THE BLOG
08/29/2012 01:36 pm ET Updated Oct 29, 2012

Belief: A Force Greater Than Inertia

What is the only force capable of standing up to inertia? What underlies a great organizational culture? What is the backbone of momentum? I believe that is belief.

Some might see the notion of belief as a non-strategic, softer side of business. That couldn't be more wrong. Belief is the essential ingredient for winning. Look at these three common scenarios. See how belief made the difference.
  1. The small-to-medium size organization with high growth potential
  2. The large size organization that has lost its way
  3. The start-up challenging conventional notions
The Small-to-Medium Size Organization with High Growth Potential  

This type of organization has enlisted early adopters. But getting to a scalable customer base is the next challenge. One proven way to achieve scale is to elevate your value proposition to a category level by creating a new category or market space. What underpins category creation is belief - belief in a new, more valuable way. Belief starts inside an organization then spreads to influencers like analysts and the media, before reaching a broad customer base.

Red Hat, the open source company, is a classic example. Red Hat built an early loyal following of zealots who believed in the open source way. While their passion and belief were powerful, the company was a long way from being seen as a legitimate alternative to traditional proprietary software as represented by Microsoft and Sun. Once Red Hat built the compelling case for why open source technologies were easier to manage, more effective and less expensive it created a powerful belief system inside the IT departments that used to see open source as risky. That's when Red Hat began to scale.

The Large Size Organization that Has Lost Its Way

This type of organization already has a large customer base, but newer entrants are rapidly chipping away at its position with smarter, easier, and less painful solutions. How does this organization overturn its slippery slide to irrelevance? It rises above the fray by articulating a compelling point of view about new ways for the industry to create and capture higher levels of value. It backs up its POV with substance only achievable from an organization with a deep history and understanding of the industry.

PTC, the product development company, is the poster child for achieving transformation in the face of a steep challenge. PTC had a deep but dissatisfied customer base when its offerings became a bit cumbersome, dated, and expensive relative to newer, cheaper and friendlier alternatives. PTC successfully revitalized itself by positioning the entire product development industry to one that mattered more than other IT investments in ERP, SCM and CRM. In so doing PTC assumed the industry thought leadership role by creating the rallying cry for the industry - Product First - then delineating The Way to Product First, a roadmap to creating and capturing value. PTC also committed itself to improving customer service while remodeling its offerings off the very value creation framework it espoused to the industry.

The Start-Up Challenging Conventional Notions

This type of organization usually has a breakthrough idea and the passion to prove it. The new idea challenges conventional methods and established players. It's a compelling alternative with lots of potential, but it has yet to build a loyal following. How does this start-up attract early adopters so they will believe enough to spread the word? It does so by tapping into the frustrations and desires that people feel, then delivering a solution that people can emotionally get excited about.

Smigin is a start-up in an industry - language learning - that has long frustrated people. Being able to have a simple conversation in a café or bar in a foreign country is something most everyone aspires to. Yet most are frustrated by their ability to do so. It's not for lack of trying. Most people have either studied a language in school or invested in at least one of the many self-taught, language-learning products out there. Smigin believes learning a language doesn't have to be that hard. It has developed an alternative solution that is fun, engaging, and effective. Its beta product has made believers out of the hundreds who've tested it. Why? The pass along rate was far greater than the size of the original test panel. Smigin launches in October.

Ya gotta believe if you want to break through.