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Good for Us, Bad for Them Innovation

All hail the king of innovation strategies from King of Shaves! Today they launch a brand new ‘Hyperglide’ razor that solves a real problem. It doesn’t claim to be the best shave ever – with more blades, batteries etc – after all how much closer can one get? Instead it is a razor you don’t need shaving gel or foam to shave with – just a splash of water.

Rather than marvel at the ‘technology’ behind this instead we’d like to marvel at the brilliance of an innovation that is good for us – King of Shaves – and bad for them – market leaders Gillette. You see Gillette aren’t just market leaders in razors, they are also market leaders in shaving gels and foams (it’s estimated the brand has an 80-90% share of the global shaving market by value). You can imagine the consternation in Gillette offices if this idea came up on an innovation project: ‘We’d love to do this but we’d be killing off a major part of our business if we did.’ And so the idea goes nowhere.

Under CEO Akio Morita Sony’s innovation goal used to be “to make our products obsolete before somebody else does it for us.” So they were happy to launch the Discman despite still its likely effect on their own Walkman range. But the pressure to deliver constant growth can stifle innovation by making large public businesses focus on the short term – when worries about existing business models and revenue streams, sunk costs and maximising asset utilisation overtake creative destruction and more entrepreneurial thinking.

As Malcolm Gladwell suggests in ‘David & Goliath’ this is a way smaller, more nimble brands can turn what might be seen strengths of large competitors into weaknesses. Equally, in today’s world, these big brands need to be braver – if a good idea is being blocked because it might harm existing revenues make sure you consider what could happen if a competitor or start-up did it: it might not look like such a bad idea after all.

And above all, always keep a look out for innovation that will not only be good for you, but might also be bad for the competition.

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