The Outsider Perspective


Image source: Joedferg. Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Image source: Joedferg. Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

I mentioned in my last post that perception or the way you see the world is critical for creativity to flourish. I will explore the mobile phone industry as I attempt to explain how the original three major players got annihilated. The former major players in the mobile phone industry were Nokia, Blackberry and Sony-Ericsson and they have been upstaged by three companies who were not even players in this industry 10 years ago – Apple, Samsung and Google. The big question is how did this happen?

The three current biggest players (Apple, Samsung and Google) are outsiders who have transformed or disrupted the industry from the outside. I am fascinated with the outsider’s perspective. Outsiders are able to see old things in a fresh way and they are not conditioned by the perceptual biases of a field, discipline or industry. The outsider knows just enough to know what needs to change in an industry but not too much to be trapped or blinded by the dominant knowledge of that industry. You can know too much about your field or industry that it prevents you from seeing new things. Too much knowledge can stifle creativity and risk taking.

We all see the world not as it is but as we are. Our perception of life is not objective but subjective. It is dependent on our perceptual biases. One way of breaking the grip of perceptual biases is by asking ourselves uncomfortable questions. These are questions that challenge our worldviews and paradigms. You have to disrupt the way you view the world if you want to see it in a fresh or new way. This is because once your perception of the world is conditioned then it becomes a habitual way of seeing it.  The challenging questions we would rather avoid or ignore rather than confront and answer are the questions that eventually cause us to stumble and fall.

Industry giants never see the danger of the industry outsiders because their attention and energies are spent on their current recognized competitors. They are concerned with how they can neutralize such competitors that they ignore the outsiders to their detriment. The problem is that industry giants act like each other while outsiders act differently. They don’t play by the current rules of the industry; they change the industry because they see it a different way.

The Samsung chairman keeps his employees on their toes by saying all the time “This is perpetual crisis. We are in danger. We are in jeopardy” (via Sam Grobart). This is an attempt to ensure that Samsung does not to get too comfortable in their current position of industry dominance so that what happened to Nokia, Blackberry and Sony-Ericsson does not befall the company as well.

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