Growth doesn't happen by accident - it happens because you make it happen.  Success relies on your ability to see and move on opportunity in a way that your competitors cannot or will not.

Some organizations are fortunate enough to have dedicated resources tasked with setting strategy and enacting a strong portfolio of innovation for future growth. They make sure that their company always knows where growth is going to be coming from - and how to get it.

More often than not, though, there are no dedicated resources. The same people who are tasked with day-to-day operations, for generating demand and increasing performance for existing businesses and products, have that responsibility. It's not ideal, because the seemingly abstract activity of assuring future growth is pitted directly against the very real urgency of the day-to-day.  As most leaders are measured on short-term performance, the high-value (but long-term) activities can get short-shrift. As McKinsey puts it, many executives feel that taking the time to frame strategy choices thoughtfully and to decide where to focus strategy-development efforts is a luxury they don’ t have.

As most leaders are measured on short-term performance, the high-value (but long-term) activities can get short-shrift.

In those cases, leaders have a bias for focusing purely on performance growth. Performance growth comes from continuously optimizing core capabilities, marketing, pricing and customer experience for existing offerings. Companies that focus on more than one kind of growth – especially those that pursue both performance growth and creating new growth (mainly new products) - grow significantly faster than those who only pursue one kind of growth.

Whether you have dedicated resources or not, the work of developing the penetrating insights that will deliver choices for growth and the resulting strategic plans can be heavily influenced by competing agendas. These can range from the need to protect short term budgets, to desire to demonstrate internal alignment with colleagues or leadership, to strongly held myths or outdated understanding about why a company, its competitors, and others in the industry make money.

...the work of developing the penetrating insights that will deliver choices for growth and the resulting strategic plans can be heavily influenced by competing agendas.

One way to overcome this is to explicitly question the corporate wisdom and to look at the internal and external situation with fresh eyes.  

Let's take this outside

There are of course many advantages to working with an expert to uncover opportunity and make sure the company has a clear growth and innovation plan - these are just 4 of those advantages that our clients tend to appreciate the most.

  1. De-bias the business situation view.  Rethink what the right questions to ask are in order to get a complete understanding of both current situation, trajectory and opportunities or threats. Ask the questions in a systematic way. Document, weigh and derive implications from what is easy to overlook in the day-to-day of your company. Far from being heavy primary research work, this work is primarily a robust review and synthesis of the endowment and people-knowledge of the company. This ideally includes the perspectives of a cross-functional team. Then, complement this with data from the external world and analogous cases, including consumer, cultural, competition & substitutes, industry, environmental trends, regulatory dynamics and other available research.
  2. Learn how to stand out with custom insights. Don't rely on syndicated research reports, conferences or trade journals – or unvalidated assumptions - alone to inform your direction. If you operate on the same assumptions as the rest of the world (or flawed ones), you may lock yourself out of unique possibilities or be on the wrong path. Think about your brand or organization's objectives and strategies, and what questions you need to answer in order to meet those objectives that are unique to your situation.
  3. Make the complex (more) simple. The truth is complicated, of course, but in order to build confidence for any bold move, it helps to level-up into the bigger picture and reduce the noise that may be stopping you from getting clarity. This requires framing the implications objectively, un-biased by past assumptions and not unduly influenced short-term concerns. This can be hard to do when you're very close to the work, so robust frameworks and tools are helpful.
  4. Use your time wisely (and don't let opportunity pass you by). Collecting data and framing it in a useful way - and then creating new opportunities from what is learned - can be viewed as a daunting, time-consuming task. This may be the reason so many companies don't formalize their innovation and competitive planning. Without discipline and the right frameworks, it can take too long, or worse – lead to the wrong conclusions. Create a time-bound, collaborative plan for collecting and sharing the learning, to provide all stakeholders with the same objective information and insights.

To accomplish the above demands a concerted effort of preparation and time, but the value of the effort pays off long after the completion of the project. If you are considering getting outside help to support strategy for your business, here’s what to look for:

Getting the outside-in view: what to look for in a strategy consultant

  • Established frameworks for the collection, interpretation and analysis of stakeholder inputs, competitive analysis, brand strength and market forecasting and sizing.
  • Domain experience with the consumers that your company addresses to supplement your understanding with additional insights about consumer behaviors, attitudes, beliefs and practices in broader wellness and CPG markets.
  • Capabilities for custom research, in case it is required to fill gaps in your knowledge estate.
  • Moderation and facilitation expertise to guide you through both research and through strategic decision-making sessions with stakeholders.
  • Direct, hands-on experience with discovering, developing and implementing new products and business growth strategy in a consumer-facing organization such as yours.
  • We believe great strategy blends the analytical with the creative, marries what is known with what could be and is always both pragmatic and aspirational. Make sure you look for a strategic team of two or more. Skill sets to look for that will make your project stronger are business analytics, consumer insights, direct professional experience at a senior or leadership level in CPG or services and a network to draw upon for creative collisions and innovation expertise.
Lisa Brookins

Lisa is a marketing and brand strategist with a deep experience creating, launching, and generating demand for CPG products in Canada and the U.S. She has been with Compass Marketing since its founding in 2009.

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