Creativity & Risks
What could destroy your business this week? A disruptive, game-changing innovation on the part of a competitor? New legislation that affects your market? Thirty customers dying as the result of using your product? Some threats are predictable. For the most part, predictable threats cause problems but will not destroy your business, largely because you can make contingency plans around these threats. It is the threats that you do not anticipate that can do the most damage. Fortunately, there is a method you can use so that you can better identify and prepare for threats As a benefit, this approach can even identify opportunities that make your business a threat to the competition!
“Threatstorming” uses creative thinking principals in order to identify risks and threats to your business. It is conceptually similar to brainstorming (hence the name), in that the aim is to generate creative ideas. But, whereas in brainstorming you are typically looking for opportunities (new products, new services, operational efficiencies) that you can implement, in threatstorming, you are looking for threats that your competitors, your government, your customers or your environment might impose upon you.
However, threatstorming is not so simple as asking “What could destroy our business this week?” and generating a lot of ideas. Such a broad question would generate the obvious risks you are already familiar with. Instead, you need to use creativity in order to identify the potential sources of threats and then ask more focused questions such as these.
- What new technology could render our product obsolete?
- What government legislation could seriously affect our business?
- In what ways could our customers misuse our products and potentially harm themselves or others?
The threatstorming questions you ask in your company need to reflect your business model and activities. The potential threats facing a massive pharmaceutical company are different to those facing a small management consultancy.
It is also important to put a diverse team of people in charge of generating ideas. This group should go beyond top management and include people on the shop floor, people interacting with customers, people in communications; in short a cross-section of your company. People interacting with customers, for instance, are likely to be aware of typical customer complaints or issues that are not known to top management. People in research and development will have a clearer idea of new technologies that might disrupt your business.
In addition to identifying threats, threatstorming can identify opportunities. For instance, a great question to ask is: “What new product, could our main competitor introduce tomorrow, that would put us out of business by the end of the year?” Clearly, if your people identify a realistic threat, the best thing you can do is to develop and bring to market the threatening product yourself – and threaten the longevity of your main competitors’ businesses!
Likewise, identifying potential legislation that could affect your market, might give your team ideas about product or service improvements that will put you ahead of the competition even if the new legislation is never enacted.
An important aspect of threatstorming is how you evaluate ideas in order to identify realistic threats. Typically, you need to evaluate against criteria that enables you to judge the likelihood and consequences of each threat.
Once this is done, you can use creative thinking methodology in order to identify solutions to potential threats. For this, I recommend my anticonventional thinking method
If you would like to talk about using threatstorming in your organisation, let me know. I’d be delighted to help!
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