Authors of The Phoenix Encounter Method, Ian C. Woodward and V. Paddy Padmanabhan, explain their revolutionary method that removes leaders from their comfort zones in order to innovate and succeed.
All businesses sooner or later face an existential crisis. They must innovate or they will die. They need to imagine how all, or part of their legacy organization will be destroyed in order to build their breakthrough future-ready organization. This is not easy, but it can be done. Our new book, The Phoenix Encounter Method, takes leaders through a powerful new method of thinking that unfolds in a cycle of three phases depicted below.
We illustrate the method with an example of one leader who went through an Encounter exercise. David Johnstone is MD of one of the most respected pan-European motor insurance firms. Our research has shown that only once you have launched what we call a “devastating attack” on your own organization can you really understand how to defend and fortify it. The devastating attack imagined by David and his Encounter team members started with one of the world’s largest e-commerce platforms acquiring one of his competitors. Leveraging its own data along with the acquired insurer’s actuarial expertise, the new company developed original insurance products. The Encounter team realized that in the COVID-19 world, the absence of a physical offline agency salesforce model could be a competitive force multiplier. More importantly, David’s insurance company had incomplete data on their customers, while the imagined attacker had comprehensive data. By leveraging the data across the new company’s overall portfolio of online and offline services (e.g., e-commerce, travel, telecommunications, financial services, and investments), it created a more compelling customer loyalty program.
While developing the business blueprint of the attacker, David realized that his business was much more vulnerable than he previously thought, and that it was now or never that he needed to rethink the trajectory of his business. David was clearly developing the Phoenix Attitude, complete with outside-in thinking, proactive scanning, the willingness to question assumptions, and overcome blinkered past thinking.
The defense against this attack involved a curated set of ideas combining the power of conventional business strategies with the potential of contemporary technological advances. It started with leveraging the power of digital and social media to create a radically new omni-channel shopping experience that encompassed all aspects of the customer’s insurance journey.
The outcome of the extreme attack and the horizon defense was the creation of a new future-facing blueprint that illustrates the power of the Phoenix Encounter Method to generate radical options for innovation that enable businesses to scale new heights. It also revealed a dreamer, Karen Weyl, within David’s team who was comfortably at home with experimentation, risk-taking, discovery and curiosity.
The business model devised by Karen’s team envisaged the creation of a new brand offering co-promoted with a small set of dealers in a pilot test market. It offered competitors the possibilities to participate in the platform and transition the whole industry out of the current red ocean zero-sum game.
It will take time to validate which of these new initiatives creates the path to future-proofing David’s business. But what was immediately obvious to David was that prior to the Encounter, none of these options were on his radar, and more importantly an honest realization that he and his management team were caught sleeping at the wheel.
The ideas unleashed by the Encounter method come from perspectives totally different from an organization’s customary way of thinking. That is because the method compels leaders to imagine fully destroying their current organization themselves with unconstrained firepower – and then rising Phoenix-like from the ashes. Contemplating destroying your own business ejects leaders from their comfort zones and legacy blinkers because the dangers of inertia and risk aversion become self-evident.
Radical ideation and innovation are no longer a risk, they are a necessity for the organization to survive, stabilize and then surge. At its core, the most important consequence of the Phoenix Encounter Method is a change in the mindset of leaders. It reveals the power of a simple but much misunderstood truth – you are your own best enemy, and that can be a very good thing.
The Phoenix Encounter Method is a comprehensive process we have developed over the last 4 years while working with more than 1500 senior business leaders like David to help them develop a Phoenix Attitude, and create the next version of their organization and themselves. It is a process and not a framework–it works independent of the industry, geography, or maturity of your organization. At our book’s core lies a structured process that allows you to question status-quo and piece together more options for your future business–and added to this process are the numerous original stories of Phoenix Encounters which are included in the book.