Charles E. Lucier and Janet D. Torsilieri

Strategy gurus often assert that winning comes from “thinking out of the box” or “reframing the problem.” They are wrong. Across the 55 industries we studied, only four common ideas accounted for 80 percent of successful breakouts: power retailing (Home Depot, Circuit City); bypassing one or more steps in the value chain (Frito-Lay, Dell Computer); focusing, simplifying and standardizing (McDonald’s, Nucor); and megabranding (Disney).

The big winners weren’t even the originators of the ideas; they were the first to make an existing concept work on a large scale in a new industry.

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