Chapter 16

Challenge Convention

See Where Your Competitors Are Focusing—and Then Make Different Choices

“Neither Redbox or Netflix are even on the radar screen in terms of competition.”

—Jim Keyes, CEO, Blockbuster, 2008


No one can be expected to get everything right all of the time. And it’s not fair to pick on people who make a prediction. After all, predictions often miss the mark, or at least get the details wrong. And most predictions can be proven incomplete if you test them far enough into the future. But the number of doozies spouted in the name of either innovation or insight is pretty astounding. In 2011, a mere three years after this quote from Blockbuster’s CEO, the bankrupt company was sold to DISH Network for around $320 million.

Here’s the thing. Blockbuster didn’t think it was missing the bigger picture.1 On the contrary, in the same interview, the CEO outlined a bold strategy for success, including a pivot toward becoming more of a mass media retailer. But he was still trying to figure out how to get folks into his stores when, in fact, those same folks were increasingly refusing to get off the couch to buy anything. Blockbuster missed a critical moment that upstart competitors saw and were more committed to seizing.

Industries are plagued with pervasive and unarticulated beliefs about how things are done. Over time, good practices can harden into ossified layers of behaviors that are done by rote. Too often, what might be best for actual customers is overlooked ...

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