In today’s fast-paced business environment, change is not only inevitable but occurs at exponentially faster rates. New technologies, shifting consumer preferences, economic fluctuations, and increased competition mean organizations must stay agile to survive. Rather than resisting change, businesses need to fully embrace change to remain relevant, grow, and capture emerging opportunities.
Understanding Drivers of Change
The first critical step in embracing change is to deeply understand the underlying and interlinked drivers that are causing it. This requires close tracking of technological breakthroughs, consumer and societal trends, market forces and competitor moves using both quantitative and qualitative data. For example, the dramatic rise of e-commerce, mobile and social platforms have profoundly changed consumer shopping habits, upended traditional retail, and created new distribution channels. Harnessing big data analytics and intelligence can help uncover better insights around evolving customer preferences, pain points and needs early on. When businesses thoroughly understand change drivers and their customer impacts, they can more quickly adapt strategies and offerings.
Building a Flexible and Agile Culture
A business’s internal organizational culture hugely affects its ability to smoothly handle rapid external change. Slow-moving bureaucratic cultures that are risk-averse and fear failure tend to resist any change, even when new threats emerge. Alternatively, flexible and agile cultures that empower employees to take responsibility, make decisions, take smart risks, experiment and collaborate across functional silos can more easily pivot and modify directions amid turbulent change. Executives need to actively foster and incentivize cultures centered on creativity, continual learning and responsible risk-taking from the top-down, as this will drive greater agility to manage whatever change brings.
Continuous Experimentation and Improvement
Since external change often brings uncertainty, leading organizations adopt a test-and-learn mindset internally. They run rapid controlled experiments to trial new products, services, workflows, processes, and business strategies on a small scale first. A/B testing digital marketing campaigns, using minimum viable products (MVPs) to evaluate product ideas, and piloting process change allows for learning what works without high-risk. Failed tests provide invaluable lessons to fuel smarter pivots too. According to the technology advisory team at ISG, leveraging data and analytics helps to accurately measure experiments and signals when larger-scale business changes are justified.
Adopting New Technologies
From artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, big data and analytics to virtual reality and distributed ledgers, new technologies are enablers for business model evolution and adaptation amid external change. They allow organizations to automate processes, gain valuable insights from data, provide better customer experiences, develop smarter products, and enable new revenue streams. Organizations must continually scan technology landscapes, run proofs of concept, analyze return on investment and fully integrate the most promising over time. Technology adoption enables product, service and business model transformation, and this is key for thriving through continual change.
Developing Partnerships and Ecosystems
In an increasingly complex changing landscape, no single institution has all the capabilities needed to continually adapt, innovate, and grow. Leading organizations take part in broader business ecosystems filled with partners, technology vendors, startups, academia and more. Partnerships allow pooling complementary strengths, co-developing new solutions faster, entering emerging spaces together, openly sharing data and insights to create value and fueling continual co-innovation. Cross-sector open collaboration is vital for surviving and thriving through external change.
Rather than resist change, organizations must embrace it fully to drive growth. Understanding change drivers, fostering agile cultures, running ongoing experiments, and integrating emerging technologies while collaborating within wider business ecosystems means businesses can turn external change into opportunities for evolution and progress. Developing organizational flexibility, innovation prowess and change-readiness are essential capabilities in today’s exponential world.