A lot of people spend a lot of strategic time thinking about the future. I get it. Charles Kettering said; “My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there.” Everybody is looking for the next thing, the next idea, the next step, all of which share the same feature, they don’t exist just yet. But the past, well, the past is always there and the past never lies or misleads. It is out of the impact zone of “the arrow of time.”
Lots of companies do fantastic work with a focus on the past. Here are two:
- The AMAZON PRIME PROGRAM – Imagine you were in the first meeting with this pitch; we are going to charge people money so they will spend more money with us. HUH? How is that gonna work? Jeff Bezo’s has not become the richest man in the world by not seeing things a little differently. What have people always wanted? Notice the past tense? Lots of stuff. Cheaper stuff. Get me stuff fast. If we can build on these proven (again the tense) wants, just watch how fast people will sign up. This is a strategy with a huge chunk of it on past behaviors and desires.
- NETFLIX – Wait a minute. These guys have been on the cutting edge of our watching habits. No doubt there and they are fantastic at it. Richard Hastings is also wicked smart. Netflix has one of the fastest growth companies in history and it’s one of the most recognizable brands on the planet. But it started with a couple of past driven ideas. One, “people have always loved entertainment and they always will.” A past and future statement. “People hated late fees”. For those of you with who may not know your entertainment history, Netflix started out in the DVD rental business and one of their first shots at the then industry leader, Blockbuster, was to eliminate the hate point. No late fees were a huge growth factor.
I’m not saying you should limit your strategic vision to yesterday, but I am saying that to ignore it is to miss a huge planning advantage.
At Creative Ventures, we start all of our strategic planning projects with a hard focus on what we call CURRENT REALITY or where the foundation of the project is RIGHT NOW (right now is really the immediate past).
So, use the rearview mirror and take a peek behind you and you might just find the strategic leverage point you are looking for.