I am writing about the game of business. I find it useful to define
this game using four elements:
1. The value proposition,
2. The core competencies required to deliver that value,
3. The set of target customers, and
4. The reframing that takes place in the minds of the stakeholders.
For example, let’s take a brief look at the history of a real
game-changer, the self-propelled car or automobile.
As far as we know there were attempts at designing and perhaps even
building a steam-driven self-propelled vehicle in the late 17th
century. It was a fancy at that time. The first designed carried no
A good one hundred years later a steam-powered tricycle was built. This
and other attempts were plagued by problems that kept them breaking
down before they could be of any real use. Another hundred years went
by and the time was ripe for a true self-powered car, the progenitor of
With competitors on several fronts, Karl Benz first put together a
four-stroke cycle gas engine along with three rubber tires, a
well-crafted steering mechanism, and a single-speed transmission in
1885. He patented his creation in 1886. Twenty-five Benz vehicles
were sold over the next seven years, and this marked the beginning
affordable, functional automobiles.
Benz dominated the early market. His name still stands today
representing extreme quality. (Did you know it was his wife, Bertha,
who financed his early fruitful efforts?)
Here is an outline of his game change using my four elements:
1. Benz’s primary value proposition shifted from developing reliable
engines to producing affordable automobiles.
2. He demonstrated the core competencies required by parlaying his
recognized skill with engines and extending it to include other
components of a well-designed automobile.
3. His target customers shifted away from those who wanted engines and
toward those who wanted better travel.
4. He went from being a tinkerer and inventor who designed and
delivered a great engine to the creator of the first modern automobile,
a well demarcated turn of the page. It was a shift into a new era with
great favor bestowed upon Benz and his company as a result.
Here are some other examples of game changes, these from the last
� In 1927 DuPont perfected moisture-proof cellophane
making it possible to package foods that had to be protected and yet
seen at the same time, spawning a new era of food packaging.
� Multi-level marketing was created in the 1930s by
Dr. Carl Rehnborg to sell his multivitamins, spawning Amway, today one
of the largest private companies in the U.S.
� In 1949 Robert Abplanalp invented a crimp on valve
that enabled liquids to be sprayed from a can under the pressure of an
inert gas. He patented it in the early 50s and went on to run Precision
Valve Corporation that persists today as a leader in the industry,
generating $100s of millions of revenue in its lifetime.
� The introduction of the personal computer in the
late 1970s spawned a new age in the development and sales of
microprocessors which made continuous improvement a starting reality as
every year greater power resulted from a smaller chip.
� When Apple introduced their app store in 2008, the
smart phone came into its own cementing Apple’s lead as a leading smart
phone provider and changing the role of that communication device in
What if you could engineer a similar game change, one that put you in a
favorable position in the market? That’s what innovation does and it’s
one of the things that I’ll be exploring in the weeks ahead as I share
with you advance excerpts of my forthcoming book, Getting Innovation Right: How Smart
Leaders Use Inflection Points to Drive Market Success.