As I interview successful CEOs of innovative companies, I see that there is one pattern of competition that consistently emerges. Pattern #34: Coordinate the uncoordinated.
In military circles they call it 4GW (Fourth Generation Warfare) and some people may recognize it in Wikipedia or in "open source" software.
Whatever you label it, its presence is growing, and EyeBuyDirect is successfully employing it. As communication and control costs drop, independent agents are coordinating themselves. And those who are flexible enough to shift their perspectives – to see that power comes from what you can coordinate and not from what you own – will enjoy an edge over the rest.
EyeBuyDirect is coordinating customers in unique ways. The company developed a service called EyeTry which allows customers to upload a picture of themselves and virtually "try on" various frames. This service has evolved and now customers can share their pictures with others to get the opinions of friends and strangers.
This has also become a platform for people to share their ideas on glasses. Members discuss, for example, what to wear on dates versus job interviews and whether plastic frames are better than metal frames.
EyeBuyDirect leverages this online consumer community to outthink its competition because it uses the insight gained from listening to the customer. By paying attention to what consumers are saying, EyeBuyDirect senses "weak signals" before its competition does. It has even started letting its consumers identify and drive trends, and therefore EyeBuyDirect doesn’t waste time or money on styles and trends that won’t catch on.
If EyeBuyDirect plays its cards right, then it has the potential to own a platform the way Microsoft owns operating systems and Google owns online advertising. The company is already being noticed for its staggering sales – the company sold 3,000 pairs of glasses online in one day in December 2008. Most optic stores sell about 10 pairs a day. It is this success that helped EyeBuyDirect get nominated as "Internet Retailer’s Top 100 Retail Websites for 2009" along with other online giants, such as Zappos and Wal-Mart.
On the surface, it might seem too difficult to coordinate a large group of unconnected people. But by organizing services and industries that are uncoordinated, one can dominate that particular market.
Ask yourself the following questions to see if you can identify something that needs to be coordinated.
1. Who is uncoordinated in my industry?
2. How could I connect them?
3. What platform am I seeking to own?