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From changemaker to gamechanger: 10 tips for achieving breakthrough innovation

Madanmohan Rao
16th Nov 2015
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We live in exciting times of disruptive change, with innovations that are a mix of digital and physical, global and local. Leading innovators don’t just make things possible but profitable - and change the game in an exponential manner for organisations and entire industries.

“Gamechangers are disruptive and innovative, startups and corporate, in every sector and region, reshaping our world,” begins bestselling author Peter Fisk in his new book, Gamechangers: Are you ready to change the world? He heads the company GeniusWorks, and his earlier books include Creative Genius, Customer Genius and People, Planet, Profit.


Gamechangers

The 306-page book is colourfully designed and has a useful online companion with business tools and case study videos. The 100 profiled creative firms and startups cover not just the usual suspects like Google, Amazon and Apple but a range of companies from across Asia, Africa and Europe such as RedBus, Alibaba, Air Asia, Rakuten, Zidisha and Juan Valdez Coffee.

Gamechangers think bigger, smarter and faster than other innovators. They harness key trends such as changing demographics, distributed supply chains, digital markets and global warming. They think different and play to win but also have incredible fun along the journey. (See also my reviews of the related books Ten Types of Innovation, Peers Inc, Cross-Industry Innovation,  Scaling Up, and Frugal Innovation.)

Gamechangers are of three types: market makers (creating new domains), business innovators (creative business models), and brand builders (high emotional resonance). They fuse different ideas, amplify their brand message, mobilise communities, enable customers to achieve more, and transform the world into a better place. In Table 1, I have summarised ten ways in which gamechangers operate.

Table 1: The Gamechanger Canvas

ActivitiesSuccess FactorsExamples 
ThinkGo beyond incremental change to bigger frames, amplify purpose from just money to making a differenceElon Musk (space travel), Ravi Shetty (Narayana Hrudayalaya), Perry Chen (Kickstarter), Nike (sports)
ExploreMap and harness trends (eg. digital, emerging economies, storytelling)Xiaomi (smartphones), Naspers (digital media), M-pesa (mobile payment)
DisruptReframe context and position, find hotspots and whitespaces,  educate and encourage customersTesla (electric cars), Aeromobil (flying car), Twitter (micro-blogging), Starbucks (‘third space’)
InspireBe aspirational, promote purposeful ideas, capture customer dreams and emotionsUmpqua (banking), Red Bull (extreme thrill), Virgin (licensed brands)
DesignUse design thinking, embrace diversity and elegance, fuse form and function, be human-centredApple (humanise technology), Renova (design in bathrooms), Rapha (clothing and cafes for cyclists), Threadless (T-shirts)
ResonateBe relevant, use stories to connect with customersGoogle (future possibilities), Levi’s (brand stories),
EnableGo from purchase to customer achievement, from function to emotion, from passive to participatorySquare (digital payment), TechShop (maker space), Disney (Big Data in theme parks)
MobiliseCreate community movements, curate connections, become partnersHarley Davidson (owner communities), AirBnB (renting rooms), RaspBerry Pi
ImpactAddress environmental and social issues, create sustainable growth spiralsAussie Farmers (certified local produce), Natura (Brasilian cosmetics)
AmplifyTap networks, be agile, transform inside and outPriceline (customer price), Shang Xai (Chinese products)

Gamechangers innovate across the length and breadth of the business model: manufacture (direct, licensed), channels (niche, auction, franchise), crowd (funding, buying), payment (subscription, freemium, micro), exchange (marketplace, bitcoin) and asset (ads, customer data). They collaborate with customers and stakeholders right from conceptualisation and design to development and funding.

Gamechangers move right across the value spectrum: commodity product, branded product, personal service, branded experience and unique customer experience. They have a growth mindset, and are always willing to learn, un-learn and re-learn – in that sense, they are more like speedboats than supertankers.

Based on these characteristics of gamechangers, Fisk draws on a wealth of research to profile innovators in ten categories: retail, banking, health, gadgets, media, fashion, travel, food, technology and manufacturing. Each of these sections alone would make for an entire book in its own right, but I have summarised some of them in Table 2.

Table 2: The Gamechangers

SectorGamechangers 
RetailAmazon, Etsy, Rakuten, Positive Luxury, Le Pain Quotidien, Zara
BankingSquare, M-Pesa, Zidisha, Fidor, Umpqua
HealthAravind Eyecare, Narayana Hrudayalaya, Epocrates, Organova
GadgetsApple, Nike, Pebble, Lego, Oculus Rift, Renova
MediaNetflix, Spotify, Coursera, Pixar, Ushahidi, Al Jazeera
FashionThreadless, Shang Xai, Patagonia, Ashmei, Desigual
TravelZipcar, AirBnB, Red Bus, Air Asia, Virgin Galactic
FoodJuan Valdez Coffee, LA Organic, Nespresso, Aerolife, Beauty’In
TechnologyAlibaba, Xiaomi, Tencent, Huawei, Raspberry Pi, ARM, Samsung
MakersTesla, SpaceX, Syngenta, Corning, GE, Tata, Dyosn

Many of these profiled gamechangers tap the latest SMAC trends (social, mobile, analytics, cloud), create scaleable designs, address social responsibility, and build deep long-term relationships with their customers. Future technologies to watch include GRIN (genetic, robotic, intelligent and nano).

To achieve these effects and impacts, Fisk offers tools for four domains of change: why (purpose, benefit), who (customer), what (product or experience), and how (business model or service style). For example, the Insights Canvas maps out industry patterns, market parallels, customer needs and future enablers. The Brand Canvas covers brand vision, purpose, attributes, icons, words and differentiating factors.

“Gamechangers are bold and brave, with the ambition and audacity to believe that they can make a fundamental difference,” says Fisk. “Be creative, curious and connected,” he advises aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs.

“Everything you need is already inside you. Get started,” Fisk concludes.

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