As an entrepreneur or an entrepreneurial business, there is nothing better than creating a new product or service that no one has ever seen before and turning it into a blockbuster commercial success. There is however another path to success, and this is called, the “fast follower”:
There are a lot of organizations who are successful, through the ability to see what others have done, and then moving quickly to do the same thing; this is the “fast follower”.
If you look at great companies like Microsoft or Apple, they are not necessarily the first to come up with a new idea. They are “fast followers”; if they see someone doing something, that has potential, they either buy it or build something similar; only they do it better. The Chinese are masters of the “fast follower” model: When they see something in the West, like Yahoo, Facebook, Uber, Google, their entrepreneurs quickly follow, to build their own.
A Fast Follower never allows a competitor to settle in on a new innovation without a response. I can tell you, that if we do not respond, it is usually because we do not think much of the new product or service. Otherwise, we try to respond hard and fast, using better management and execution skills than our competitor, with devastating efficiency. It’s part of the game. So next time you see a new product or service, in another market, don’t just admire: Be a “fast follower”
How to become an effective “fast follower”
The key to being a “fast follower” is being able to see what we call “substance over form”:
Most people find it very difficult to see “substance” over “form”: You cannot afford to have a superficial understanding of how something really works. You have to be very methodical in breaking down the reason why something is successful. Most often it is not as simple as it looks. You have to keep asking yourself:
“How does this really work?”; “What is the business model?”; “How do they really make money?” Ninety-nine percent of the users of WhatsApp or Twitter, for instance, have no idea how it makes money. It is superficial, to say, “advertising”. Not enough: how exactly, do they do it?!
Sometimes, when you dig deep, you find the “secret source”, is not even technological. The Fast Follower is methodical and dogged, in his analysis . He acts quickly, but not rashly.
The Fast Follower knows that there is a huge difference between, “knowing” how something works, as a user (consumer) and what you need to know, as an entrepreneur, who is looking for a serious opportunity. The Fast Follower, does not copy, they look at something very carefully, and then try to re- imagine it:
“How can we make this better?” “How do we use this, in our own context?”
Steve Jobs, did not invent the cell phone, in coming up with the iPhone. He took something that had been there, for nearly 20 years, and completely re-imagined it, to come up with the iPhone. In fact, Steve Jobs was the “master” Fast Follower: He did not invent anything new. He innovated around ideas that had been there all along. The same could be said, about much of what Bill Gates did. A Fast Follower knows that if you simply copy something, you have not understood it. When a Fast Follower gets hold of something, they “re-imagine” it into something new. Understanding the concept of being a Fast Follower” opens up an incredible world for you and your business.
There is a guy who was trying to get a taxi. After waiting for hours in the rain, he decided there had to be a better way to get a taxi. He developed a Mobile Phone App for finding a taxi. The business he created, called Uber, is now worth more than any business in Africa. This is “fast follower”! When a “fast follower” sees a problem, he or she does not think, who else can give me better service, they think in terms of how can I turn this into an opportunity to come up with a new way of doing this, and make money for myself. Whatever it is that made you frustrated or unhappy today, is actually an opportunity for you to become a billionaire….Seize it before another.
By Strive Masiyiwa