What Heretical Ideas Are You Willing to Embrace?

re-posted with permission from the author

I love motorcycles. I’ve spoken at the Motorcycle Industry Council, I’ve met with the majority of the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and have visited with over 100 dealers in recent years. But the motorcycle industry is one of many that’s battling a stagnant or shrinking market, and the only solution is for it to quit one or more commonly-accepted practices.

Industry experts and veterans hate to hear advice like this. Try telling a scratch golfer that you think one way to make that sport grow again is to double the size of golf holes. “Outrageous!” s/he is likely to exclaim, without suggesting an alternative solution to shrinking year after year after year.

The problem with these industries is that existing players like things the way they are. Sure, they’d prefer more growth, but not at the price of changing long standing practices.

For example, the only thing keeping the ski industry afloat is the rise of snowboarding. This was not the result of innovative practices on the part of ski industry OEMs, but rather the disruptive influence of upstarts like Burton, which popularized snowboards.

To put it another way, the practice Burton “quit” was to stop making sliding devices in two pieces. Creating a single board—which sounds like a simple innovation—had tremendous ripple effects. It provided more of a surfing experience, completely changed the athlete’s stance, which changed their clothing needs, and also shifted the age and mindset of new participants. Plus, to be brutally honest, it probably kept numerous resorts from dying.

My problem with such industries is that they’d rather iterate than innovate. Instead of disrupting their own traditions, they tinker around with modest, almost negligible changes. Engines get a little more powerful or efficient. Tires get a little larger. Nothing much changes from one year to the next, and such industries continue to stagnate.

For example, I have friends and clients who have stopped attending certain trade shows because the amount of innovation from one year to the next is virtually zero. In some industries, like technology, you can’t afford to take your eye off the ball for even three weeks; in stagnant industries, you can coast for a year or two, and it doesn’t really matter.

If this sounds familiar, forget about all that nonsense at the edges and ask yourself two questions:

  1. What long standing practices are we willing to quit?
  2. What heretical ideas are we willing to embrace?

Without bold answers to these questions, your future will look very much like your recent past. For example, in 2007 the motorcycle industry sold about one million new bikes. This past year, I think the number was somewhere south of 400,000. Do the math… that’s simply not a sustainable trend.

David Nour helps leaders connect with their teams by using the right strategy, pictures, and words. His tenth book is Co-Create: How Your Business Will Profit from Innovative and Strategic Collaboration. He is also a popular speaker.