In a famed episode of the TV series Seinfeld, the cast encounters a set of four friends who look just like them, but behave in a totally opposite manner. Feldman, for instance, lives across the hall from his best friend, but always knocks before entering, brings groceries, and has well thought-out schemes. This new crew becomes known as the Bizarros.
It can be very useful to think through what the Bizarro version of a company might be. The exercise can lead firms to consider how they might violate long-held rules of an industry in a compelling way. Companies find the exercise especially fruitful when they focus their analysis on a customer set that is poorly served by traditional models today.
Grameen turned the banking model upside down with respect to poor villagers. Another firm, AllLife, has done the same for sufferers of HIV and diabetes in South Africa. AllLife, which is an unabashedly for-profit enterprise, targets these large groups of people that are highly motivated to buy life and disability insurance but viewed as unacceptable risks through typical financial services lenses. The company pursues customers that other insurers shun (violating the maxim that insurance is sold, not bought). It requires its customers to regularly submit medical information showing compliance with therapies for these diseases. It regularly interacts with customers to remind them to adhere to their treatment protocols.
Bizarro companies are rule-breakers. For financial services innovation and other endeavors, this approach can enable escaping commodization and creating new markets that a company can own.
This post was written by Steve Wunker. Click for more of New Markets Advisors' thinking on financial services, business models, and innovation capabilities.