First Challenger’s Credo, Intelligent Naivety

I bought Eating the Big Fish book from a discounted shelf at American Book Store. This book was on my e-reader, unfortunately, my conventional senses were not stimulated by a business book on kindle. So, I started flipping pages made out of dead trees on my flight back 5 days ago. And I found this interesting bit.

For the Challengers.


Giants and Children

The famous giant killers of folklore tend to be children. Whether their names are David or Jack, it does not occur to them a small round stone cannot successfully take on an eight-foot spear. (If you are going up against an eight-foot spear, the one weapon it is foolish to choose is a four-foot spear; if you can’t match the length, you need something different.)

The first foundation to challenge, then, is not experience, but innocence: the ability to step back upstream and question all the old assumptions afresh. Challenge them, in fact, and see which can really withstand the inquisition.

Then, if one views strategic thinking in terms of upstream (questions about the fundamentals in category) and downstream (refinements of product or service offering), it seems that most Challengers have to deliberately attempt to compete either significantly upstream or significantly downstream of the Establishment brand. The Brand Leader, having established the codes and conventions of the category, does not revisit or attempt to change them in terms of upstream thinking; equally they are too large and cumbersome to arrive at or implement innovative downstream thinking with any speed. Once one has made oneself innocent, perhaps the first decision to take about Eating the Big Fish, then, is whether the real opportunity to attack them lies upstream or downstream: Do we overturn the category basics (as Swatch), or develop the product to a point it hasn’t yet reached (JetBlue’s seat-back entertainment)?

Adam Morgan, 2009, page. 58

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