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Cambridge Marketing Handbook: Communications

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"The Dynamics Of Ideas That Create History"Orbit-shifting innovation happens when an area that needs transformation meets an innovator with the will and the desire to create, and not follow, history. At the heart of every orbit-shifting innovation is the breakthrough that achieves a transformative impact.Businesses, social enterprises and even governments need orbit-shifting ideas to create a transformative impact. But how does that ground breaking idea come about, and what translates it into actuality? Charting the vast global landscape of orbit-shifting innovation and using unique examples from prominent businesses, the social sector, entrepreneurs and public services - spread across US, UK, Europe, Africa and Asia - the authors build insight into the key drivers behind taking on a transformative challenge and provide a unique framework to navigate the pitfalls and challenges in making it happen. Orbit-shifting innovation empowers everyone to overcome the obstacles to innovation and provides the tools to maximize the impact of transformative change. The inspirational examples and tools for success compel leaders and entrepreneurs to not only pursue impossible challenges but lead the successful journey from conception of an orbit-shifting idea to actually creating history.

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1. Orbit shifts that created history



Orbit shifts that created history

FIGURE 1.1   Microsoft in 1978, Microsoft in 2008

Will your team be gathered for a photograph 30 years later? Yes! If you create history in your universe.

The original 12. These are the 12 people who were there at the founding of Microsoft. They were specially brought together again 30 years later to photograph the anniversary of their start up. A start-up that had created history (, 2008).

Orbit-shifting innovation

Orbit-shifting innovation happens when an area that needs transformation meets an innovator with the will and the desire to create, not follow, history. At the heart of an orbit-shifting innovation is the breakthrough that creates a new orbit and has a transformative impact.

Beginning with the Macintosh, what Apple succeeded in doing time and time again with Steve Jobs at the helm was to break the boundaries of the current orbit and create orbit-shifting innovations that ignited the imagination of people across the world. Perhaps fuelled by Steves personal motto, make a dent in the universe, Apple has lived and breathed the life of an orbit shifter.


2. Confronting gravity



Confronting gravity

FIGURE 2.1   Mindset gravity drags down the new

Orbit-shifting innovation stories are very romantic in hindsight. They inspire, encourage and even provoke dreamers into positive restlessness and action.

However, what is usually not visible behind these stories are the extreme odds that orbit shifters had to overcome in making their dreams a reality. It is here that most people give in and give up. Most orbit-shifters recognize and realize that when the rubber hits the road, they are all alone. It is easy to dream up orbit shifts but it is far more difficult to pursue them, and so many of us give up in that pursuit.

So, what drags down and even decimates orbit-shifting dreams and ideas? As the innovation wave gathers momentum, all business, public and social enterprises are preoccupied with this question. They all need to innovate, want to innovate, but rarely do orbit-shifting intentions come alive as orbit-shifting innovation. Many surveys have identified factors that help and hinder innovation. A few years ago, BCG and Business Week asked the top 20 innovative organizations across the world, including organizations like Apple and Google: What are the enemies of innovation? The key enemies identified were: lengthy development times, lack of coordination, risk-averse culture, limited customer insight, poor idea selection, inadequate measurement tools, dearth of ideas, and marketing or communication failure (Business Week, 2006).


3. Take on an orbit-shifting challenge and burn the bridge



Take on an orbit-shifting challenge and burn the bridge

All excitement around innovation is centred on getting the big idea. Thinking out of the box is talked about obsessively. The world of innovation is full of stories of how a leader got to an out-of-the-box idea that created a transformative impact.

Nearly all of these stories are really about incidental and accidental innovation. The core question is: How do we make orbit-shifting innovation happen by design?

The reality for most organizations is that layers and layers of gravity can make it very difficult to come up with an out-of-the-box idea. Come to think of it, out of which box is the real question. For there is the organizational gravity box, the industry gravity box, the country gravity box and the cultural gravity box. The deeper you go, the more invisible the box becomes.

Most orbit-shifting innovations did not start with an out-of-the-box idea, but with an out-of-the-box challenge, an orbit-shifting challenge.

It takes an orbit-shifting challenge to create the escape velocity needed to break through gravity. An out-of-the-box idea is a consequence. An orbit-shifting challenge leads to an orbit-shifting idea and not the other way round.


4. Breaking through mental-model boundaries



Breaking through mental-model boundaries

There is no such thing as a saturated market, only saturated mental models.

An orbit-shifting challenge needs orbit-shifting ideas to bring it to reality. To discover orbit-shifting ideas, mere ideation is not enough. What is needed is the ability to first recognize and then break through mental-model boundaries.

A number of organizations with ambitious CEOs come up with orbit-shifting aspirations like three in three (grow three times the current business in the next three years) or create a new business equal to the size of the current business. The core reason why most of these organizations dreams dont even take off, let alone succeed, is that when managers finally get down to identifying opportunities and developing strategies they remain stuck in the old orbit. Orbit-shifting aspirations pursued with mental models that are trapped in the current orbit fail to take off.

Locked-in mental models

When confronted with the map shown in Figure 4.1, most people recoil with confusion and flip it around immediately so that it is, right side up! They instinctively react against the inverted map although in fact it is not inverted at all. It is another valid perspective of the world. A teacher in Argentina shared this map with us along with an interesting story. One day, she asked her students to draw a map of the world, with Argentina on it. Now, we all know that Argentina is at the bottom left of a conventional map. However, one student drew Argentina at the centre of the world. The teacher corrected the student, by showing her where Argentina ought to be. The child replied with something so profound that it led the teacher into extensive research on the narrow perspectives of cartographers in map-making. She said, For me, Argentina is at the centre of the world. World maps are actually designed only to provide us locational information and can be presented in any number of ways. Yet, almost all maps are presented in only one way, with the North Pole at the top. Seeing the same thing in the same way for many years, transforms it from being mere information into becoming a mental model, one that we are unaware of. It becomes the only way of looking at the world. The mental model is by now well and truly locked in. Present us with a perfectly accurate map with the south at the top and we immediately turn it around, because it just doesnt fit into our conditioned mental model.


5. Orbit-shifting insight



Orbit-shifting insight

An organization has taken on an orbit-shift challenge and burnt its bridges. It now needs to break through mental-model boundaries and discover an orbit-shifting idea.

What does it take to actually uncover and break through the mental-model boundaries of an organization or an industry, especially when the people attempting to do it are usually as much a part of the established mental model?

What is needed is an orbit-shifting insight that will break through mental-model boundaries, join new dots and make the orbit-shifting idea visible.

Orbit-shifting insight: beyond technology roadmaps

Two big mental-model boundary breakthroughs in two very different worlds gaming with Nintendo Wii (originating in Japan) and microfinance with Grameen Bank (originating in Bangladesh) were both triggered by an orbit-shifting insight.

The gaming industry had long been locked into the mental model of following technology roadmaps. As Genyo Takeda who was part of the Nintendo design team says:


6. Overcoming walls of doubt: excite and enrol stakeholders



Overcoming walls of doubt

Excite and enrol stakeholders

We need to hire mavericks; only people with this kind of a rebellious attitude can come up with innovative ideas and see them through to the end.

This notion of a maverick acting like a Lone Ranger to conceive of and succeed with a radical idea can and does work for entrepreneurs. However, in large organizations, if mavericks become lone rangers, though they still can and do conceive bright new ideas, they are rarely able to make them happen.

Many organizations have also romanticized the Skunkworks approach, originating in Lockheed Martin in the 1950s. They create a small team, separate it from the main organization and give it autonomy ring fence it to develop innovations. Again Skunkworks often do succeed in coming up with big ideas, but seldom does it translate into innovation success, especially in large organizations (Lockheed Martin, 1943).

Walls of doubt

A passionate team in an organization breaks through mental-model boundaries and succeeds in coming up with an orbit-shifting idea! Its been a great voyage of discovery so far and they are now ready to share it and showcase it to the rest of the organization. They also now need the expertise of other functions, others who have not been involved in the journey so far, to develop the idea into a working solution. The team believes the others will be equally excited and will come forward to contribute actively in growing the big idea into an in-market success.


7. Navigating the fog: overcome daunting obstacles



Navigating the fog

Overcome daunting obstacles

All orbit-shift stories are heroic and even romantic, in hindsight. They hide the fear, the pain and the moments of self-doubt when the orbit shifter was confronted with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. They hide the many, many points when the orbit-shifter was faced with dark nights, when it seemed much easier to give up and return to the comfort of the old orbit.

Orbit shifters start combating dilution when they enrol stakeholders and prevent the orbit-shifting idea from getting compromised. But enrolment alone is not enough an orbit-shifting idea will still face many execution hurdles.

Executing an orbit-shifting innovation is a journey filled with tunnels of fog multiple points where the orbit shifter is confronted with new unforseen problems. Faced with fog, orbit shifters dont give up or give in. It is their capacity to navigate the fog that differentiates an orbit shifter from a settler.

The next and the next door

In making the LifeStraw happen, the team at Vestergaard Frandsen was repeatedly confronted with fog the execution obstacles seemed to be never ending. For a year and a half, the team persisted with research and over 120 prototypes were made, with variations in the kinds and quantities of the various chemicals, absorbents, pre-filters etc. There was a time when the mounting numbers of prototypes seemed daunting, but the organization remained unwavering in its commitment to the research agenda. As Navneet Garg, Chief Development Officer at Vestergaard Frandsen, says: The question always was, How can we do it? it was not whether we wanted to do it or not.1


8. ln-market versioning and fissioning



In-market versioning and fissioning

The first go-to-market stage of an orbit-shifting idea is not the first stage of market launch, it is the last stage of idea development.

Orbit shifters recognize that even when a big idea has successfully reached the stage of having become a working prototype, the greater part of the innovation journey still remains. How to now make the big idea work in the market is the dominant question in their mind. They recognize the reality that:


What they have right now is only the working prototype of the orbit-shifting idea it is unfinished. They are yet to discover how to make it work in a live market setting. At this stage, how customers will engage, connect with and adopt the new idea are questions that, at best, are only partially answered.

No matter how well thought-out the orbit-shift idea is, there will still be a fair number of unanswered questions. The first in-market experiments will throw up new blind spots and even open up new opportunities.

How to make it work and not lets see if it works


9. Ascending the orbit-shift mountain



Ascending the orbit-shift mountain

Making orbit-shifting innovation happen is more like scaling a daunting, unclimbed mountain than like managing just another tough project.

What makes orbit shifters take on and not just survive but thrive through these at once amazing but painful orbit-shift journeys? They see the innovation journey as an unclimbed mountain with multiple thresholds. They approach it like an adventure into the unknown, with a sense of both fear and anticipation.

As Todd Skinner, the mountaineer said:


If you are not afraid, you have probably chosen too easy a mountain. To be worth the expedition it had better be intimidating. If you dont stand at the base uncertain how to reach the summit, then you have wasted the effort to get there. A mountain well within your ability is not only a misspending of resources; it is a loss of opportunity across a lifetime of potential achievement (Skinner, 2003).

Settlers, on the other hand, see an orbit-shifting innovation journey merely as a process to be followed, another project to be managed. They hope that a mature process will bring certainty to an intrinsically uncertain and unknown terrain. They attempt to fit innovation to the traditional ways of working: All we need to do is have a chief innovation officer (CIO) and a mature innovation process this should ensure the success of innovation.


10. What differentiates orbit shifters?



What differentiates orbit shifters?

Orbit-shifting innovation cannot be managed, it can only be unleashed. And this is not a one-off effort; rather it will have to be done at each threshold of the orbit-shift mountain. The energy and the focus required to navigate the orbit-shifting journey from one threshold to the next have to be replenished. Resolves have to be re-strengthened and commitments re-sought. Without this, the default setting of orbit-maintenance is likely to take over and drag the orbit-shifting journey down into just another orbit-maintaining activity.

What gives orbit shifters the capacity to scale the five thresholds, to confront gravity and new unknowns at every threshold, and restart again and again without feeling de-motivated? And whats more, not just to do it once but to be willing to take on new orbit-shifting challenges again and again.

To start zero-based at every threshold! To do this again and again requires more than tools and process templates. It requires fundamentally different mindsets.



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