Change is all around us, it is accelerating not abating. Do you feel you are trapped, encircled and just a little concerned. You often hear of volatile trading conditions, a more complex market and situations changing constantly and moving faster than ever. ‘Much’ seems to be closing in on us.
We do know we need to re-equip ourselves for constant disruption; we are really beginning to see a shift from the classic bell curve into more of a shark fin for adopting change.
One that is characterized by sudden, even violent success or an event, some moments of brilliant dominance, followed by a dramatic change in conditions as others have spotted the same opportunity and you hit a rapid decline, the race to the bottom of competition constantly negating one another.
Market are segmenting, the life cycle is shortening or having an even longer tail of dealing with slow decline and constant erosion of any competitive position. The sharks are arriving even earlier and in a greater need to show their dominance.
It does seem “creative destruction” is a central force in many of our activities. Activities where innovation is continually replacing not just in products and new services but in designing radically different business models, searching to replace less adaptive competitors in the marketplace at faster rates.
Adoption is far earlier, the pace of change is quickening and from this the competition is responding in new ways, often surrounding the new innovation with their version, built on often a really ‘fast follower’ principle to keep in step, and throttle off any different adoption, knowing what it costs to have to win this back over time, if it can at all when it switches. The life cycle is becoming even more important to manage in all of its stages, as its traditional shape I feel, is radically altering. It is coming faster and fading away quicker unless you manage its parts very specifically.
The VUCA world is a brutal place to operate in
Some are arguing we live in a VUCA world, full of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. I remember one phrase in a great book to read “Moments of Impact” written by Chris Ertel and a wonderful associate of mine, Lisa Kay Soloman. They regard this period of living as the VUCA world, as “one that is a little like those thrilling rides you find in amusement parks but just not all of them are fun!”
These “change forces” are making many organizations and the leadership a little weary and wary, they seem to ‘double down’. They become risk averse, defensive and determined to ‘weather it through’. They might be hanging on tight, simply believing but the force of change requires a very different set of beliefs and will whisk them away if they don’t adapt and change.
Shifting from accepted to adaptive – embracing new ways to innovate.
The changes that are occurring all around us are those sudden switches from the predictable markets are creating interruptions to that constant reassuring rhythm of the one, three and five-year business plans. Suddenly this ‘process’ is getting challenged by novel, agile, adaptive concepts stealing the growth out of ‘our’ markets.
Lost increasingly is that feeling of being predictable, offering incremental improvements as the sure-fire way of running a business, year in, year out. Innovation in the hands of a few has changed, it so much more than incremental, it is radical and destructive and its coming at you earlier than ever, grabbing that early majority as it adapts, pivots and often blows away your ‘crafted’ design through combining a more radical solution, spotted and understood from real, early customer engagements.
Today we are far more on this quest for novel insights and much of what we will increasingly do will be transient. We are seeing much that was seemingly enduring is being challenged, even ripped out and replaced. It is often an environment that has become a ‘feeding frenzy’ of experiment, change, adapt and go back in and ‘attack’ the assumptions of the business value proposition to find the ‘sweet spot’ of customer needs and why they see value.
The “reassuring” generic statements are even more hollow than before
We might still hear the reassuring sound of those generic statements from the established incumbent of “focusing on our core assets”, “providing solid shareholder value”, “having clear target markets”, focusing on “reducing low yielding businesses to release value and drive up our stock” and the favorite by many “vested” C-level individuals announcing the latest “driving up our share price by a well-designed buyback program.”
All these ‘generic statements’ are often masking a deeper story in many organizations not at ease with itself, at all. These reassuring statements make those on the outside feel some level of short-term comfort and stay invested but if you scratch the surface just a little, there is an underlying sense of panic. If you push too hard, ask difficult questions suddenly it all becomes a little uncomfortable. Yet our large, established organizations are highly vulnerable to attack from their inability to adjust quickly to changed conditions.
These statements are just covering up the serious cracks appearing in the design process for new products. It is the failures not to embrace the changing management practices of working within far more lean principles, deepening design thinking, seeking out crowd-sourcing and collaborative networks, that pushing hard to fully understand customer engagement and challenging the business models to eventually end up with new value propositions that alter the existing market state.
Often the traditional practice organization is simply adrift in the water and others are circulating around them working through this new way of business thinking, avoiding old practices, thinking and approaches that really benefit the incumbent, often not the customer and their real needs.
The new leader within all of us needs to arise
Leadership when it wants change for innovation needs to encourage a new set of principles so as to draw in everyone to the change process, so they can collectively unleash the potency to create the climate for creativity, innovation and eventual transformation, in a rapidly changing environment and culture that wants this change – it is liberating for individuals.
There is a lot of new thinking showing positive results and the ‘traditional’ management team or business needs to open up to much of this new thinking and find their ways to adopt it and bring it in-house.
We must break out of our traditional thinking and ‘swim’ far more rigorously out of our dangerous holding patterns, to break away from the pack we get caught up in, simply accepting current practices and approaches are our only answer. We must be bolder in where we go, in risks, in thinking, in our innovations, in our actions we take.
When the wind of change does blow we must adjust
When the wind of change does blow and it is in every corner of every organization, it really does deliver a ‘punch’ of complex variables to manage, we do need to be ready to make the ‘required’ changes.
These ‘change winds’ influence the processes running through the organization as they are challenging and probing what is in place, they are looking to raise the creativity, in adjusting and changing the norms, to making new activities work, to experiment and learn.
Then you have to set about how to construct and design a more deliberate process kit for managing innovation, one that is more fluid, adaptive and agile too changing conditions and knowledge, and finally, the setting about addressing the environment and cultures needed to create more lasting conditions, so as to embed the change and establish the new (innovating) order.
Being alert, being adaptive, ready to break out and forge ahead
We are surrounded by all these sharks, hungry, constantly circling, looking for easy or ‘fat, complacent’ prey. If we are not alert to the dangers all around us we will certainly suffer. Are we the hunter or the hunted? We need to decide.
We must constantly adapt, wanting to make change, even if it is uncomfortable, otherwise we can so easily be swept away, at the mercy of others more adaptive.
There is no question we all need to keep moving but it is striking out with a far bolder plan to leave the ‘sharks’ behind. Let them look for the late majority or laggards that are not spotting real change occurring, occurring all around them, to become the new ‘feeding ground’. You, simply go really hard after the early adopters and majority that determine the ones that thrive, knowing what it takes to survive and that is based largely on innovating like crazy