In business, if you’re not growing, you’re dying.
Constant growth requires identifying white space opportunities beyond your current boundaries. Attacking the white space challenge often requires a dual focus; exploring the intersection of multiple emerging terrains, and deciding how the convergence of these two or more technologies might satisfy powerful latent consumer needs. Whatever the opportunity, you must continually engage in expanding your reach and understanding about new consumers, new customers, new partners, new suppliers, competitors, business models and emerging marketplace dynamics if you are going to achieve success. But how can you identify and act on these?
My simple BOLTS theory proves a winner time and time again: B stands for breakthrough; O is for overcoming fear; L is for lenses off; T stands for think big; and S for seize it. A great example of my BOLTS theory in action is the Indian appliance manufacturer Godrej and Boyce, and the success story of their ChotuKool, a small appliance that’s revolutionizing rural life in India.
Let’s start with breakthrough. How do we define a breakthrough? Business breakthroughs often share an unmistakable yet simultaneously indefinable quality: they’re not always easy to predict or describe before they happen, but you know them when you see them. Electricity is unavailable or unreliable in many rural parts of India where families earning under $5 per day cannot afford major appliances. Imagine living in a home without a refrigerator! Breakthrough thinking was necessary to come up with a solution to this consumer need.
O is for overcome fear: Many companies are reluctant to enter white space because of the unknown. White space can cannibalize existing products or services. It can require expensive system design and support, and in some cases it can require very different business models. What Godrej did in terms of overcoming fear was to evolve a new business model to fit the market. Beyond the single-state tech market, Godrej designed the process of expanding distribution using community networks. Rather than simply cutting costs out of the bigger refrigerator, Godrej started with a clean slate, by looking at how people lived in huts in rural villages. Villagers don’t buy in bulk, but shop every day. Godrej saw that a cooler that could just hold a few items would be ideal for that customer.
Lenses off: Stop looking at your industry only. Customers and buyers make trade-offs. This intuitive thinking of alternatives in whatever industry we operate in is imperative for identifying market space.
T is for think big, as in look at untapped values. What did Godrej and Boyce do? The company looked for untapped value. What it realized was that homes didn’t need cheap refrigerators, but something small and affordable. This is thinking outside the box.
S is for seize, as in seize opportunities. Opportunities multiply. The early success of ChotuKool led to Godrej being named India’s most successful company of the year by Business Standard magazine. ChotuKool was also awarded the 2012 Edison Awards Gold Prize in the Social Impact category.
The BOLTS theory is a great tool to help you identify, perfect, and capitalize on the Big Audacious Ideas that can lift your business to the next level. Look past your limitations, and don't be afraid to think outside your box. You might just change the world.