We all know that companies that thrive in the future share certain traits. They need to listen to core customers and excel at sensing new trends.
Rightfully so, the global community reacts in outrage when terrorists take the lives of innocent citizens. Millions walk in solidarity to stomp out breast cancer, while entire communities take to the streets in protest over deadly violence. But we seem to just accept the 1.3 million deaths – and 50 million injuries – related to auto accidents. In fact, car crashes claim more lives each year than war, malaria, terrorism, murder, breast cancer, suicide, or illegal drugs.
It is so easy to miss! When the future was lobbing softballs at you, you could hit the trends every time. But the future has upped its game. It’s throwing fastballs and curveballs now.
What software company would’ve thought five years ago that Amazon would be its biggest competitor in the cloud? What automobile manufacturer thought five years ago that a simple mobile app would force them to rethink their business?
In our last blog post, we argued that a “digital transformation” being experienced across nearly every sector is thrusting us into a new era of complexity. Large companies are failing to adapt. They are dying earlier and faster than ever before. And their failure to adapt could come at a profound detriment to society.
An odd thing happened in a client’s boardroom recently. We were listing out the competitors we needed to keep an eye on as part of a scenario planning exercise. We had discussed the usual suspects – long-time direct – and even the more recent entrants – mostly technology start-ups that were now picking up speed. Then someone said, “What really scares me are the competitors we can’t see.”
What is next to fall?
The talent barrier is already coming down. In the past, companies offered workers a straightforward bargain: give up what you want to do to do what we want you to do, and in exchange we will give you full-time employment, a title, and a hierarchy. Trade freedom for predictability.
Last June, John Chambers, former Cisco CEO, proposed that “soon you’ll see huge companies with just two employees – the CEO and CIO.” The concept seems crazy now, but tangible evidence suggests we are moving toward such a future, faster than you might think. As with every major transition, this one will create losers and winners, thinkers (who hold on to outdated concepts) and outthinkers (who embrace the new).
Opportunities appear … then vanish more quickly today than ever before. In response, many businesses – from startups to Global 100s – are trying to accelerate their decision-making approaches. They are embracing a philosophy referred to with terms like agile, lean, and scrum.
It’s happening weekly now. Someone – a client, reader, expert I am interviewing for my next book – mentions the need for a more agile approach to strategy, an approach that allows us to react more quickly to unexpected opportunities and threats.
Corporate venturing models assume that the path to launching a business begins with writing a business case and then seeking funding. But this overlooks perhaps the most important source of capital: your customers.