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Dave Snowden

Predation & products I

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For those not familiar with our distant ancestors, this is a therapsid or one of the early mammal like reptiles. The early mammals evolved from them at the end of the Triassic period and co-existed with dinosaurs throughout the Mesozoic in small mouselike forms. The extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs gave them the space to evolve into the various mammalian species that include our own. The characteristics that allowed these early creatures to survive in the age of dinosaurs also meant that they were better placed to survive on less food and fur handled plunging global temperatures. The dominant predator of the modern age was inconsequential in the previous age.

Now this is a subject of significant importance in product development. During a time of uncertainty (think meteor strike and global cooling) first mover advantage is key, you have the opportunity to move into disrupted territory and stabilise it around your products nascent capabilities. Once the ecology has stabilised the opportunity for disruption is significantly less and second mover advantage applies and/or what I call a hyena strategy, namely feeding or feeding of the dominant predator. Back in the 80s challenging IBM was difficult given their dominance. But they missed the ecological shift from mainframes and Microsoft became the new dominant predator a similar shift is currently in play and the opportunities are there.

Now for regular readers of this blog or attendees on our training, this is not a new concept but I am continuing the develop the idea and its implications. I spent most of this morning working through capabilities in this domain with one of our clients/partners so I was working through the practical implications and linking it with work on dispositional mapping from the developing theory of organisational change. I realised that while I had been talking about product development in the context of dispositional mapping and nudge based approaches I hadn’t yet blogged on the subject. So now is the time and I’ll start my summarising the stages, then I will pick up on the details in subsequent posts. I’ll also be teaching this at Hull Business School tomorrow so that will help sharpen my mind.

So what are the stages?

  1. Map the dispositional state of customer experience (which is not the same thing as customer demand) ideally based upon day to day observations by those customers.
  2. Parallel that with your own staff in respect of their understanding of customer demand and also their knowledge of existing organisational capability.
  3. Consider a further capture with related groups, academic bodies and so on (this will lead to exadaptive incubation one of the things we are working on in CfAC).
  4. Identify the propensities (the stable aspects) of the system in terms of ABIDE and from that identify what you can change, and from that the subset of what you can monitor and amplify or dampen the effects of change.
  5. Match your capabilities and those of competitors against the dispositional state of the market.  Within that match, on the dispositional landscapes, identify the stable states and identity if they match your existing capability or which permit repurposing of that capability.
  6. If there is a favourable dispositional state then you can test launch existing or repurposed capability to match and further stabilise that need.
  7. If there isn’t you have to identify the adjacent possible states that are more favourable and seek to shift the system to that disposition BEFORE you risk a launch.

Now there is a lot more to go through to flesh that out, also to make it simple enough to be effective (that always takes more time). But the essence for a complex systems approach to product creation and marketing is there. The critical element is to change the dispositional state based on plausible proximities rather than a conventional push or pull strategy. More on this in future posts.

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