I recently participated in a course on innovation that preached benchmarking as an indispensable innovation strategy. The professor railed upon the importance of comparing your company to industry leaders and imitating their strategy to achieve innovation success. I actually started talking back to my computer screen as I watched the lecture. I couldn’t believe this is what was actually being taught to students as innovation! Follow the leader is a children’s game not an innovation strategy.
Amazon, Apple, Intel, and Google—all great companies that disrupted an industry and became examples of startup success. Every new company would love to duplicate their meteoric rise to prominence. These companies are studied, analyzed, and emulated on a daily basis. They are considered stalwart benchmarks of excellence. However, when you step back and look at what made them successful, one glaring fact should become evident. They became successful not by following the leader but rather by blazing an entirely new trail. They didn’t just take the road less traveled but navigated a path never before traversed.
Companies don’t succeed by following what someone else did regardless of the success level that other company has achieved. They succeed by determining what is right for them, what is right for their culture, and what is right for their customers. It should be these variables that are your benchmark, not what someone else is doing.
If you want to be the next Amazon, Apple, Intel, or Google the first thing you should do is disregard everything Amazon, Apple, Intel, and Uber except the fact that they followed no one. Throw out the mold. Break the barriers. Disregard the benchmarks. Ignore what you have read in every blog including this one. Forge a new path like the successful entrepreneurs before you. You can be the next great success story but only if you blaze your own trail.
Follow the leader is not an innovation strategy.