a group of people with different ways of processing thoughts and expressing ideas. Sure – it can be difficult to manage and a painful process but oh how rich the output can be!  Innovation is simply thinking differently. Dyer and Gregersen point out that a lot of innovation comes back to associative thinking – which is, or can be, a learned skill.[ii] Simply put, it happens when we mash up a lot of ideas or sources of information with a focus on addressing perennial challenges and issues that hold a business back.

Another phrase for innovating is ‘growth hacking’ – defined as a ‘systematic approach to innovating through rapid experimentation.’ Once again it is the collective thinking and contribution of a diverse mindset that is key to the success of the growth hack. Because we are all blinkered and will analyse things through our own lens. Assembling a team of ‘mis-fits and rebels’ from sales, marketing, IT and HR – from inside a business – will certainly make for creative tension but will help solve problems that the entire team will be familiar with!

Einstein said, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge.’ In the age of the start-up, we see examples every day of businesses that think differently and imaginatively. The traditional photography business Leica putting their cameras into the latest smartphones, the guys at Innocent giving up their banking jobs to ‘think different’ about what should go into a smoothie and how it should be marketed, the Fintech’s who think you should know when you’re going to go overdrawn on an app and not wait to find out after the event!

Our world is changing and the need to think differently is probably more crucial to a brands success than at any other time in the past twenty-one years. But if you’ re still unconvinced, really, just head over to YouTube and replay that Apple ad from 1997. When you consider they became the first trillion-dollar company in 2018, it’s hard to ignore that ‘thinking differently’ has its upside!


By Caroline Hindley, Senior Sales Director


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