The ways in which we conduct day-to-day business are shifting rapidly. This is something that was already happening in recent years as a simple result of the advancement of technology. The coronavirus pandemic, however, has sped up the chances, and has led businesses all over the world to transition quickly to new work practices.
How did the startup Harry’s appear out of nowhere to disrupt an $18 billion market and topple entrenched giants Gillette and Schick from their perches? How did some retail newcomers like The RealReal and incumbents like Walmart maintain growth and valuations while so many like Lord & Taylor, Brooks Brothers, MUJI, and J.C. Penney have dropped into bankruptcy like flies this year?
Last week I got to spend five and a half hours with one of the most influential strategic thinkers alive today, Gary Hamel. He has written five global best-selling books, published 17 papers in Harvard Business Review, and has taught at London Business School for 30 years.
In March of 2008, the United States’ national public radio system (NPR) seemed to have a fatal and too common choice: to bet on the past rather than the future. It’s the kind of decision that has initiated the fall of many once-great companies: Toys “R” Us, Polaroid, Borders, Macy’s, RadioShack, and BlackBerry, to name a few.
When an airplane hits turbulence, it seeks a new altitude. One without turbulence. Even better, one with tailwinds.
Now, COVID has certainly injected turbulence rarely seen in history. But is this turbulence universal? Is every sector of the economy under threat?
If you want to predict the path of innovation in your industry, consider one unifying strategic concept: proximity. Introduced by innovation guru Rob Wolcott, proximity is the theory that the production and provision of value moves ever closer to the point of demand. Viewing your industry through this lens can reveal new opportunities, help you clarify where to focus your innovation efforts, and help you better anticipate which innovations will thrive and which will fall.
We are dealing with unprecedented change invoked by the COVID-19 pandemic. What we need more than ever is a sense of hope. So, we’ve taken The Outthinker Process – a strategic process that helps business leaders step outside of conventional thinking to redesign their business models and strategies – and reformed it specifically for what we’re going through right now.
In March, as the reality of COVID-19 started taking hold, when my team received our fifth request in one day to postpone a keynote speech and my calendar was suddenly, unexpectedly, free for months, we sat down to discuss what to do. We figured that (a) other business thought-leaders are similarly, suddenly free and (b) many are wondering what would happen to the business they own or work.
When you ask why large companies have a problem building an innovation proficiency, you get back all the usual suspects: “We have silos.” “It’s nobody’s job.” “We’re afraid of failure.” “It’s unpredictable.” And what do all of these things have in common?
As I write this, I’m resting in an elegant second-floor hotel lobby overlooking the cobblestone streets of a pedestrian shopping district in Dublin, Ireland. Over the past 48 hours, I’ve delivered nine hours of speeches and workshops, conducted three podcasts and radio show interviews, and come to appreciate the remarkable advances Northern Europe has made to become a vibrant technology innovation hub.