5 business strategies to maintain advantage, bust competition

Lawyers find it’s harder than ever to stay ahead of the competition. To help, business strategist Kaihan Krippendorff, author of “Outthink the Competition,” shared advice for thriving in today’s legal marketplace during his keynote speech last month at the American Bar Association 2014 Bar Leadership Institute.

Here are five of his key ideas for gaining a competitive edge:

Look beyond the obvious
Krippendorff believes that companies with staying power challenge conventional wisdom by becoming “outthinkers,” or those who look beyond the obvious solutions for new answers. His advice: “Whenever you face a challenge and you see yourself jumping in and doing what has been done before, you want to stop and say, ‘Is there an option we’re not considering?’”

Use storytelling to build support
Successful implementation of new ideas often requires the support of stakeholders, who may not be immediately on board with your strategies. Using logic to win over the naysayers won’t always work, Krippendorff said. He recommends presenting ideas to stakeholders in a narrative that will engage them emotionally, so they see themselves as part of the story. When stakeholders are invested, they’re more likely to support your ideas.

Think like an innovator
After studying some of history’s best strategists, Krippendorff determined five habits that can help people become successful outthinkers:

  1. Be visionary — Go beyond what others see to imagine an alternate future.

  2. Realize that everything is interconnected — Opportunities often arise when you see the connection between two things that others cannot see, Krippendorff said.

  3. Be creative — Reach for a different perspective. If others are looking for a solution one way, you need to reach outside the existing vocabulary, he said.

  4. Adopt disruptive strategies — Do something that others will ignore — until it’s too late for them to realize you’ve gained the upper hand.

  5. Reshape perceptions that keep stakeholders stuck in the past — Innovative ideas are always inconsistent with prevailing logic and beliefs. Your ability to influence others is critical to challenging existing notions.

Implement the outthinker process
Krippendorff also identified five steps to help develop innovative strategies:

  1. Imagine the future you desire.

  2. Dissect your intended approach and identify leverage points that will help you move forward.

  3. Expand your options with brainstorming for new ideas.

  4. Analyze those new ideas and pursue the ones that will boost your competitive advantage.

  5. Sell your ideas with a communications plan to build support.

Prioritize corporate responsibility
While “greed is good” may have been the watchword of business during the 1980s, Krippendorff said that winning companies today are proving the strategic value of corporate responsibility. Doing good —pursuing a goal that appeals to a large group of stakeholders — builds your community of supporters by attracting more people who want you to succeed.

The ABA Bar Leadership Institute, a training program for state, local and special-focus bar leaders, is presented annually by the Standing Committee on Bar Activities and Services and the Division for Bar Services.

Related videos

Each key idea above links to a related video sound bite. For more from Krippendorff at the ABA Bar Leadership Institute, view additional video highlights on: