This week’s guest has been around in the innovation industry for quite some time. We know a lot of the same people as we were at two companies that worked closely together. Brad Chase is an author and a former Senior VP at Microsoft. We will discuss innovation advantage through strategy and insights from his book, Strategy First: How Businesses Win Big.
Brad’s stepfather used to go to Heathkit stores to find computer parts and build computers. Through this, Brad saw a lot of future potential in personal computers. He ended up going to business school, and after finishing, he interviewed with companies such as Apple, Microsoft, and HP. He ended up landing a job with Microsoft, where he spent 14 years exploring innovative advantages. While at Microsoft, Brad led the marketing efforts for the Windows 95 launch. It was the first operating system to help PCs go mainstream. Windows 95 ushered personal computers, Microsoft and Bill Gates into the mainstream media and technology world.
Exploring Innovation Advantage
Brad learned a lot about strategy from Bill Gates. At Microsoft, he learned how the company had bet on the PC. They believed there would be a PC in every home on every desk, running Microsoft software. Right away, he learned that making bets is vital to success. If you bet on the wrong thing, you fail, but if you bet on the right thing, you will have a chance at success.
When Brad first started, Microsoft was doing poorly on word processing and spreadsheets and was behind its competitors. Microsoft decided to bet on a GUI (Graphical User Interface) and made a big risky bet on Windows, which turned out to be very successful. They eventually went on to become the leader in applications by using innovation advantages. Microsoft built most of their applications from the ground up.
A significant difference between Microsoft and Apple was that anyone could build a Windows computer as well as applications for it. Apple was a closed ecosystem where the users were not able to do that.
Strategy First: How Businesses Win Big
When Brad was talking strategy to different businesses and MBA students, people would always ask him if he had a book. He did some research and found out there were no books that talked about strategy in a clear and easily understandable way, and that is how his book was born. The purpose of the book is to show that strategy is the most important thing to the success of a business leader and to give a model and tips about how to build a good strategy.
In many organizations, the strategy can mean a thousand different things. Brad defines strategy as a plan to compete with three key elements: execution, market potential, and customer value. Customer value is the inherent value of a product or service to a customer. The market potential is generally about how much profit you can make.
At the Innovation Bootcamp, we don’t look at financials first when evaluating an idea. We say to value the idea first on the standpoint of impact and to achieve the objective. Once you’ve identified those ideas, you build a hypothesis on what the market potential is. Some people lose focus on the idea and don’t add the strategy in, which is a bad idea.
Advice for the Listeners
Brad gives five key tips for building a new strategy in his book. The first is to seek change. Whenever there is a change in the market, such as COVID-19, there is a strategic opportunity to put innovative advantages into play. The internet, as an example, has made some businesses fail, and others succeed. Secondly, mind the gaps. Minding the gaps is about looking at the key areas of strategy and seeing where people aren’t doing well, then filling those gaps. Lastly, do a strategy off sight. First, assess your current strategy. Then, discuss where you want to take your strategy with your team. Talking things out and being aligned with a strategy is so very important. Leaders not aligned with a strategy will fail. No team sport will succeed unless everybody is on the same page.
About our Guest: Brad Chase
Brad Chase has advised leaders of businesses of many different sizes, from startups to Fortune 500 firms. Some of the companies he has worked with include GE, Telstra, VMware, Mozy (a subsidiary of EMC), Blucora, Sonos, Vizrea, and Crisply. He has also held leadership positions on the boards of many companies and nonprofit organizations, including Expedia, Ooyala, DreamBox, Brooks, Boys and Girls Clubs of King County, and The Nature Conservancy. As a public speaker, Brad has spoken about his particular theory on business strategy, Strategy First. He has talked about this innovation advantage to executives at large and small businesses, incubators, at conferences, and to students at top-flight MBA programs. Before consulting, board work, and speaking, Brad spent 14 years at Microsoft finishing his tenure as a Senior Vice President and Executive Officer managing a team of over 4,000.
To know more about using strategy as an innovation advantage, listen to this week's show: Using Strategy to Create Innovation Advantage.