Gini Dietrich

Be the Leader In Your Industry: Blaze the Trail

By: Gini Dietrich | August 29, 2011 | 
223

Steve Jobs resigned last week. This is likely not news to you. But what is interesting is it likely will cripple the consumer electronics industry.

Spending quite a bit of time on the speaking circuit, I constantly hear from leaders that they’re afraid to use the web for business reasons because they don’t want the competition to know what they’re doing.

A Page from the Apple Book

The consumer electronics industry is built around copying the successful products that Apple produces.

When the iPhone came out, there were copycat touch-screen phones on the market within months. Apple blazed the trail.

The iPad created a tablet category that didn’t exist two years ago and now every mobile company on earth is building one. Apple blazed the trail.

Amazon, Google, and BlackBerry now have app stores. Apple blazed the trail.

Microsoft opened 11 retail stores this year. Apple blazed the trail.

Blaze the Trail

Apple also is the most wealthy company in the United States. They have more cash than our government. And they blaze the trail for their competitors.

They aren’t scared of the competition figuring out how they do things. They blaze the trail.

Read what Om Malik says on his blog, GigaOm:

If you want to change something, you have to be patient and take the long view. If Apple and Steve’s incredible comeback teaches us something, it’s that when you are right and the world doesn’t see it that way, you just have to be patient and wait for the world to change its mind.

Today, we are living in a world that’s about taking short-term decisions: CEOs who pray to at the altar of the devil called quarterly earnings, companies that react to rivals, politicians who are only worried about the coming election cycle and leaders who are in for the near-term gain.

Taking the long view is hard work, especially in today’s world. Letting our competition peek into our minds, our companies, and our R&D is scary.

Wouldn’t you rather blaze the trail than try to keep up?

But How?

Last week I quoted Jeff Jarvis and how he thinks we’re moving to a jobless future.

A future without jobs because, as leaders, we’re waiting for the economy to rebound so we can fill spots that have been vacated in the past three years.

A future without jobs because, as leaders, we’re afraid participating on the web is going to give our secrets to our competitors.

A future without jobs because, as leaders, we’re afraid to blaze the trail. We’re afraid of doing things differently. We fear change.

So buck up! The only way we’re going to help the economy rebound is to take a page from the Apple book … and learn from Steve Jobs.

Don’t be afraid to let the competition know what you’re doing. You’ll be looking forward and they’ll be scrambling to keep up. Blaze the trail.

This first ran as my weekly column in Crain’s Chicago Business.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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223 Comments on "Be the Leader In Your Industry: Blaze the Trail"

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DonnaLehman
DonnaLehman
5 years 28 days ago

Good challenge to those in leadership positions – and a lovely, accurate tribute to Steve Jobs. Thanks for shining a light on the necessity to ‘blaze a trail’. Nicely done Gini.

bdorman264
5 years 28 days ago

Yes, we need innovation and trailblazers. But how many times have you seen the trailblazer do all the heavy lifting, incur all the costs and the copycats come in and make all the money?

I guess if you are best of the best you can be aware of what the competition is doing but is doesn’t have to affect your decisions or course of action, huh?

KenMueller
5 years 28 days ago

@bdorman264 i actually have a post somewhat related to this sitting in my drafts. Maybe this is the incentive I need to dust it off. Part of the lesson is, if you are an innovator, you also need to protect yourself. I worked as an advisor for Ken Burns on his documentary “Empire of the Air” about the history of radio. Just such a case…watch it if you can.

EricaAllison
5 years 28 days ago
I love this approach to leadership and to successful competition in business. I have several clients who often say “I don’t want my competitors to know what I’m doing” when I suggest certain social media or online marketing approaches. I always reply “just because they know about it doesn’t mean they can do it.” Even if they can do it, you have your own way of doing it and by the time they figure out how to do it, you’re 10 steps ahead. You also don’t have to give away the code or the internal operating instructions by demonstrating what… Read more »
KenMueller
5 years 28 days ago

@EricaAllison wow. i might have to use this quote in ANOTHER piece i’m working on, based on a question a local business asked me. dang. all sorts of ideas here today! I’m often asked why I give away so “much” free info on my blog. Am I worried that my competitors might steal my ideas? Well, they aren’t really MY ideas. Just my take on things a lot of people know. They can try to take it, but they aren’t in my head. They can’t offer the personalized application that only I can offer.

John_Trader1
John_Trader1
5 years 28 days ago
What I like most about this post is pointing out how our culture seems so obsessed with short term results and the fact that Steve Jobs was willing to take big risks and able early on to look beyond the here and now and more towards the long term impact of his ideas and how they would shape the philosophy of Apple and all other products that they created. So many ideas, opportunities and potential to improve a product or service suffer from inertia because businesses sacrifice innovation at the hands of pleasing shareholders or investors with short term results.… Read more »
Al Smith
5 years 28 days ago

Thanks Gini. Love this approach and totally agree. The competition can copy and paste all they want, bu they can not duplicate being genuine, unique and ME ! Thanks for the truth and inspiration. Time to get moving and make a difference. He who hesitates is …… well, lost.

Al

adamtoporek
5 years 28 days ago

@bdorman264@KenMueller Bill, that’s a great point. I actually had a post about the perils of First Mover Advantage stacked in my queue before I changed blog directions. First mover can be really deadly in tech for the reasons you mention. But it can also be really powerful — grabbing key real estate, for instance.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 28 days ago

@DonnaLehman Thanks Donna. I’m sad he resigned, but we can learn a lot from him.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 28 days ago

@bdorman264 Name the companies who copy and make all the cash? I can’t think of one.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 28 days ago

@bdorman264 Name the companies who copy and make all the cash? I can’t think of one.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 28 days ago

@bdorman264 Name the companies who copy and make all the cash? I can’t think of one.

adamtoporek
5 years 28 days ago

@ginidietrich@bdorman264 Look at it this way: Google was not first to search. Facebook was not the first to social. They might be trailblazers in a sense because they built a better mousetrap, but they did so on the backs of those that blazed trails before them. My 2 cents… I am not a tech historian.

adamtoporek
5 years 28 days ago

@ginidietrich@bdorman264 Look at it this way: Google was not first to search. Facebook was not the first to social. They might be trailblazers in a sense because they built a better mousetrap, but they did so on the backs of those that blazed trails before them. My 2 cents… I am not a tech historian.

KenMueller
5 years 28 days ago

@adamtoporek@ginidietrich@bdorman264 Now i know I have to run my post. One of the examples I give is from the world of music. Very rarely do the innovators in a genre get the credit. When you think of grunge, you think of one word: Nirvana. They didn’t invent grunge. They came along a bit later, within that culture, and popularized it and will forever get credit for it. I think the same thing happens in business in many ways.

adamtoporek
5 years 28 days ago

@KenMueller@ginidietrich@bdorman264 Ken, if you need a 400 word digression from my old draft about first mover advantage and the attack on Pear Harbor … let me know. 🙂

Now you know why I never published it. #NeedsSeriousEditing

KenMueller
5 years 28 days ago

@adamtoporek are you offering me a guest post for my blog? if so, then YES! @ginidietrich @bdorman264

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 28 days ago
Unless you are in Advertising/Marketing. Then I am sure @ginidietrich ‘s advice would be to stay put. Don’t take risks. Be second or even third to market. Focus on traditional advertising like Print Newspapers. Things like that. In fact I think you would say: “Nothing to see here, carry on’ but please retweet to your non-advertising/marketing friends and family. And guess what. I totally agree with you on that! 8) I’m reading the Art of War again. Being crafty in your strategy to keep your opponent off guard is highly encouraged. You should read the chapter Waging War and then… Read more »
JGoldsborough
5 years 27 days ago

Blazing the trail isn’t safe, which is why so many people shy away. But challenging “the way we’ve always done it” is the only way we get people to embrace a different perspective. I appreciate your call to take risks and I’d extend it even one step further — We need to be supporting and promoting those who do take those steps. It’s like voting. If we don’t vote, we don’t have any leg to complain on.

bdorman264
5 years 27 days ago
@ginidietrich “Good artists copy, great artists steal. And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” Steve Jobs The more creative your ideas are, the higher is the risk and the lower is your chance of success. Whatever you want to do to innovate your business, someone somewhere has already achieved some success in doing something similar. In other words, “Why reinvent the wheel?”. An excellent example is Apple – the most innovative company in the world! None of its 3 super-successful products – the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad are considered to be totally original. Yet by… Read more »
bdorman264
5 years 27 days ago
@ginidietrich “Good artists copy, great artists steal. And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” Steve Jobs The more creative your ideas are, the higher is the risk and the lower is your chance of success. Whatever you want to do to innovate your business, someone somewhere has already achieved some success in doing something similar. In other words, “Why reinvent the wheel?”. An excellent example is Apple – the most innovative company in the world! None of its 3 super-successful products – the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad are considered to be totally original. Yet by… Read more »
bdorman264
5 years 27 days ago
@ginidietrich “Good artists copy, great artists steal. And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” Steve Jobs The more creative your ideas are, the higher is the risk and the lower is your chance of success. Whatever you want to do to innovate your business, someone somewhere has already achieved some success in doing something similar. In other words, “Why reinvent the wheel?”. An excellent example is Apple – the most innovative company in the world! None of its 3 super-successful products – the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad are considered to be totally original. Yet by… Read more »
bdorman264
5 years 27 days ago
@ginidietrich “Good artists copy, great artists steal. And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” Steve Jobs The more creative your ideas are, the higher is the risk and the lower is your chance of success. Whatever you want to do to innovate your business, someone somewhere has already achieved some success in doing something similar. In other words, “Why reinvent the wheel?”. An excellent example is Apple – the most innovative company in the world! None of its 3 super-successful products – the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad are considered to be totally original. Yet by… Read more »
bdorman264
5 years 27 days ago
@ginidietrich “Good artists copy, great artists steal. And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” Steve Jobs The more creative your ideas are, the higher is the risk and the lower is your chance of success. Whatever you want to do to innovate your business, someone somewhere has already achieved some success in doing something similar. In other words, “Why reinvent the wheel?”. An excellent example is Apple – the most innovative company in the world! None of its 3 super-successful products – the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad are considered to be totally original. Yet by… Read more »
bdorman264
5 years 27 days ago
@ginidietrich “Good artists copy, great artists steal. And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” Steve Jobs The more creative your ideas are, the higher is the risk and the lower is your chance of success. Whatever you want to do to innovate your business, someone somewhere has already achieved some success in doing something similar. In other words, “Why reinvent the wheel?”. An excellent example is Apple – the most innovative company in the world! None of its 3 super-successful products – the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad are considered to be totally original. Yet by… Read more »
bdorman264
5 years 27 days ago

@KenMueller I like Ken Burn’s documentary; I will try to check it out.

kevinfawley
5 years 27 days ago

Inspiring. One of your best posts I’ve ever read. You, Gini Dietrich, are a Trailblazer.

bdorman264
5 years 27 days ago

@adamtoporek@KenMueller Is there really an original thought out there?

bdorman264
5 years 27 days ago

@adamtoporek@ginidietrich I concur, even Apple; they just happen to be the ‘most’ innovative and ‘most’ successful.

KenMueller
5 years 27 days ago

@bdorman264 and it’s a one-off doc, not one of those lengthy multi part ones. probably falls in under two hours.

DannyBrown
5 years 27 days ago

The interesting thing about Apple is that they didn’t so much blaze the trail, as improve the structure of the trail that had already been left by others (touch screen, GUI for desktops, portable audio).

Perhaps folks should aspire to be trail improvers as opposed to trailblazers?

spurdave
spurdave
5 years 27 days ago
I guess it depends on how you define trail blazing. Apple made its fortune from the inventions of others. Touch screen mobile phones existed before the iPhone, I had one. Tablets were around for years before the iPad. I’ve seen articles about Jobs’ retirement that credit him with inventing the mouse and graphical user interface. The mouse and graphical user interface were developed at Stanford in 1963-64 and then refined at Xerox PARC through the 1970s. Don’t get me wrong, I love Apple and Steve Jobs. But if you define trail blazing as invention, it’s probably not Apple’s strong suit.… Read more »
KristenDaukas
KristenDaukas
5 years 27 days ago

WOW! So true, Gini.. it was 2 years ago that I decided to blaze my own trail.. didn’t like the jobs that were out there.. didn’t like the “bosses” that didn’t understand work/life balance. I knew the only way that team Daukas was going to be truly happy and successful was to set out on my own course. And you know what?? It’s a success! Thank you for being such an amazing trailblazer and thought leader yourself.

ExpatDoctorMom
5 years 27 days ago

Great post! Of course I would love to be a trail blazer!

As I bought my first Macbook last month, it was impossible to get in the doors of the apple store (and this one was outside of Cleveland, not Chicago!) MOST OF THE TIME!.

cheers,Rajka

Nic_Cartwright
5 years 27 days ago
I tend to agree with the folk on here that there are loads of examples of ‘would-be’ trail blazers who failed to hit the heights (Apple is not the norm for the blazer wearers amongst us) – it is too easy for folk to come along and copy/steal/destroy – so blazing trails is a dangerous game. It is however the most fun ‘game’ you can play – and who would not want to be known as a Trailblazer – yee haa!! To succeed in business / life / sports – you generally have to do what everyone is doing just… Read more »
rustyspeidel
rustyspeidel
5 years 27 days ago

Just make sure your patents are filed before you set out.

KDillabough
5 years 27 days ago

@KenMueller Many people say “I could do that”…but they don’t. Being afraid of sharing, open communication and transparency is just an excuse not to “do”. Ditto all that @EricaAllison said: couldn’t express it better!

KDillabough
5 years 27 days ago

@KenMueller Many people say “I could do that”…but they don’t. Being afraid of sharing, open communication and transparency is just an excuse not to “do”. Ditto all that @EricaAllison said: couldn’t express it better!

Soulati | PR
5 years 27 days ago

A “jobless economy.” Whose responsibility is it to create jobs? I don’t agree it’s the president’s. BusinessWeek has article this week saying only 81 percent of white males 25-54 worked in July and published a story on “The Slow Disappearance of the American Working Man.” WTF?

I’m fearful for our collective futures and my child’s future. We’re all bewildered and being bamboozled. I have no answers, just Monday Meanderings — (today’s post where exactly this stuff is being shared) — thoughts with no solution; questions with no answers; people without jobs.

Soulati | PR
5 years 27 days ago

A “jobless economy.” Whose responsibility is it to create jobs? I don’t agree it’s the president’s. BusinessWeek has article this week saying only 81 percent of white males 25-54 worked in July and published a story on “The Slow Disappearance of the American Working Man.” WTF?

I’m fearful for our collective futures and my child’s future. We’re all bewildered and being bamboozled. I have no answers, just Monday Meanderings — (today’s post where exactly this stuff is being shared) — thoughts with no solution; questions with no answers; people without jobs.

Soulati | PR
5 years 27 days ago

A “jobless economy.” Whose responsibility is it to create jobs? I don’t agree it’s the president’s. BusinessWeek has article this week saying only 81 percent of white males 25-54 worked in July and published a story on “The Slow Disappearance of the American Working Man.” WTF?

I’m fearful for our collective futures and my child’s future. We’re all bewildered and being bamboozled. I have no answers, just Monday Meanderings — (today’s post where exactly this stuff is being shared) — thoughts with no solution; questions with no answers; people without jobs.

Soulati | PR
5 years 27 days ago

That’s what A-listers do, Bill! All the heavy lifting! We wait until Gini reviews G+ and then we all jump in when she says go. This piece is akin to power bloggers, but Gini and Danny will tell you they’re not power bloggers. @bdorman264

Soulati | PR
5 years 27 days ago

That’s what A-listers do, Bill! All the heavy lifting! We wait until Gini reviews G+ and then we all jump in when she says go. This piece is akin to power bloggers, but Gini and Danny will tell you they’re not power bloggers. @bdorman264

Soulati | PR
5 years 27 days ago

That’s what A-listers do, Bill! All the heavy lifting! We wait until Gini reviews G+ and then we all jump in when she says go. This piece is akin to power bloggers, but Gini and Danny will tell you they’re not power bloggers. @bdorman264

Soulati | PR
5 years 27 days ago

Dude, you’re a guest post troll. @KenMueller @adamtoporek @ginidietrich @bdorman264

KenMueller
5 years 27 days ago

@Soulati | PR@adamtoporek@ginidietrich@bdorman264 and proud of it.

KenMueller
5 years 27 days ago

@Soulati | PR@adamtoporek@ginidietrich@bdorman264 and proud of it.

rustyspeidel
rustyspeidel
5 years 27 days ago
@Soulati | PR I agree, but i do think it is the government’s role to set policy and create an environment that is conducive to job creation. When businesses feel uncertain, they retrench, conserve, and wait. Right now it’s hard to see where customers are because they can’t get $$ to buy stuff they need. Banks are tight as ticks, credit rules are obstructive, and “wait and see” rules the day. New industries like ours are driven by incentives that are expiring, lobbying for the status quo is more intense than ever, and so the free flow of capital, ideas… Read more »
rustyspeidel
rustyspeidel
5 years 27 days ago

I think you mean quit sitting on the sidelines and start driving your own future, rather than waiting for your perfect environment to materialize. I could not agree more.

AmyMccTobin
5 years 27 days ago

Or, don’t hide your light under a bushel basket:)

It’s the Catholic upbringing you can never escape.

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