Michael Dell gave the commencement address to my graduating class at University of Texas at Austin in which he said – “never measure your success based on the success of others – because you just might set the bar too low.” That’s so true with businesses as well. When businesses try and steer themselves to follow the competition, they in a way shut down the creative brains in their organizations by setting the bar too low. Blind reactivity is the killer of creativity. It’s creativity that will make you the winner in the long run, because you can react and do the catch-up only to a certain extent.
This is true in almost all the fields. For example, take branding. We talk about the Apple brand all the time. Everyone wants to be the Apple of their industry. But how many Apples are out their? Companies try to build advertisements that resemble iPod or Mac, they try to name their product to follow the conventions set by Steve Jobs, they try to shape the brand resembling Apple, but often they are a miss. So where do they go wrong? I believe they lack the originality and the genuineness in their branding. They lack the creativity which is the only thing that attracts customers to Apple.
Another area where reactivity leads to disasters is product development. What better example here than a company that redefined the Internet business? Google is known for it’s creativity in product development. Recently Fast Company rated it the most innovative company in the world. There are numerous companies ranging from biggies to the start-ups trying to catch-up with Google in search and other product development. But more than 60% of people still use Google for their search queries. Reason: it’s hard to catch them. They are always a step ahead. While other companies spend energies trying to do the reactive catch-up business, their creative engines take them a step ahead.
But then there is creative reactivity hitting aces from time to time. Creative reactivity works almost all the time. You can never be the first to come up with a product all the time. You got to use the creativity after seeing the competition doing something right and develop on top of it to take the lead. The difference here as compared to blind reactivity is that you are not trying to catch-up, you are acknowledging that the customers are embracing something new and trying to fulfill their requirement in better and more creative ways. That’s creativity invoked by reactivity.