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  • Acumen Learning

Anticipation and Innovation


Most businesses try to satisfy customer needs and expectations. Other enterprises even make a conscious effort to exceed them. But truly successful companies achieve an even higher level of excellence, a more powerful form of competitive advantage. They anticipate the needs of customers and innovate to meet those future needs. Microsoft’s “Where do you want to go today?” campaign has practical financial relevance.

While it is critical to continually survey customers and other stake holders to determine their needs, recommendations, and desire for future products and services, that only tells you what the client is thinking right now. Customer feedback has limitations because people can’t always identify what it is they’ll want in the future. But strategically, you can’t plan for right now; you have to plan for the future if you want to ensure your company’s survival.

Effectively using the principle of anticipation and innovation is the ultimate competitive advantage. Dr. W. Edwards Deming, management and quality guru, said, “Innovation comes from the producer—not from the customer” and pointed out that no customer asked for a microwave oven. Henry Ford said that if he’d asked his customers what they wanted, they would’ve asked for a faster horse.