Finding the "Fourth Option" for Your Business
Learn to play like an outthinker by spotting the opportunities your competitors ignore
By: Kaihan Krippendorff
Outthinking the Competition
At the 1968 Olympic Games, 21-year-old Dick Fosbury changed the sport of high jumping forever. He ran towards the bar, just as all of his competitors had done, but instead of the traditional scissor step or straddle jump, he spun around awkwardly and flopped over backward.
Until then, every gold medal winner had cleared the high bar by jumping over forward. Every winning coach, expert, and textbook agreed that it was the best method. But by jumping over backward, Fosbury cleared 7 feet 4.25 inches, winning the gold medal and beating the world record by a full 2.5 inches. The athletes, coaches, and experts were forced to accept a new technique. By 1980, 13 of 16 Olympic finalists were using the “Fosbury Flop.”
In all domains of competition—from sports to business—breakthrough success evolves through the same pattern. First, the players fall into a routine, all using the same practices. These are the “thinkers” who stay inside the accepted paradigm. Then a few disruptors, like Dick Fosbury, emerge and defy the standard practices. I call them the “outthinkers.” These innovators don’t win by outmuscling or outspending their competition; they outthink them.
Channeling Purpose into Business
I founded Outthinker in 2004 as a growth strategy consulting company to inspire more outthinking in the world of business. Growing up with a mother from Bangladesh and a father from Germany, I learned to question and embrace different ways of doing things that living in a cross-cultural household required. I worked as a consultant for McKinsey up until 2003 when I wrote my first book and decided to pursue my passion for strategy and innovation. Today, I’m five books in (with three more in progress!) and have helped clients generate over $2.5 billion dollars in revenue.
My personal purpose in founding a company has always been around people loving what they do. At Outthinker, we realized that our shared purpose is to spread new thinking, which creates innovative possibilities in people’s minds. We help organizations consciously create new futures that work better for society and the world.
Outthinker operates in a few key areas to help people achieve this. We deliver growth strategy consulting through a unique model of speaking, training, workshops, and peer communities. We help organizations avoid the trap of defaulting to repetitive, predictable strategies and instead design new approaches to thrive in a fast-changing, purpose-driven future.
Finding the Fourth Option
I’ve studied hundreds of companies and interviewed leaders to learn their stories of breakthrough innovation. When an outthinker questions what others have accepted and finds a new way of doing things, I call this the “fourth option.” Most individuals, teams, and companies, when they go about planning for the future, come up with three options (A, B, and C) and decide on the most viable one. But pushing yourself to think further, to come up with a fourth option generates a sense of possibility. When faced with disruption, we can make things much more exciting by seeing it as a moment to think differently and imagine new options for the future.
Whether you’re part of a larger team or operating as a one-man show, the number of strategic options you generate is directly related to your chance of finding a winning idea. When I speak to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and large organizations using our methodology, people often come up with 100-200 potential strategic options.
Outthinker and Chase for Business
These days, small business owners are pressed to build their businesses back stronger while dealing with resource constraints and disruptive change that seems to arrive faster and faster. Fortunately, this is often when the greatest levels of innovation occur. In a podcast interview, management expert Gary Hamel told me, “Innovation is born in the gap between aspirations high and resources not-so-high.” The Outthinker Process can help you figure out where you want to go and what you need to do to get there.
We’ve used this methodology over 500 times with companies of all sizes. 90 percent of people who participate report coming up with an “fourth option” insight that is transformative to their business. Teaming up with Chase for Business is a way to help more business owners and their clients realize the impact you want to have on the world and the 3-5 steps you can focus on right now to work toward that ideal state. You’ll learn a repeatable process that will keep great ideas flowing and give you confidence and clarity in a growth strategy that lets you play like an outthinker.
For informational/educational purposes only: The views expressed in this article may differ from those of other employees and departments of JPMorgan Chase & Co. Views and strategies described may not be appropriate for everyone and are not intended as specific advice/recommendation for any individual. Information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but JPMorgan Chase & Co. or its affiliates and/or subsidiaries do not warrant its completeness or accuracy. You should carefully consider your needs and objectives before making any decisions and consult the appropriate professional(s). Outlooks and past performance are not guarantees of future results.
You should carefully consider your needs and objectives before making any decisions, and consult the appropriate professional(s).
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