Just because you’ve made your mark in the world by being the first with the ‘latest and greatest’ doesn’t mean you can afford to sit back and bask in your glory. There is someone always waiting in the wings to knock you off your perch. PK Menon in this article shares with us that why just keeping up is no longer good enough.
The world’s most innovative companies are not only the first to come up with new ideas. They also know how important it is to leapfrog (as opposed to catch up) when they find themselves lagging behind. Apple founder, Steve Jobs was a master at this. When Jobs first built the iMac, he focused so hard on allowing a user to manage their photos and videos that he completely missed the boat when it came to handling music. So while PC users were downloading music and burning CDs, the iMac paled to insignificance. But rather than catching up to his greatest competitor by upgrading the CD drive, Jobs leapfrogged them with an integrated system that combined iTunes, the iTunes Store and the iPod.
It was a move that ended up revolutionising the music industry. Then despite the iPod’s massive global success, Jobs spent little time basking in that glory. Instead he opted to think about the next piece of technology that could jeopardise it. And so the iPhone was born, which allowed users to add music to their mobile phone handsets for the first time. As Jobs famously said at the time, “If we don’t cannibalise ourselves, someone else will.”
Today we are all grappling with extraordinary changes that represent a permanent shift in the way we work, communicate, share our lives, create value, develop leaders and innovate. What seemed unthinkable yesterday is either commonplace, on the horizon or on the verge of being introduced today. With the world becoming infinitely smaller, all businesses must focus more heavily on global megatrends as opposed to just issues specific to their own industries and organisations if they want to do more than just survive.
As a result, there has never been a greater need to stay relevant and ahead of the game as opposed to simply keeping up. In short, companies that thrive in the 21st Century are those that master the ability to continually reinvent themselves to cater to the ever-changing needs of the market and their future business leaders. Those that don’t, risk disappearing forever.
Making change a project within a business is the old story
With the unprecedented pace of change we all face today, holding on to ideas that worked in the past will no longer suffice. All leaders today must be ready for change at all times and nimble enough to respond swiftly. This isn’t just about being ready for change. It’s equally about developing an appetite for change.
Making change a project within a business is the old story. Developing a fast moving, agile business is the new goal. This is about pushing the edges so you can be first out with the latest and greatest innovation, just as Steve Jobs was passionate about doing with Apple.
Don’t risk sitting back & basking in your glory
Just because you’ve made your mark in the world by being the first with the ‘latest and greatest’ doesn’t mean you can afford to sit back and bask in your glory. Someone else is waiting in the wings to knock you off your perch. The same can be said for large, successful companies that can have a tendency to become somewhat complacent due to their size and successful past. Woolworths Group in the UK was a classic example. Once located in just about every major town, the retail giant entered administration in November 2008 and closed all 807 stores just two months later. Why? Because they had failed to reinvent themselves to meet the needs and wants of changing markets. In the end they had become so damaged around the edges that they were no longer financially viable.
Coinciding with the closure of the last stores, the Woolworths brand in the UK was bought out by Shop Direct Groups, who restarted the brand in the UK as an online retailer within just six months. The biggest danger for businesses that have experienced rapid growth and become large can sometimes actually be their size. Why? Because their size alone means the consequences of taking a risk and getting it wrong are much greater. But you need only look at Apple and global fashion giants like Zara to know that size is just an excuse. Even giants can be nimble if they want to be.
Innovate, execute, evaluate, adapt
Sometimes the best decisions aren’t always the right decisions. For instance, what would be the point of launching something never seen or heard of before if your target market fails to see what’s in it for them? Alternatively, your decisions may have been right at the time, but our ever evolving commercial landscape creates the need for constant re-evaluation. Wisdom comes from constantly observing, listening, evaluating, navigating and having the agility and the courage to alter, adapt or even halt the course of a journey along the way if necessary. In facing major challenges such as shifts in market trends, the best plan of attack is to bring the team together to evaluate the change, consider the variables, plan a course of action and mobilise the troops to implement the plan.
But if at any point you find your course of action isn’t working, there is no shame in changing tact mid-stream, as long as the change is well communicated to all concerned. In fact the wise leader has the strength of character to learn from a mistake and move on, comfortable in the knowledge that the new direction is better than the previous one. Remember change is often hard at the start, messy in the middle and perfect in the end, But as challenging as change may be to deal with, it is paramount to the success of any 21st century business.