Innovation Lessons From...Donald Trump
While Donald Trump is not an innovator, he does share certain characteristics with successful innovators and their businesses. As such, he can be used as an example in presenting lessons to would-be innovators.
Lesson One: Recognize and fervently appeal to the unmet needs of your target customer base.
Trump appeals very strongly to white, politically conservative, blue collar males who feel that America's current political leaders don't serve their needs or interests. Trump gets these folks stoked on his rhetoric which speaks to restoring the American Dream for people like them. Despite equally passionate detractors among females and minorities, based on his intense appeal to his base, Trump is now the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee.
Similarly, cultivating "zealots" (their actual term for them) has been Bath and Body Works' product fragrance strategy from its inception. Unlike mainstream consumer packaged goods companies that had typically selected their products' scents by appealing to the broadest customer base, BBW developed and launched product collections featuring fragrances which are exceptionally appealing to particular customer targets. BBW's passionate customer base has fueled its business growth into the nation's largest body care specialty retailer.
Lesson Two: Learn from failure when it occurs and keep moving forward.
While he doesn't follow the fail fast approach, Trump is absolutely unfazed by failure. He responds to it by unapologetically dusting himself off and continuing to leverage his brand, contacts, and considerable financial resources to launch new companies, deals and ventures. Similarly, in innovation, we should expect failure as part of the learning process and when it occurs we must regroup and intelligently continue to make progress, even if this requires pivoting.
Lesson Three: Established categories are often blindsided by outsiders.
As a political outsider, Trump is similar to innovative category product and service entrants in that category leading incumbents don't typically anticipate intruders and find it tough to effectively respond to them. Trump forced 16 largely experienced political rivals out of the Republican presidential primary race by running an entirely unconventional campaign. In the product world, noteworthy category outsiders include Dollar Shave Club, Uber, Airbnb, and Netflix among others. In each category, leading incumbents have been unable to meaningfully respond to these upstarts.
Love him or hate him, Donald Trump is going to be with us for the next 6 months (at least). Even if we can't manage to ignore Trump the Candidate, we should try to learn useful business lessons from his examples.
"Connecting You With The Right Solutions" BFS Innovations, Inc.