To transpose means to transfer or transport. This could be changing the relative sequence or position of things as well as taking something and applying it to something else. This is the exact intent of the Transposition sub-blade found in the Product blade within the Windmill Theory of Powered By Change (PBC). 

Transposition is a method for finding inspiration for products that reflect a company’s true elevated purpose, regardless of whether it is going down more of a candle or mirror route (see the adjacent article on that). It is essentially about how we can take, borrow or learn from other models that are used by other industries or other companies within our own industry and then apply those to our company’s offerings. 

Transposition allows businesses to find new expressions or new methodologies that can be borrowed from an external world and applied to its own way of innovating. It is based on observing what is being done, then taking this and superimposing the main thing from what is observed into what it is that the company is doing. Whether a company engages in transposition is a reflection of their level of curiosity to actually do this coupled with an ability to do this. It also needs to be done through the lens of the company’s elevated purpose. From this it is clear that to effectively transpose and innovate, a company needs to have all of its interrelated Windmill blades optimised.   

Within PBC, the approach to transposition is two-fold:

  1. It is finding inspiration for innovation opportunities that exist outside of your company. This could be from non-industry specific models of innovation, business models or products and service offerings.
  1. Then applying these, or transposing them, to your industry or company. 

From this, is it possible to start to innovate in new and possibly unexpected ways, both inside and outside the company’s core industry; by utilising the elevated perspective of its main thing. It provides an opportunity to identify how what the company does can be applied to different messes, or problems, irrespective of industry. This is incredibly powerful as it allows a company to create resonant products outside its core industry and opens up boundless opportunities. It is the essence of a company that is powered by change and is an essential building block in designing your business for perpetual success. 

To undertake transposition it is necessary to analyse what the main thing actually is of what it is we are observing. As an example, take a company such as Kickstarter. It is possible to work out the company’s main thing is actually “linking belief to production through investment.” Once this is known, it is possible to start asking how one’s own company could link belief to production through investment in one’s own main thing. So basically, how could this be transposed into what it is the company does. This type of transposition is applying what is done elsewhere to your own company. 

Another application is applying your main thing to another industry. Take for example Uber, which arguably has the main thing of “linking surplus to demand in an accessible way.” Given this, Uber has been able to transition into different industries and create new revenue streams by superimposing its main thing into them. This is why it has been able to move into other industry verticals such as financial services. Once its main thing is truly understood it is possible to see how doing this aligns perfectly. The added benefit is this represents a new revenue stream for the company in a different industry which increases its resilience in times of change. 

A key point here is that in looking to other companies for inspiration, there is no need to ask companies or read press releases to see whether they are illuminated as to their elevated purpose. It is possible to actually determine it from the outside. Finding someone’s main thing and then disrupting it is also super powerful. Again with Uber, this is something they were able to do effectively with the taxi industry and likewise what AirBnb have done to the hotel industry. This approach works for anything. The key is ascertaining the main thing of what is observed and applying it to what you are doing or applying your main thing to what someone else is doing to disrupt them. So transposition can be used for innovation or disruptive innovation. 

Companies that fail to engage in transposition activities are significantly increasing their likelihood of being disrupted and disintermediated. One reason is that by not transposing the company is stifling its ability to innovate. The other reason is that it can be sure that one of its competitors whether inside or outside its industry will start transposing its main thing to what the company does. When this happens, the company is not going to be able to respond quickly enough to counteract the changes that are occurring and will suffer financially.  

This article outlines the framework that is used in the PBC platform to look at transposition within organisations. Using this we can look at where different models could be helpful to your company and then transpose what we observe onto your company’s product range. This can be extremely powerful. 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Transposition is a method for finding inspiration for products to launch that reflect a company’s true elevated purpose.
  2. Transposition can be used for innovation or disruptive innovation.
  3. Transposition is an essential building block in designing a business for perpetual success as it opens up boundless opportunities to which it can apply its main thing.

Related Articles