Just as Good

Greetings.  All of us in business today face the challenge of getting customers to buy our products, services, and solutions.  And to do this, we have to figure out a way to stand out from the pack.  To be better or more valuable to customers and potential customers than all of our competitors.  But is it possible to be better, or more valuable, by simply being the same?  This intriguing question was raised during the latest "Snowmageddon" here in D.C. when several hundred thousand homes across the area lost power and their happy tenants scrambled to figure out how to keep warm and manage the essentials of everyday living.  And as our local utility, Pepco, tried to figure out how to restore power after once again being poorly prepared for an annual occurrence affectionately known as winter.

But the real topic of today's post is portable energy and more specifically batteries–the things made by the folks at Duracell, Energizer, Rayovac, and other companies whose offerings were now prominently displayed on a table at our local hardware store.  And as I reached for several packages of Energizers, my personal favorites, I noticed a curious claim on the packages of Rayovacs which read:




A claim that smacked of:  "Take that you annoying rabbit" (as in the well-branded Energizer Bunny)!

Our product is just as good as yours and that's why customers should buy it! Though I now realize that their product is also somewhat cheaper…which means that you get a few extra batteries for your money.  No, it's not any better.  But that's just fine for the folks at Rayovac, who can't seem to figure out how to just be better and failing that have decided that being just as good is their best strategy.  A strategy that apparently condemns them to being cheaper forever unless they can figure out some other way to add value and increase market share.

(HINT: Why not try product or customer experience innovation?)

And being cheaper is a predicament you don't want to be in if you don't have to. That is unless your business model enables you to produce your offerings much less expensively than your competitors.  Or you're selling to government agencies or large corporations who are explicitly looking for the lowest responsible bidder. But even then, you owe it to both yourself and your customer to make your service, solution, or product stand out from the herd.  After all, there's a way bigger upside to having offerings that are better and that help customers achieve a better and more valuable result.

So as you begin the week ahead, take a few moments to think about whether or not your company or organization is just as good as its competitors or if you really are better in ways that matter to those you serve.


We win in business and in life when we challenge ourselves to be the best at something that really matters.  And when we believe that being "just as good" is never good enough.


Simply Genius

Greetings.  It's the start of a new week and a chance to approach the problems and opportunities you face in brand new ways.  And a good place to start is by challenging yourself and the geniuses you work with to stand conventional wisdom on its head.  To do something that really matters in a manner that is much simpler, faster, and cheaper than you ever imagined.  If this sounds impossible, you might enjoy a bit of inspiration from Lila Kerr and Lauren Theis–two undergraduate students at Rice University in Houston.  In a class on bioengineering and world health they were given the assignment to figure out a low-cost and portable way to diagnose anemia that did not require the use of conventional power.  And given the problem of anemia in developing countries, this seemed like something that really mattered.  In fact, diagnosing anemia is often a vital piece of information used to determine whether or not someone has other infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria.

Their solution involved modifying a salad spinner into a simple centrifuge that can separate 15 blood samples at a time into its component parts…all in roughly 20 minutes.  The invention, called "Sally Centrifuge," is currently being field tested in rural clinics in Africa and South America.  And if it works well could dramatically reduce the time required to analyze and treat life-threatening illnesses.

At a cost of $30.  And requiring only human energy and ingenuity.  While giving all of us a quick reminder of the value of approaching challenges with fresh eyes.

Salad Spinner

We win in business and in life when we see hidden potential in the simple things around us and seek to apply that potential to the things that really matter.  And when we eat more salad.

Cheers and have an innovative week ahead!