We had a great series of conversations on how smaller companies or lesser brands can take out the giants in their industries a few months ago. It began as a one-off conversation which I named, “part one,” in a rather flip manner. In all honesty, there wasn’t a “part two” in mind at the time, but in a semi-self-fulfilling prophecy, one burst forth of its own volition and became my first post on The Daily Fix. This, of course, begat “part three,” after which I considered the idea — and my creativity — tapped.
Some ideas fester longer than others. Some are sticky and verdant and sink deeper roots. They persist, as this one has for me, and demand more attention. A few friends
told me this trio of posts was worth a PDF and that I should get it up, right away. Given more time — as well as a well-deserved whack
in the head — it has begun the process of germinating
into a book. And so, you and I need to strike a deal. Willing to do your part? Here’s what I need you to do.
Killing Giants was a list of ten concepts, most all of which either came out of my personal experience or were hovering in front of my eyes when thinking about a particular client. All have merit, I think, but I’m not married to every one of them. I’ll prune them if needed, but only if they prove to be empty after greater reflection. The ten ideas are as follows:
- Aikido: use their popularity against them.
- Thin Ice: lead the giant out over the thin ice of your own creation.
- Inconvenient Truths: make the math work to your advantage.
- The War of the Flea: win at the point of influence. They spend millions? We spent thousands.
- Zag: polarize your market for a good reason.
- Show Your Teeth: force a comparison. If you’re better, make sure everybody knows it.
- Speed Kills: you are smaller, faster, and hold less baggage than giants. Take advantage of your lighter weight.
- Fighting Unfairly: pick the (unfair) fight you want.
- All the Wood Behind the Arrow: win where you’re fighting. Relative, not absolute, strength.
- Be the Ball: flaunt your knowledge. Take up all the oxygen in the room.
Please consider these ten strategies for a moment or two — frankly, take as much time as you need and feel free to respond whenever you wish — but I need your input. Give me an example that you’ve come across in your travels that illustrates one of these stories. Have you “picked an unfair fight,” and had success? Tell me what happened. No need to write a case study — please don’t see this as an obligation that will take up your weekend — just give me three lines that shows you grasp what is being said and have an example that fits the description. I’ll pick up the conversation from there.
I like the idea of capturing this. These ten ideas feel solid. I have a few cases in mind already. But more ammunition means more stories, more meat, more solid social proof.
The world needs another “business book” like it needs another reality TV show. But I do think the world might welcome a fresh set of thinking tools that help solve complex business problems. Another reason to write “Killing Giants” is that not every problem is solved on the front page of Fortune magazine. Sometimes, it just happens to fall in your lap to slay a giant — without the budget, the manpower, or sometimes even the support that a reasonable person might agree you need to do your job properly. This book is for people like you. If you like the sound of it and want to help, all you’ll get is my undying and heartfelt thanks, a call out when it gets published, and a handful of copies. Sound fair?
Comment or just send me a note back with your stuff. I need to hear it. This is hard work, but many hands (and eyes) will make light of it. And thanks in advance.
I would like you to consider that the fallacy sometimes resides in thinking that today what we have are often dilemmas (cannot be solved by either/or thinking) and not problems. What happens if we apply solutions to issues that by definition require more? We have a mismatch. We solve problems (tactical) while what we really need to do is manage dilemmas (strategic).
More nimble companies will succeed when they accept to fail faster through prototyping and going at it with imperfect information.
Both problems and dilemmas stop your forward progress. We solve such problems and manage such dilemmas by applying the lessons we’ve learned along the way — what I’m calling “thinking tools” are really just packaged experience that lets us try on new solutions.
Your last point, however, suggests that smaller and more nimble companies should fail faster when faced with larger competitors. Many “small-er” companies can do this, but most “small” companies can ill afford it. Failing faster still means “failing” to them. I’d rather win with fewer resources.
Of course, it’s entirely possible I’ve simply mis-read your point here… so correct me if I just took us off into the weeds.
“Stephen comes out!” Bravo.
Even if your readers contribute nothing, you will have gotten rid of the excuse “I’m not really writing a book so I don’t have to spend my time working on and refining these ideas.” You’re out there in the open now.
My hunch is that you’ll get 15% of your initial guidance from your audience. The other 85% will come from your own gut as you see what your stuff looks look in its first pubic pass.
Ahem… yes, thanks, am glad to be out of the (no, wait…), that is, glad to have “tipped off my readers that, yes, I’m going to take the ‘book writing thing’ for a spin.” Or words to that effect, at least.
I’ll settle for 15%… but I’m still waiting for that 1st percent…
Way to go. Actually, Roger may be overestimating the significance of our guidance. However, I’ll jump out there but let’s do it offline in e-mail. How can I specifically help?
Lewis: many thanks for your moral support — I’ll ping you via email. And what the heck, it’s probably high time we found time to talk, too — will touch base shortly. (And thanks).
You may want to check out my most recent post called Writing That Sells. It’s directed at people who want to break into the publications market, but you still might find it interesting. Here’s the link: http://lgbusinesssolutions.typepad.com/solutions_to_grow_your_bu/2007/09/writing-that-se.html