I don’t believe in easy lists. Managing a company, and keeping ahead of your market is hard work. There is no single holy grail of methods that works for everyone, but there are as many approaches and methods as there are companies. However, I do believe that there are guidelines which can help organisations to contemplate their future in more critical and successful ways. During my career, I have talked to many companies that were able to keep reinventing themselves through the years. They all had some or more of the 6 characteristics here below in common.
1. Don’t be tricked by false boundaries
Our brains were never built for innovation. They were shaped for safety, satisfaction and energy efficiency. They love the status quo. Brains trick us into believing that we can achieve new things with minimal effort and minor change. That might have worked years ago, but at the speed our markets are moving today, we need to learn to overcome these self-imposed limits and boundaries. We have to use the new world as our source. More often than not, that means starting over again from a blank page. For instance, you simply cannot expect your organisation to evolve significantly when you keep using your old KPIs. It goes much further than thinking outside the box. There is no longer a box…
2. Use what you know but dare to experiment
Don’t get me wrong. That does not mean that you need to throw overboard everything you know. It’s good to use what has already been researched and tested, but it’s as important to dare to experiment too. Don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel every time. Look beyond your own safe familiar environment, check what other sectors have achieved and test if their accomplishments could mean something for your own company and market. You’ll be surprised to see how many ideas are there for the taking if you just keep your eyes open and have the guts to try new things.
Change for the sake of change is counterproductive.
3. Strive for a dynamic equilibrium
Those who try to convince you that you need to transform everything are fools. If a process works, don’t change it just for the sake of change itself. The trick is not to tightly hold onto traditions, or your company will be become rigid and lose its responsiveness to changes in the market. On the other hand, harbouring an obsession with innovation is very unhealthy. Those who change everything at once lose their foundation which they need to remain stable. Just like a natural organism, it’s about finding a dynamic balance. Change for the sake of change is merely counterproductive.
4. The future is now
Never postpone what you can do now until tomorrow. Projects that are supposed to end in 2020 or 2025 are pure insanity. Your competition, your industry and, most of all, your customers will no longer be the same by then. It’s impossible to predict how our world will have changed by then. Don’t forget that we’re moving so fast that the future will be here a lot sooner than you think. Act now, but always keep your Day After Tomorrow in mind.
It’s no longer the big ones that beat the small ones, but the fast ones outpacing the slow.
5. Aim for the moon
The latter means that you have to dare to be extreme. If you want to be able to compete in the Day After Tomorrow, you need to focus on radical breakthroughs in order to shape your own future. You’ll have to think beyond 'roof shots', which are purely incremental innovations such as the 10 % improvement of a product or a 5% reduction in customer friction. If you want to evolve fast and far enough, it’s important that you invest in moonshots as well: extreme changes, that have the potential to change the face of your industry. Because today, it’s no longer the big ones that beat the small ones, but the fast ones outpacing the slow. Speed has become one of the best competitive advantages.
6. Innovation is a virus
The only way to innovate radically enough is if your entire organisation is on board. Don’t just limit your moonshots to some secluded skunk works team. Have their efforts or anyone else’s spread throughout your organisation like a virus. Innovation is not a department, it’s a mindset and needs to be an integral part of the culture that flows through the veins of every last one of your employees. It’s the only way your organisation will remain fluid and adaptive enough to survive the day after tomorrow.
This article first appeared in Dutch on the Bloovi platform.