Who cares about tomorrow? Of course, the answer is – we all do. But what about the organisation you work for? Does it have the ideas and foresight to continue its success and secure your working future?
It may seem an odd question to ask – and an obvious one to answer. But if that’s the case why are there so many examples of once market-leading companies who have failed to keep a hold of the top slot?
Why be good today when you can be great tomorrow too? Why not have it all? When organisations only focus on the now, any success they have in the future is pure luck.
Future-proofing. It was a reoccurring theme for the innovative SME organisations in the UK that I worked with and advised as an associate at Gartner. Future-proofing came up in the context of executives and boards wanting to secure current revenues and maximise the potential for future revenue to provide safety, security and opportunity for all stakeholders.
In this blog we look at the concept of future-proofing and the steps businesses must take to ensure that the success they enjoy today can also be replicated tomorrow.
Risks of not innovating
Companies like Kodak, Nokia and Blockbuster – all one time leaders - have seen technology transform their competitors and disrupt the market. It’s too easy to assume we know the story of these companies; how they failed to invest in new technology. The surprising truth is, they did invest. Their big mistake was not allowing their innovative thinkers to create, test and turn their ideas into products and services. If they had, they may still be here today.
AoL is another example of a leader that did not embrace innovation in time to save themselves, leaving an open playing field for competitors like Apple to rise to new heights.
Much of the talent once employed by these giants is now spread across other industries, some snapped up by the current market leaders. In fact, it has been said that AoL is one of the best universities in the world from which the top technology companies extract talent.
Nokia sold its smartphone business to Microsoft in 2013 for $7.2 Billion (New Yorker: Where Nokia went wrong), but in 2013, the market cap of the business had dropped to a fifth of the 2007 highs. With competition from Apple and Android, Nokia continued to invest in R&D in the wrong areas, namely hardware instead of the more impactful and engaging software. With hindsight, we know this has transformed the mobile phone landscape in the last 10 years.
Executives at Apple created multidisciplinary teams who would create experiences for clients instead of the siloed approach at Nokia.
It’s not just that Nokia didn’t transition quickly enough to the era of the smartphone. This decision-making was driven by the fact that past successes led the business to believe that what worked in the past would also work in the future.
Kodak was famously disrupted by digital photography because they lacked the vision to take action following investment in new technology research. Had Kodak continually tested and had confidence in their own digital photography products, they would have seen a clear market and been one of the early movers. “Escape Velocity: Free your company’s future from the pulls of the past (Geoffrey Moore)”.
When Kodak created the first digital camera in 1975, he characterised the corporate response to his invention as management seeing the product as “cute” but more of a gimmick than a viable product.
Benefits of innovating / self-disruption – what should you do?
Create and investigate ideas that your customers valuable today and tomorrow. Much of the planning and targets of executives involve looking at how an organisation can increase the quantity of customers and the percentage of wallet allocated to their products and services.
Keep your people happy and engaged. We have seen that getting buy-in from internal stakeholders to investigate innovative products leads to an increase in communication and idea sharing. Traditionally, increased idea sharing and communication are key drivers to the success of new product creation.
Differentiate yourself from the competition. Apart from being perceived as a great place to work, where ideas are valued, you can transform your organisation to one focused on driving value for your customers. The term ‘customer-centric’ describes Chelsea Apps Factory’s approach to design and is known within the industry as the best approach for creating innovative, people-first digital products.
Build products that make your company and brand resonate with the buyers who will be your customers now and later. Understanding what has made your business successful is important, but as learned from Nokia, the clients and successes of yesterday may change tomorrow. Keeping abreast of technological trends and technology adoption by new target audiences may help you stay ahead of the competition.
Avoid being disrupted by competitors and start-ups. The best way to avoid being disrupted by external parties is by having an internal group responsible for disrupting not just your organisation, but also your industry.
Current situation and what steps you can take
Identify an internal leader/leaders (ideally executive team member) who can investigate and then champion innovative products/services which your organisation can create to create value for all of your stakeholders.
Chelsea Apps Factory is focused on partnering with organisations of differing sizes to create value and identify efficiencies.
After finding a champion (this may be you), spend some time looking at your organisation from an objective viewpoint and ask “Could we be doing things better?” and “Could we provide more value to our clients? If the answer to either or both of these questions is yes, then you are on track to create a future-proof plan for your organisation.
Create a list of between two and five ideas of where you could be doing things better and where you could be providing additional value to clients.
From here you can start to get buy-in from the wider executive team.
You need to continually harness new ideas, test them, vet them and productise them to secure the future of your organisation.
If you aren’t a market leader, do your teams have ideas which you think can help future-proof your business?
Could these ideas help generate revenues for you and your business 1,2,5,10 years down the line?
If you could use some help with innovation why not drop in for a cup of tea? We love to kick around new ideas and help organisations like yours move forward to secure their position as disruptor, market leader, innovator.