If you or your organization isn’t evolving, you are in danger of failing.
The following article is adapted from Everything Connects: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability (McGraw Hill, 2014) by Faisal Hoque with Drake Baer.
Why change at all? It seems like a nonsensical question, doesn’t it? If you or your organization isn’t evolving — innovating, growing, or reinventing — you are in danger of failing.
Astrophysicist and author Carl Sagan once said, “Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.” Sustainability in business comes from the ability to develop new products, services, and methodologies that advance beyond the competition, through repeatable processes. It’s the ability to continuously transform.
The global landscape is littered with the remains of organizations that rose to great heights only to have their fortunes plummet because they were unable to transform themselves as times changed.
Digital Equipment Corporation and Wang Computers, once the titans of the nascent information age, failed to innovate and were sold off to other companies. Woolworth’s, once a fixture on main streets across the country, did not adapt its business model to the advent of mega shopping malls and big box retailers and closed its doors in December 2008. Pan Am and TWA, once the standard bearers of the U.S. airline industry, could not overcome economic pressures and were forced to declare bankruptcy. Transformation was the imperative they all had missed out on.
With the rapid change of the social-technology-economic climate, transformation is the greatest leadership and management challenge of our times.
And no industry is immune to waves of change. The automotive and energy industries are racing to find the next stage of their evolution in a world that is challenged by the question of accessibility to oil in the face of global market demands.
The media is grappling with the democratization of information resulting from the Internet, which has completely eroded the business models of film studios, music producers, and print publishers. The financial services industry tries to recover from the chaos resulting from bad risk taking and regulatory oversight failures, failures so bad that deep intervention by the U.S. government was needed, forever transforming banking, stock trading, and investment regulations.
At the beginning of each new business era, the existing paradigm resists with vigor.
Sooner or later almost every organization needs to transform or diversify from its original market intent. Consider the following examples:
As economic conditions change and products reach market saturation, transformation is the only option for maintaining growth and financial viability. The difference between successful and extinct companies is the recognition and successful execution of this transformative process. Embarking on a transformation is more than just deciding to do something different or expanding into adjacent markets. It requires examination, planning, and execution.
To be successful in today’s business climate, most enterprises need to transform themselves on a regular basis.
I have found that organizations looking to establish an ongoing transformative process should prepare themselves by considering the following seven principles:
Transformation is not a singular event. A one-time makeover will not cut it. Growth through innovation must become part of any organization’s soul. Successful, sustained organizations are those that are continually transforming themselves, or have segmented themselves to enable overlapping transformative initiatives that allow them to escape economic disruptions.
This requires new organizational thinking, the creation and sharing of new kinds of information, and new processes for creativity and innovation. Only in this way can growth through innovation become repeatable.