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Fresh Eyes: The #1 Way To Drive New Growth
The great impressionist painter, Paul Cezanne, enjoyed painting Monte Sainte-Victoire, near to his home in Provence. In fact, he had a bit of a thing about it, and is known to have painted the mountain over 60 times.
Although the paintings are inherently of the same view, each is different. The colours, the textures and the light are never the same in any two of these paintings.
Cezanne looked at the mountain with fresh eyes each time he carried his easel, palette and paints to his favourite viewing spot. He wasn’t influenced by what he had seen before, but by what he could see on that particular day.
‘Fresh eyes’ is a phrase that keeps coming back to me as I work with various businesses on new growth projects. By far the biggest success my clients achieve is when we focus on looking at their markets objectively, dispassionately and unhindered with our historic prejudices.
Over the past 12 months, for example, some of the biggest growth projects have been driven through the identification of:
- Under-served customer groups;
- Adjacent markets and categories where the company doesn’t seriously participate;
- Under-utilised and under-resourced assets and capabilities; and
- Channels that the business has historically ignored.
None of these initiatives required huge creativity. They did, however, demand that the client and I looked at their markets and business anew, and that we were both willing to consider opportunities without bias.
‘Fresh eyes’ and a new perspective can do more than add new revenues; they can transform companies’ fortunes.
Babcock International plc, for example, has driven year-on-year growth for 10 years or more as a result of its leaders’ decision to refocus the business from an engineering company to a support services business with an emphasis on the defence sector.
Similarly, Apple’s decision to shift focus from ‘personal computers’ to ‘personal electronic devices’ at the start of the century has enabled it to transform music, entertainment and mobile communications markets, as well as the performance of the business.
The critical factor in exploiting these shifts in perspective and focus is having the skills and capabilities to operate in these new markets and channels. When I worked for UK retailer Boots the Chemists, for example, the company’s executive decided to shift its definition of the business from a retailer of health and beauty products to a broader ‘wellbeing’ company.
Unfortunately, unlike Babcock or Apple, both of whom have acquired or partnered with other organisations to give them necessary capabilities and reach, Boots tried to go it alone. As a result, the company was unable to develop a profitable operating model for its new wellbeing services, which included a dentistry business, and after the CEO left the business these struggling businesses were quickly shut down.
That said, where you are able to build the necessary capabilities the rewards can be enormous. Breakthrough growth doesn’t necessarily demand a huge leap in the scope of your business. Sometimes all this is required is a relatively small shift in perspective and the willingness to look at your organisation and its markets with fresh eyes.