As companies invent new ways of doing things, and as consumers shift to these new habits, a new “normal” happens.
Think, for a moment, about how things used to be—the old normal:
Not so long ago film was developed at 1-hour photo shops. VHS tapes were rented from Blockbuster, books browsed at Borders, and CD’s flipped through at Tower Records. Encyclopedias were used to “search” for facts and information. Restaurants were “called” for reservations and directions; and dialed 411 to get a phone number. Vacation spending money were “traveller’s cheques.” Letters were handwritten and “mailed” at the post office. Bills were paid using printed checks. Cellphones were just telephones.
In just the past ten years we have seen a revolutionary and disruptive change in how we communicate; buy and sell; find entertainment; and move through our daily lives. “Normal” has been reinvented. Companies like eBay, Apple, Google, Wikia, Facebook, Amazon, OpenTable, FedEx, and Netflix have changed the way we live our lives.
You’ll know a new normal exists when it is hard to imagine life before the new way of doing something. Why go to a bookstore when you can buy online? Why call for directions when you can use Google maps. Why call when you can Skype? Why go to your high school reunion when you can keep in touch on Facebook? Why develop film, or “rent” a video?
Reinventing normal requires leaders: visionary companies who wish to disrupt the marketplace, and followers: businesses who support a new ecosystem built by the leader, and competitors who try to mimic the leader and steal some market-share. Reinventing normal also, and most importantly, takes consumers who accept the new normal by adopting the new behavior.
Of course, there have been plenty of companies who tried to reinvent normal, and failed. Consider Webvan (the online grocery delivery service), and Hulu (the streaming entertainment content company which promised revolution, and is delivering just short of that). And of course there is Microsoft who thought of marketing a tablet before Apple’s iPad, and Zune before Apple’s iPod.
So what does it take to be the company that reinvents normal?
The ability to imagine a different and better world—to create a great idea.
Revolutionary ways of doing things come out of technological or creative innovation, and products that make that technology/creativity useful.
An idea doesn’t create change. Execution does. A strong business plan, and the expertise and commitment to implement will make or break a marketplace reinvention.
In order to be a leader in reinventing normal, you need to have built a better mousetrap than anyone out there; and that mousetrap must be desired by a mass audience.
The technology, product or service needs to be ready to work as intended.
Consumers are ultimately in control of the new normal. Without mass adoption by consumers, an idea, a technology, and a product will simply sit on a shelf—affecting nothing. Consumer adoption takes early adopters, amplifiers who spread the word, and followers who create mass appeal, and beget more customers—and reinvent normal.