Why should you do counterintuitive things?

How to do things that are counterintuitive

Apple’s retail stores are, on a per-square-foot basis, the highest grossing stores in the US. Apple achieved this goal by doing a whole string of things which are utterly counter-intuitive.

Ron Johnson, Apple’s former VP of Retail Operations, pondered over the question on how to create the best possible customer experience:

Stores that sell to a customer once every few years generally opt for cheap real estate in remote locations; but the ideal store, for customers and for a brand looking to make its mark, would be right at the center of things.

Telephone support should be fine for such occasional customers, but face-to-face interaction is what people really want, especially with computers, which are a lot harder to understand than, say, a raincoat.

Salespeople are motivated by commissions, but customers don’t want to feel pressured into buying something they don’t want. Johnson came up with almost a dozen of these ideas, each of which went against the heart of traditional retailing practice.

Johnson summarized his approach: “If you think something through hard enough, you’ll get to the inevitable answer.”

What are the counterintuitive things you need to do to set yourself apart from your competitors?

This leads me to another thought.

One of the more interesting litmus tests I do with entrepreneurs pitching me a startup is to dig really deep into their respective industries. I read up on the industry, I ask experts, I plough through the trade press. And then I start asking questions.

Sadly it’s remarkable to see how many entrepreneurs haven’t gained a deep understanding of their respective industries.

For every entrepreneur, reaching a depth of understanding about an industry is paramount to be successful.

To be able to disrupt an industry, to truly solve a customer’s problems, to build a valuable product or service – you need to deeply understand the industry you’re working in.

How does distribution work? How does money flow in the industry? Where are people and companies wasting resources? Who’s doing what in your industry? What are the power structures? Who are the gatekeepers and lighthouse customers?

Intimately understanding an industry allows you to turn it inside out. And that’s how amazing companies are build.

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