From managing the exploding volume of data to keeping the network secure to taking a high-level strategic role at the C-level table, CIOs live in a complex and intense environment. Therefore, when challenges appear, overcoming them quickly is key for long-term success. But part of the challenge about challenges is knowing how to do that.
Experience tells us that our biggest challenges are often quite different from what we think our biggest challenges are (see my last article, Don’t Solve It, Skip It, to learn more). But in searching for the real problem we want to address, it’s not always easy to know where to look. One way to help tease that insight to the surface is to note where everyone else is looking — and then look in the opposite direction.
It is often breathtaking how quickly this strategy makes the invisible visible and reveals surprisingly practical solutions to problems you didn’t even realize you were facing. In fact, this counterintuitive idea is often a quintessential flash foresight strategy.
Not sure how going opposite could realistically play out in the corporate world? Consider the following classic examples of how going opposite produced stellar results:
Amazon.com – Jeff Bezos looked at how Barnes & Noble had taken the traditional bookstore to a new level of size and substance, creating the modern superstore — and went the other way. He shrank the size to nothing and made it completely insubstantial.
It didn’t take Barnes & Noble, Borders (now going out of business), and the other major book retailers long to create their own versions of virtual book superstores. But, by the time they caught up, Amazon had gone in an opposite direction again: It added consumer electronics, toys, clothing, home and garden accessories, etc. … in short, everything . Next, Bezos rented excess technology capacity to any size company, acting as a virtual IT department. Having become the first major virtual bookstore, it has now become a virtual unbookstore.