It’s not a hard scenario to envision--you’re running with a tried and true business model but sales are flat or flagging as time wears on. You know it’s time to mix things up, but it seems like the risk of losing what you’ve already got is too great. So you stick with what’s worked before, unable to shake the sinking suspicion that on your current course there’s limited potential for growth, and perhaps a limited future.
For many companies, this is the reality of living in a world that’s changing faster than many understand how to keep up with.
But in today’s marketplace, where exactly one of the largest ten companies in the world was even in the top ten a decade ago, there’s vastly more risk involved in not making bold moves and embracing change thinking.
But what does “change thinking” even mean?
Consider this example. You’re a global leader in hospitality services but find that more and more customers are reporting dissatisfaction with the check-in process, annoyed at their inability to use video streaming apps seamlessly on the in-unit televisions, disappointed by sparsely equipped gyms that don’t hold a candle to the connected devices they now have at home.
In a world where you can reserve a cab on your phone before you’re even done with a conference or punch a few icons and check in for a flight, why does it take an extended trip to the front desk and a second glance at paper versions of the forms you already filled out online to finally make it to your room? Why do you need to be given a tiny card with the Wi-Fi password on it? Why does the bedside alarm clock still have a 3rd gen iPod dock connector on it?
We asked ourselves those same questions and imagined a scenario where your room was already logged in to all your services, where you could see what your room looked like without waiting for a desk attendant to pull it up, where you could compete with other users in the onsite gym. These aren’t experiences of the future--these are experiences we have the technology to provide right now.
Change thinking means taking steps to understand the shifts the world around us is undergoing…
...and adapting to them before our customers start to think of us as the ones that simply won’t. But if you don’t already have a business that embraces change thinking, it can be daunting to figure out how to get started. What does that look like from an actual implementation perspective? A few examples.
- Task, and fund, a group dedicated to innovation. The group can solely dedicate itself to creative experiments, with specific goals like running six experiments over six months and seeing which ones have the most promise when it comes to building value.
- Host an in-house “hackathon.” Require your leadership team to attend and participate, to demonstrate the importance of the effort, to make it clear that experimentation is an activity for anyone, and to get people thinking in ways they might not have normally considered during the course of their daily tasks.
- Cultivate a culture of experimentation. Embrace and encourage experimentation by demonstrating that not all experiments end in implementation or product launches, and that failed experiments aren’t a threat to job security or the business itself, but often contain bits and pieces that serve as stepping stones to new ideas.
Business owners and executives need look no further than the app trays on their phones for the shortlist of companies that have managed to stay competitive in the current marketplace, and in almost every instance it’s because they found processes to identify the changes we’re all experiencing in the ways we work and live, and leverage new technology and new solutions to offer the ideal product or service to meet that need, from easier ways to catch a ride, to more efficient ways to take care of grocery shopping, to fewer uncertain ways to send money to a friend.
If presented with a choice, consumers will invariably opt for the more connected, more personal, more friendly, more convenient option, and the alternative doesn’t remain one for long. When you think of it that way, blindly adhering to the “tried and true” business model instead of really embracing change thinking seems more like the risk than the alternative. Truly adopting the tenets of this process can not only help you reconnect to your existing clients, but keep your brand relevant to a group of consumers that might not have the image of your company in their minds that you think they have.
It’s not always clear what changes need to be made.
But business leaders who are too slow to embrace testing new ideas, expanding their core capabilities, and examining the natural progression of where their business can go from where it is now won’t have to dwell on it for too long--the marketplace will make that decision for them.