Avoid Target Fixation (transcription)
Here is the transcription of my Monday Morning Movie…
Although I’ve never been in the military, I’ve worked with military groups. There is a term that I believe they use called “Target Fixation.” Target Fixation basically means that if you focus too much on a target, you might end up hitting that target.
If you are a fighter pilot and you are trying to bomb a particular place, you can get so focused on the target that you might fly your plane right into it. I know that skateboarders, motorcycle riders, and other people worry about Target Fixation. If you go on to the internet, there are videos of motorcycle riders who got so focused on something they did not want to hit, that they were somehow magnetically drawn to it.
If you’ve walked in the hall of any office, or any building for that matter, you probably experienced a version of Target Fixation. Two people are walking down the hall, one is going one way, the second person is going the other way. You look at them and lock eyes. In your head you know, “I see this person. I want to avoid bumping into them.” But what inevitably happens is, somehow by looking at each other, you are drawn towards each other and are more likely to bump into one another. In fact, if I happen to be walking past you in the hall one day, please do not be offended if I look the opposite direction. I look the direction I want to walk because that will prevent me from bumping into you.
The same thing’s true in business. This concept of Target Fixation that applies to innovation.
We get so focused on our competition and trying to beat them, that we inadvertently start becoming like them. But of course, if you want to beat the competition you probably need to be different than them. If you start trying to replicate them, you’re only going to be as good as them, and they’ve already got a head start.
We start to focus on the target. We start to focus on the enemy. And when we focus on the enemy, we are inevitably drawn towards them. We are naturally inclined to think more like them. We’re naturally inclined to do things like they do. We’re naturally inclined to try to take on habits and behavior that are like the enemy; the competition.
As a result, you begin to mimic them. You know, subconsciously or consciously, that you want to be different than them and differentiate yourself from them. Although, thinking of them as the enemy indicates that you don’t want to be like them, unfortunately the more you focus on them, the more you start thinking like them.
Sometimes, getting in the head of, and in the shoes of the enemy/competition, is not always a good thing. When you do, all you can do is think like them. If they’re a competitor who is ahead of you in the marketplace, what this means is that they’ve already got a head start, and you are just going to try to catch up to where they are. As soon as you’re on to their best practice, they are on to the next practice.
This is not really a very good thing to think about.
Just as when I walk down the hall, instead of looking at the person that I’m about to cross paths with, I look in a different direction, this is what you want to do as an innovator. Look in a different direction. Don’t study your competition. Yes, you need to understand them, don’t get me wrong, you clearly need to know what the completion is doing. But if you’re solely looking at the competition, you’re going to bump into them. Look in a different direction. Understand what they do not see. See their blind spots. See what they are not doing, not by studying them, but by studying everything that’s not done.
Look at the world around you. Start talking to your customers and the pains that they have. Really understand, how do you solve their needs? Not, how to beat the competition at what they are doing. Ask, “How do we offer something to the market that differentiates us?” We want to innovate where we differentiate. If we do not know how we differentiate ourselves, then we don’t know where to innovate, and therefore, we spend a lot of energy, time, and money on things that don’t matter.
Don’t study your competition. Understand them, but don’t be so focused on the target, don’t get so fixated on that target that you inevitably start thinking like them. You need to think differently. Start focusing elsewhere. See what they don’t see. This will give you a better chance of differentiating yourself in the marketplace.