Finding Your Inner Scorpion

Mitch Morrison, Vice President of Retailer Relations

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Trying to keep up with Jeremy Gutsche’s intergalactic mind is like riding a tricycle at the Daytona 500—you pedal with all your might, but it won’t matter as race car drivers pass by you.

And so is trying to take in the “whir” of mental activity from the celebrated author and mastermind of Gutsche spoke at Winsight’s 2017 Convenience Retailing University (CRU) conference in Glendale, Ariz.

In Gutsche’s world, earth is never static, and businesses that seek to protect their sacred cows will be left as sacrificial lambs.

One-time headliners such as Blockbuster, Kodak, Smith Corona and Blackberry lost relevance by embracing their present at the expense of tomorrow. Kodak developed a digital camera in 1975, yet tucked it away and stayed beholden to film. Blockbuster was on pace to acquire an emerging Netflix as it dabbled with the convergence of digital and brick and mortar, only to disband the former to preserve the latter.

So how does the Calgary native prepare us for a world where “we’re experiencing history’s highest rate of change and yet our brain is the production of 10,000 years of evolution”?

The answer is simple—combine a rocket ship, origami, a heart and a black scorpion …

From physicist to paper cuts

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Robert Lang, 55, was raised in Dayton, Ohio. He became a physicist and worked for NASA. At night, away from space, Lang was thinking about spatiality—in the world of paper. Origami.

With a single sheet, he negotiated confounding manipulations, creating a kingdom of animals and insects, including the black scorpion. He would leave NASA and compete against the world’s best origami master.

In Gutsche’s world of finding those who see the hidden, Lang is exemplary. Specializing in intricate algorithms, the former research scientist helped design folding patterns for a German airbag manufacturer, worked with a team to develop a powerful space telescope with a lens that could fit into a rocket and unfold in space and assisted a heart-stent maker needing to figure out how to squeeze the little stent into a heart valve.

In Gutsche’s best-selling book, "Better and Faster," Lang shares why he left the world of professional physics at the age of 40 for a world fraught with paper cuts. “There were plenty of people doing lasers,” he said. “The things I could do in origami—if I didn’t do them, they wouldn’t get done.”

Don’t be like most

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In Gutsche’s world, there are three infectious diseases that stifle greatness: being complacent, repetitive and protective.

And even the best are sometimes guilty. He shared how Google assembled a massive team armed with ample financial resources to duplicate a surging social-media company called Facebook. While the digital giant was playing catchup, another view took shape—alternatives to a site that celebrates sharing with friends. Twitter appealed to strangers in 140 characters, Instagram celebrated the world of photos and Snapchat truncated texting to a picture and a few words.

Had Google explored the alternative, Gutsche suggested, it could have owned any or all of these new people connectors.

“Rethink about what people actually want. … Accelerate,” he said.

And when Gutsche talks in principles, he identifies six core strategies for seizing fresh opportunities: convergence, divergence, cyclicality, redirection, reduction and acceleration.

How to win

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How much time do you spend hunting new opportunities and asking yourself if you were to start from scratch—to create a new small-format store anchored in convenience—what would it look like? Who would be your intended customer? What would be your story?

Perhaps, necessarily so, our attention is on staying the same, holding onto our share of business. Inevitably, such a tight grip can leave us holding onto nothing.

To combat that, Gutsche hits on three critical steps: “Be insatiable, be curious and be willing to destroy.”