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What is more important — doing things that are valuable or doing things efficiently even if they are not so valuable?
No matter how efficiently you do things if it is not valuable, there is no use doing it. I prefer, “Doing the right things, then doing things right!”
History is full of such examples. For instance, one day the alarm clock appeared in the marketplace. If it was someone’s job to wake people up (yes, there were such people), they lost their livelihoods pretty quick. Where did they go wrong? They chose to do a lesser-value activity rather than a valuable one. It was their choice.
That said, not all activities and tasks can be valuable. It is often the game-changers in business who win the race. You need to innovate at double the rate. You need to move things from zero to one. I would contend that it’s not just about building a better phone, selling books through an easier distribution channel or improving analytical algorithms. It’s about really revolutionizing what you do and the value you add — doing different things altogether. You can no longer live by the mantra, “Work hard; don’t worry about the result.”
The key is to think differently. You have to look for those needs of your customers that haven’t been met yet by any of your competitors or are not done well. Not having a great and innovative idea, this very moment, is not a reason to give up — or to ignore potential value.
Ideas are not the monopoly of any one person. All that’s needed is a change in the way you think. “I can … “ or “I will … “ look for possibilities in every limitation.
How can we enable the characteristics of transformation, so important to future success, if we don’t start thinking differently? Reimagining is necessary to support the transformative period we seem to be living in, particularly in our businesses (although much could also be said about our personal lives as we witness societal change). To do this in the context of where our industries are heading forces us to think differently and involves creativity. It’s hard! It’s a trait that we all look for in our leadership.
It requires design thinking, innovative approaches and a willingness to let go of models built for another time.
Macro Forces Driving Transformation
I believe many forces are influencing the need for transformation in our businesses, but let’s focus on a few to start.
The blurring of industry boundaries. Emerging needs and value propositions blur the lines between industries. This blurring is enabled by technology or other innovation that allows once distinct industries or verticals to innovate in similar ways — the old “look outside your four walls” mantra.
At the wholesale distribution level, we often see varying levels, and some very distinct differences, in technology adoption and innovation based on the specific vertical. Is it because some still believe “we are different”?
The rise of consumerism. The origin of many technology and innovation advances have begun at the consumer level. Thank the Internet for that! Innovation seems to now come from the consumer markets first. Business-to-business customers act more like business-to-consumer customers in their attitudes and practices. It impacts expectations. It’s not difficult to understand because, at some level, we are all consumers first. I think it is a big takeaway.
The changing workforce. For the first time in history, we have four generations of workers in our workforce and probably moving toward five generations by 2020. This demographic mix poses a significant challenge for senior management. Businesses need to expect and be able to manage workforce dynamics such as technology-savvy employees as well as customers.
The shift from transactional to experiential. The past has always been about transactions. Related to many of our measurements and performance metrics, it remains an important attribute. But today, the focus on transactions shouldn’t cloud a shift to an emphasis on “customer engagement and experience” — competing on the strength of a compelling consumer-like experience. This shifts the differentiation from traditional places such as price and product features.
Harnessing the insights. The insights gained from data provides an unprecedented opportunity to drive business outcomes. Companies that can exploit this success factor gain the competitive advantage over those who don’t “see” those insights. The future may belong to those wholesale distributors who can mimic the analytical prowess of the big Internet companies.
This brief list of drivers underscores the critical need for leaders to think differently, to break away from status-quo thinking.
Wouldn’t it be great if we had a roadmap for thinking differently? In a future article, I’ll focus on additional drivers and enablers — those forcing functions — pushing us to transform in what is likely, for your business, to be the most transformative period in history.
Instead of talking about “disruption” all the time, let’s talk more about enablement and advancement in this emerging transformative period.