The Indispensible Ingredient: Unconventional Thinking

In previous articles I’ve suggested that consumers are pretty much insatiable by nature, and that this realization should inspire businesses to continuously innovate.

I also argued that businesses should aim to infatuate consumers and keep them infatuated, which is the basis for staying relevant and creating lifestyle-enriching offerings. Today, I’d like to look at unconventional thinking as it relates to market leadership.

It is unrestrained, unconventional thinking that we see in children when they are exercising their imaginations. It is this ability to challenge conventional wisdom, to think counter intuitively, that enables businesses to be market driving. Let’s explore the power of unconventional thinking more deeply.

A 2009 article in the St. Petersburg Times reported: “Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine, was browsing in a Florida bookstore a few years ago when he picked up a copy of Hannibal Crosses the Alps by Eckerd College classics professor John Prevas. As he reviewed the book for his magazine, Forbes was struck by two things: that the elements of successful leadership have not changed in 2,000 years and that anyone who accomplishes something great or unique, whether in business or politics, often does so by defying conventional wisdom.

Forbes contacted Prevas, and the two collaborated on a book that came out in the summer of 2009, entitled: Power Ambition Glory: The Stunning Parallels Between Great Leaders of the Ancient World and Today—and the Lessons You Can Learn. Among the ancient leaders profiled are the famous—Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great—and lesser-knowns like Xenophon, who emerged from nowhere at a time of crisis to lead a defeated and demoralized Greek army out of Persia.

There is a rather powerful observation by Steve Forbes: “Anyone who accomplishes something great or unique, whether in business or politics, often does so by defying conventional wisdom.”

But if you think about it, it seems perfectly true and accurate. Just imagine how profoundly different our world might be today if the American Founding Fathers didn’t have the vision and audacity to create an entirely new model of government based on the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and on the principle of checks and balances.

What other historical examples come to mind when you think of unconventional thinking?