Focus is scary – until you realize that it only means turning your back on markets you could never have anyways. – Clayton Christensen and Michael Raynor

 

The path to innovating your career will require focus.  Let’s review what we can learn from the behavior of companies.

The attributed quote is from their book The Innovator’s Solution.  Within the book, they put forth a persuasive argument that many companies go after the wrong customers, focused on attribute-based markets (e.g. demographics) as opposed to focusing on what the customers are trying to get done.   Further, they assert that while this has been proven countless times, leaders struggle with shifting their approach.  They state four primary reasons, the first being fear of focus.

The book was published in 2003, so the companies being discussed in one example competing with each other are RIM (Research in Motion and maker of the Blackberry device), Palm (maker of the Palm Pilot), Nokia and HP.  They outlined how each of those companies could really focus on the jobs their customers wanted to get done and thus who the true competitors were.

As an example, for RIM’s Blackberry device, the customer wanted to be productive in small snippets of time.  When the customer wanted to get that job done and didn’t pick up a Blackberry, the true competitors were typically a wireless phone, the Wall Street Journal, staring mindlessly at the CNN Airport Network or sitting with glazed eyes in a boring meeting.  Those were the real competitors, not the functionality in the other devices of the aforementioned players in the Productivity category.

With that knowledge, RIM could have taken a very deliberate path to innovate versus watching each other and playing “keep up” on feature functionality.

 

Applying this to your career

Focus is tough for us, particularly in our FOMO (fear of missing out) environment, where we have tons of information coming at us.  Managed correct, this is actually a good thing.  Information can help us stay informed and provide us with insights to navigate.

In order to focus and prioritize your efforts, you must have filters that allow you to discard the unimportant and laser in on the most important.  Here are four filters to start with relative to innovating your career:

  1. What are your gifts, the things you do best and have a natural inclination for, without even trying hard? Things that you do easily and if you really tried, you could be spectacular it?
  2. Who wants to use and purchase your gifts, either as an employer or a direct customer?
  3. What are the other options for those who would use and purchase your gifts (the competitors)?
  4. How could you continue to learn and develop your gifts to be better than those other options?

My encouragement to you is to use information judiciously, resist the need to “keep up with everyone” versus focusing on what is important.   Let me know if you find the filters helpful!

 

Have a great day!

James

 

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