Monday, July 29, 2013

Road Less Traveled

Famously, Robert Frost wrote, "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--/I took the one less traveled by/And that has made all the difference." Based on a recent experience, I'm guessing either Mr. Frost had exceptional levels of DEET applied to his dermis or he was not near any standing water or manure. I took a path less traveled in the woods and was nearly consumed by mosquitoes, gnats, flies and ticks. My only prayer was that up ahead perhaps a deer path would have had plentiful warm-blooded creatures pass by to sate these pests.

Innovation is flouted as the saving grace for many a company. It has also been reported that sometimes being second into a market is a winning strategem. Take Apple for example. About the only thing they've introduced into the market was the point-and-click graphical user interface (GUI) back before any of the millenials were born.

If you travel a less-worn path with regard to some human resources options, you might be swatting away employee complaints and lawsuits. If you venture into uncharted ground with some product designs, you might have warranty claims once the 'honeymoon' period is over. This isn't to say we shouldn't try new things. The US Department of Defense wastes a lot of money because: 1) they insist on well-worn paths of material qualifications which costs the taxpayer a lot of money to support some acquisitions for less than 1% of the market, or 2) costs increase as suppliers spend a bunch of money to run to qualification tests for proven commercial materials and designs. Unique materials are expensive. While the rest of the commercial world has updated their compositions and constructions, the DoD makes it prohibitively expensive to qualify these "new" materials. It's only because they're less "traveled" than the others with regard to the DoD, but plenty "traveled" in the commercial arena. Oh sure, the DoD has some exceptions for COTS (commercial, off-the-shelf) stuff but the exceptions at one time were very few and far between.

Just be careful about that less traveled path your business is on. It might cost you more. Also, watch the trends. If others are jumping paths, pretty soon you might be not on the more-traveled path, but you soon may become lunch for the pests and nuisances in business on the now-less-traveled strategy.

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