The Business Dynamics
For Us To Be Prepared For The Future We Need To Understand The Possibilities It Holds.
We know how hard it is to think through the future sometimes. But the prize for thinking about it can be very high. Through our Business Dynamics ‘app’ we are understanding how well we are prepared for the future.
Looking Beyond The Typical Three To Five-Year Planning Horizon The World Starts To Look Very Different.
And some questions arising in bold:
In 10 years, 7 billion people will be seamlessly connected to each other and the entire knowledge of humanity. Q. What do we need to do now to take advantage of that?
Amazon is working on a version of its Alexa assistant that can understand emotions. Q. Armed with this technology (that can already call up our website) how should we design things differently?
A machine is predicted to join a corporate board of directors within 10 years. Q. How likely are we to embrace that idea and does the idea encourage or alarm us?
Gymnasts in the next Olympics could be judged not by people but by robots that instantaneously scan, plot and analyze the arc of the athlete. Q. It’s therefore totally likely that we can exploit that technology inside our business - how could/would we?
Children born today will very probably not learn to drive, nor visit a physician for a checkup when they are 20. Q. As they may we’ll be our consumers in the future are we prepared or capable of exploiting that notion? If so when should we start planning?
The concept of ‘going online’ will cease to exist, as we’ll be permanently and invisibly connected to an internet. This concept is an ever enveloping and ever-present fabric in our lives already. Q. Can we exploit this reality for the betterment of our customers and the wider society?
Our bodies will become our passwords, with biometric recognition ‘announcing’ our entrance to many environments. Q. Can we imagine new ways to develop our solutions that take advantage of these more seamless opportunities?
We’ll be surrounded by a cloud of data that can know our every preference, habit and behavior, and that tracks and scores aspects of our daily lives. Q. Can we imagine the future this proposes and develop solutions that are ethically and morally authentic and not exploitative or dystopian?
Distributed ledger software, or blockchain, will enable trusted transactions or contracts without any intermediary. Q. What are we doing to build these concepts into our future? Do we have the skills and capabilities or even interest in these ideas? Are we prepared to invest in these ideas? For how long?
Virtual and augmented reality will enable digital experiences that the brain can’t distinguish from real ones, for the price of an iPhone. Q. Do we have the appetite to engage in the creativity it will take to build applications of this nature in our own business?
Genomics, biosensing and bioinformatics will yield near-perfect information about our health. Q. Are there opportunities in our business that we can start thinking about that will position is to be involved constructively in this new world?
Business Dynamics Will Embrace The Major Trends Over 5-10 Years
Automation is expected to rapidly erode job security for entire categories of workers.
I’ve seen reports that expect automation to take nearly 50 percent of jobs and wreak havoc on value chains.
Retail businesses expect to see their physical business models disrupted by seismic shifts through digital and virtual technologies.
These technologies completely change what it means to shop - full stop.
Increasing transparency totally removes the opacity that exists in (siloed) vertically integrated businesses.
Scale-driven manufacturers will see 3D printing create decentralized and fragmented production, making many traditional factories obsolete.
Virtually no traditional business will be spared by exponentially accelerating change.
There’s never been such a high degree of possibility for innovation.
There’s significant opportunities for those who can envisage new solutions. For example blockchain applications will allow the goods we own to manage themselves to our budgets and preferences, ordering their own upgrades and repairs in advance.
Technologies are continuously improving our ability to predict future well-being, monitoring and intervening to improve it by the minute.
The Big Questions Emerging From This Partial View
What will it take to win customers in the new world of extreme connectivity and automation?
What are the biggest unmet needs that we can create and how can we become confident enough to make these investments?
Are we capable of developing a deep enough understanding of digital business design and develop these strategies?
How fast can we develop the new mentality we need of relentless curiosity and courage to seize the opportunities?
Are we prepared to embrace the more expansive, ambitious sense of purpose that will distinguish us with our audiences?
Are we prepared to commit/invest with a deep passion and with (what will need to be) profound optimism to solving the next big (as yet unrecognized) and unmet need.
Are we prepared to dismantle the traditional management constructs and rebuild the new kind of operation to meet the future?
Can we transform all those around us who promote the usual themes of capitalism, profit at all costs, shareholder return? (And the usual calls for value creation based on core competencies - yawn).
How ready are we as a leadership team to defusing entirely different organizational approaches, skills and cultures built on inspiration and human imagination?
How persistent and resilient are we able to become? Can we become that new mechanism that isn’t just producing products to fill shelves or showrooms but a continuous and vital machine that’s always solving the challenge or opportunity for its customers?
We can readily deduce things from this. There cannot be a specific or best option because what’s best today may not be best tomorrow. The business dynamics require the leadership to balance the speed of technological change with the speed of behavioural change.
A first base for preparedness is how important a businesses understanding/appreciation of the current AND new business dynamics are to running a successful and sustainable future business.
Knowing what’s coming is impossible.
Knowing where we are is (often) a mixture of bias and convenient subjectivity.
Knowing how to prepare is therefore probably impossible to calculate accurately.
Challenging assumptions and conventional thinking starts with an honest appraisal of some sort. Our best chance is to test and challenge these ‘positions’ from every perspective we can.
Is it possible for a client to objectively assess the attitudes and actions already in play? How?
Does the organisation consider itself to be a system of sorts? Where is the evidence?
Does the organisation fully (enough) understand the key dynamic of digitalisation that is transforming everything? By what measure does it establish this? (((Collapsing the distance between marketing, making and managing...)))
How can the leadership/decision makers get to a valid baseline of the whole system? (If the questions are posed to individuals who represent bits)
Can the leadership become a sufficiently aligned cohort in order to work together to bring about change and embrace the future? How would they prove/know they were?
Our contention directly recognises how difficult it is for capabilities, systems, processes, mindsets and behaviours to change in an ‘orchestrated’ manner as an existing business struggles to keep up.
How do we know the information we are receiving from the various parts of the business/system upon which we are making decisions is real?
Is this testable?
Is it meaningful anyway because it is probably a set of data taken from an isolated part of a more connected system? (Subjective)
If the rate at which change is occurring then what value is historical information? It will falsify our calculations.
How much investment is there in getting up to date information (feedback/assessment)?
How do we test that information upon which we are making critical decisions is valid?
But we know we need to start somewhere. We know that it’s often more convenient to deny the inability to change than to accept the lack of knowledge or appreciation of what to do.
How open are the leaders/decision makers to being proved inaccurate/wrong in the spirit of a better future?
What tools and techniques are in place to create ways to improve this learning and by doing so grab fresh opportunity?
In many cases prior/earlier knowledge is potentially the enemy anyway. The past is definitely no prologue to our uncertain futures.
The Following Dynamics Vary Only Slightly By Market Sector. And As Dynamics They Are Not That Much Of A Secret.
Keeping up with new technologies - How? Whose job is it? How curious are people about the insights? Are we able to identify an insight from all the information? Have we implemented discovery strategies to identify practical solutions and future plans? Are we comparison testing? Are we able to test for the suitability of the future plan against the current state - appetite and cultural implications? How robust or convenient is our risk assessment? Are we prepared to sacrifice a new/better technology or platform based on ethical grounds? (Sustainability/Morality/Politics) Facebook - Soul Cycle.
The challenges of replacing legacy infrastructure quickly enough - How? Investment strategies? Stakeholder/shareholder understanding and acceptance? Business case development? Financial calculations against appetite for risk - how/can we? Do we care if people are losing their jobs? Are there some in the organisation who will do anything to hide the truth? Are we in partnerships that have been around forever and we are scared to change? Is their corruption in these relationships?
Overall quality of leadership? - Have we got leaders who understand and acknowledge the pace and enormity of such change? Can we even tell them if not? Who can challenge the status quo? Is there a strategy for calling out leaders and helping them think? How strong is the board? Is there an impartial advisory board? Does the enterprise meet the board? How close is the CEO to the Finance Director? Are we outdated when it comes to the drivers of capitalism over everything? Is it possible to change these foundations? Are we hostages to ‘groupthink’, ‘best practice’ or ‘optimum solutions’? What are the leaders curious about? How prepared are they to listening to input beyond their peer group? How can we measure or evidence that? Are they suggesting radical change but not doing anything meaningful about it? Are there constant comparisons about other brands but no meaningful strategies to develop a new future for the business? (All talk - no walk)
Data protection/Security - What/how? Are we paying lip service to the new regulations? Does everyone in the operation understand their obligations? How well are our processes and technologies doing when it comes to privacy, breaches and sharing of customer data? How do we share these responsibilities with partners in our ecosystem? Are we skilled at strategies for consumer data and development of secure protocols and strategies? 1st/3rd Party? With the disruption of robo-services and solutions can we survive the competition (currently known/unknown) delivering ahead of us? Is investment forthcoming? Is the risk recognised by the employees?
The Purpose Driven ‘fashion’ - What/How? Does the organisation pay lip service or does it mean it? How far is the purpose practically realised inside the business and how far is it deployed (for example retail stores) in a meaningful and heartfelt manner - with any authenticity? Do our partners help with this? Are we checking? Are we investing in the purpose or is it simply a convenient message? Do the leaders talk about the purpose much? Do we feel it with sincerity in the business? Have we proven we are delivering it? Is there growing cynicism inside the organisation or are we good? Is the investment supported readily or is it a fight?
The ability/inability to get the correct skills into the business - Why? Does the brand really inspire and motivate new recruits? Do the managers that do the hiring know how to explain and inspire the future employees? Does the culture immediately come across from the way the story is told and the experience in the recruitment process? Is that outsourced? Do the partners even know?
The generational ‘tectonic plates’ that can swiftly kill the once strong brand - What? Who is the youngest person on the board? Do we speak to the coming generations and if we do what are we doing with the reactions and insight? Do we have the skill and insight to reposition the brand? Have we got the right skills to craft the story? Can we be fluent in explaining our unique story to ourselves? Can we tell it externally? Do we know how stories shift according to the media channels we are using? Do we understand how close our processes and systems are (through digitalisation) to our customers? Is everyone in the business aware that the consumer can see our business directly through our Apps and websites? Do we know that the promise we make to consumers can immediately impact the quality of service the consumer sees in real time? Are we or our agencies competent with the coming techniques - chatbots, VR/AR and the new storytelling skills required for immersive video technologies? Are we over emotionally attached to the existing brand? Do we appreciate what’s happened in the competitive landscape and realised we are possibly on the path to dying? Do we know what to do and/or find the partnerships to help us? What’s the leadership position on investing in this new way - combined investment in new positions, products and processes? Is it serious? Is the challenge always trying to convince the financial people? How good are we at creating the business cases? Do we actively seek the data that would make the case? (Cases?)
The challenge of getting the attention of audiences - How? How creative and innovative are we in this area? Do we study the competitive environment at a creative and media positioning level? Are we aware of the degree/quality/content of the competitive noise in each space we ‘go to market’? Have we mapped the competing messages in order for us to drive towards distinction? Have we selected the right external partners to help us with these skills and challenges? Do we have the skills in house? Do we test and do we learn? Really? What do we do with the learning? The data? How do we assess the market opportunity and build the differentiated messages that will distinguish us from our competition? What’s the process that can drive true distinction? Can we create value propositions that are backed up across the enterprise? Do we engage the whole enterprise in the distinctions and stories so that we ensure a coherent experience for consumers? (((Do we spend time on the shop floor and with dealers/distributor workforce to ensure coherent messages and experiences?))) Do we learn from the ecosystem (dealers/distributors) about what’s working and what isn’t? As our customers come through the journey is the experience one we are proud of? Do we know that it’s not as seamless as we might like? What are we able to do about it? Do we do any user testing and feedback on our products and services? What is the standard of our website and collateral?
Managing the plethora of channels through which to market - How? Are we conscious of all the media channels and applications through which we can go to market? Are these channels made aware to employees across the organisation? Are we fully exploiting the opportunity for scale and growth through these channels? Are we managing the data that comes through these channels? In the case of apps and online are we aware of the opportunity in UI design to increase performance? How would we know? Are we exploiting the data through our own capabilities or are we outsourcing? Are we sharing the
Managing operational and future complexity at the same time - How? Businesses that have been around a while find it hard to create any kind of succession plan quickly enough to be ahead of the puck. This means having the nous to build a new platform for the business while dismantling barriers and infrastructure/behaviours and attitudes in the old one. Few people have the skill to do this because this is new territory and it may not be feasible to imagine the skill in any one individual. How are we thinking about this? Does the leadership even understand the idea? Is it saying it does but doing nothing about? Are we on the path to becoming more agile (test and learn) rather than more perfect? Do we know when to pivot rather than to blindly persevere? Do we know how to rid the system of old knowledge and old skills) do we constantly review ‘input/information’ or is it reactionary and ad hoc? (Keeping a research/tracking study going just because we’ve got x years of back data is highly damaging.)
Emerging Themes That Need Tackling
People & Caring - Whether it’s leaders caring about the people or their businesses futures and the people caring about their work. How do we feel?
Understanding & The Marketplace - The business of the future is only about the meaning, the making and the managing. But first it’s the meaning and that’s marketing. Ignore excellence in that and die. Competitors are coming thick and fast and far more automated. So do we know where from - what’s our response and are we prepared to make significant investment in new knowledge and capability? Do we study the trends and markets in ways that inform our future product development and positioning? (((What is the businesses reaction to these trends in competition))) Can we predict the impact on the business of potential market disruption and innovation?
Partnerships & The Overall System - The future demands connection and meaningful engagement with others to deliver. Connecting with others to deliver overall capabilities is a strategy - what is our strategy?
Intelligent (enlightened) Investment - A major drawback for future strategy is the inability to shift investment quickly. And the investment is often far too narrow. The conversation quickly turns to risk and business cases and then there’s the mentality to overcome even when the case is made. The subtlety of this mindset problem shows up in tiny and often indiscernible ways. And then bang - the Business is out of the game!