The Business Book

(Joyce) #1


Nintendo’s Wii console is a product
of lateral thinking. Rather than taking
on their industry rivals head on, the
Wii’s designers redefined gaming
as a family-friendly, social activity.

See also: Gaining an edge 32–39 ■ Keep evolving business practice 48–51 ■ Creativity and invention 72–73 ■ Changing
the game 92–99 ■ Forecasting 278–79 ■ Feedback and innovation 312–13


consultants to encourage lateral
thinking. Several of its solutions
involved drawing lines that were
literally outside the puzzle’s box.
The phrase was adopted to represent
any kind of creative thinking that
goes beyond the obvious. Today,
thinking outside the box represents
innovation, the need to be aware of
market changes, and the need to
avoid fixed ways of thinking.

The bold retreat
Linear thinking—the opposite of
thinking outside the box—has been
responsible for the downfall of
many businesses. MySpace, a
website that dominated the online
social-media market in the early
2000s, is an example of a business
that fell victim to strategic
retrenchment—sticking to a failing
strategy rather than adapting to
new competition or a changing
marketplace. Purchased by News
Corp for $580 millon in 2005, the
business was sold in 2011 for $35
million, having failed to match the
creative vision of Mark

Zuckerburg’s hugely successful
Facebook. The future survival of
MySpace depended on new
thinking—it turned its business
around by successfully refocusing
on a core market of creative music
professionals, leaving the social-
media mass-market to Facebook.
Other companies have
employed leaders with a more
radical approach to guide them
through fast-changing times.
Nintendo’s response to the
technological superiority of the
X-Box and Playstation, for example,
was to think differently. Instead of
competing on the usual grounds of

price and increasingly
sophisticated games, the Nintendo
Wii created a whole new market. Its
unique player interface—with a
range of handheld, wireless
controllers—and focus on group-
based gaming made it family-
friendly; suddenly gaming was a
social activity for gamers of all ages
and experience levels. The console
quickly outsold the competition in
almost every territory.
Leaders taking this kind of “bold
retreat” willingly cede technological
advantage or market position to the
dominant player, pursuing instead
less vulnerable (and often more
profitable) market positions.

Rethinking the box
Some business leaders believe that
even creative thinkers may take
certain things—such as
organizational structure—for
granted. They are therefore
encouraging their staff to think
literally “beyond the building” for
new ideas. Procter & Gamble CEO
A G Lafley sent employees to live
temporarily in the homes of
consumers to better understand
their needs and identify product
opportunities. The box itself, it
seems, is perhaps a distraction. ■

BT should have invented
Skype. But they didn’t
because the concept of a free
platform totally disrupts their
business model.
Alan Moore
US systems expert

The nine-dots puzzle challenges
players to connect the nine dots with
four straight lines or less,
without lifting pen from
paper or tracing the same
line twice. The solution
involves drawing lines
“outside the box.”
Free download pdf