Gaining competitive advantage, better serving customers, and standing out from the pack can feel just about as challenging as running a double marathon…barefoot. The difficulties are exacerbated if we find ourselves in mature industries with deeply entrenched market leaders possessing the resources of a small country. How can we compete and win when facing such formidable opponents?
Take the shoe industry, for example. Going up against Goliaths like Nike, Adidas, and Reebok could seem like a suicide mission. But not to NYC-based entrepreneurs Waqas Ali and Sidra Qasim who recently launched Atoms, a shoe startup with a creative twist. Atoms doesn’t offer hundreds of different styles, boasts no celebrity endorsements, and doesn’t have a catchy tagline. Instead, they boldly entered the race by doing something small.
Realizing that shoes rarely fit perfectly, and that we humans often have two different size feet, Atoms offers their shoes by the quarter-size. After you select your color and inform the company of your usual size, they mail you six shoes in quarter-size increments. When the shoes arrive, choose the ones that fit best (each foot can be different) and the remaining four shoes are returned to Atoms. Shipping both ways is free, and the process is dead simple.
While Atoms’ micro-innovation of quarter sizing doesn’t have the same innovative impact of curing disease or inventing a new industry, their small-dose creativity is already leading to outsized results. Only three months into operations, the company is chalking up meaningful sales numbers, winning the hearts of customers, and gaining extensive media coverage.
Too often, we feel like we can only be innovative if we change the world with an idea that creates a seismic shift. But when giant magnitude breakthroughs feel out of reach, let’s focus our creative energy on high-frequency, tiny ideas. If everyone in our organizations becomes an everyday innovator, we can unlock the collective creativity of Mozart, DaVinci, or Picasso. Instead of looking for the single, enormous idea, try scouting for the little ones.
Your own micro-innovation could be a simple change to your hiring process, a hack in your sales efforts, or a tweak to your internal meetings format. Each new concept need not move mountains to deliver a momentous impact, especially when injecting high doses of these baby breakthroughs.
Atoms nailed the fit, not only for shoe customers but also discovering where the company can win in a highly completive industry. Following in their footsteps with your own micro-innovations, you may quickly find yourself walking a new path toward success. As the saying goes, “if the shoe fits….”