You’ve heard it before – the pace of change is accelerating. I can present all of the technology adoption charts, the fascinating nuggets of data that tell you how quickly different products or technologies were acquired by millions of customers. And so on and so on.
You already know this. Change is real, and change is accelerating. Whether we are talking about change in your global markets, in your industry or in your customer base, change is everywhere. The real question isn’t: should we change? The answer to that question is obvious. The question isn’t even: should we become more agile or more nimble? The answer to that one is “yes” as well, and (shameless plug) I wrote a book about how to become more nimble, agile and innovative.
Look at just one of my favorite data nuggets: how long it took specific products or technologies to reach 50M users. Please go ahead, the rest of the blog can wait. Having seen this, we can draw several conclusions: the pace of change is accelerating, and the more reliant you are on the internet or virtual solutions the more you need to accelerate.
Deciding on the pace of change
If the question isn’t “should we change” or “should we be more agile” then what’s the real question? It’s “which change benchmark should we pay attention to?” Because if your market, your industry or your customers are changing faster than you are, you are toast. Choosing a benchmark and deciding to change at least as fast as the benchmark is a good place to start.
Question now is: which benchmark? Do you decide to match the pace of the commercial market generally, or more specifically match the pace of change in your industry? Or, do you match the pace of change of your customers and their expectations and demands? Of course you can ignore change and hope for the best, but hope is rarely a good strategy.
Which do you pay attention to and which do you ignore?
This is a really good time to start paying a lot more attention to your existing customers, potential customers and future potential customers. These are the people who will determine how quickly your market moves and the rate of acceleration. These, along with new entrants and substitutes.
Your customers and prospects will constantly seek new solutions and become disenchanted with existing products and services. You can lead them, if you can move fast enough, or you can follow along with them if you are intimate with their wants and needs. Few established companies are innovative enough and have enough marketing heft to constantly lead their customers – even Apple is failing at that strategy right now. So, the next best alternative is to get really close to your customers and prospects and understand their current and future needs, which will establish the rate of change.
The other factor you must be paying attention to is the rate of new entrants or substitutes. AirBnB is a good example here. The hospitality industry became accustomed to slow change, and domination by a few large chains. Then a radical upstart came in and upset the apple cart, and change is accelerating in the hotel space, mostly driven by AirBnB. How good is your competitive intelligence? The rate of change will be dictated by the smaller players or the outliers more than the large companies.
What impact does this have to your business?
If you decide to try to compete on speed and innovation, it has a significant impact on your operations. Decision cycles must be shortened, more rapid experiments and minimum viable products created and tested. Your innovation pipeline must get wider and shorter. Your product development pipeline must get shorter as well.
It’s not a question of if, but a question of when, you’ll need to accelerate. The more you rely on software or virtual products or services, the faster the change will be upon you, but every company in every industry must adopt a new velocity.
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Jeffrey Phillips has over 15 years of experience leading innovation in Fortune 500 companies, federal government agencies and non-profits. He is experienced in innovation strategy, defining and implementing front end processes, tools and teams and leading innovation projects. He is the author of Relentless Innovation and OutManeuver. Jeffrey writes the popular Innovate on Purpose blog. Follow him @ovoinnovation