Change is inherent in the marketplace. This has always been true. Business, like life more generally, moves with companies who learn to evolve and grow.
But the pace of change is unlike anything we’ve seen before, largely thanks to the speed of technological development. In the space of a 20 year career, you can expect to end up working with technology 500,000 times more powerful than the day you started work . This is bewildering and difficult for an individual to face, let alone a large organisation with developed infrastructure and processes.
And as technology becomes more advanced, it offers new opportunities for disruption. Traditional businesses need to adapt to this new, hyper-fast world, or face extinction. And the best way they can do this: take on the tactics used by the challengers themselves.
The strength of most start-ups is their agility. They are small and nimble, and this means they are free to try new ideas, see how they work, and then go back to the drawing board to create something better.
This ‘breaking and rebuilding’ process is faster than the traditional approach adopted by most established organisations. Consequently, incumbent businesses can struggle to keep up with the disruptors in their midst.
Another factor holding traditional businesses back is fear. More precisely, the fear of failure. When an established player makes a bold move, they have a lot at stake: their reputation, lead position in the market. This can prevent them from taking risks.
But thinking outside the box is what propels innovation, and ultimately success. Big organisations need to cultivate some of the daring exercised by challenger brands. A great example of this is Intel, who appointed Will.i.am as Director of Creative Innovation in 2011. Becoming stale is the real danger – and organisations should work as hard as they can to avoid this.
The best disruptors of recent years, from Netflix to AirBnB, have built their success on a business model that provides total flexibility. It’s called the network of networks. It’s essentially a system that provides access to the skills, people power, and resources a company needs - but only when they need them. This results in a huge saving, since you don’t pay for any excess.
For most businesses, it’s a huge challenge to build a network of networks, because it means stepping outside of themselves and looking for partners. It requires a mentality-shift towards openness and collaboration, which can seem counter-intuitive at a time of such high competition.
It’s not something that established players ever had to do before – and consequently, most aren’t set up for it. This manifests itself most clearly in a lack of standardisation. When systems and interfaces aren’t standardised, it makes it much more difficult to collaborate with partners. It’s like trying to communicate with someone but not being able to speak their language.
The move to a network of networks, and the development of new forms of smart technology, has had one result: a lot of data.
Consumers are starting to understand how valuable their data really is. They are also coming to see that it’s increasingly regulated, and increasingly under threat. This means that businesses need to revaluate their approach to collecting data. You can only ask for it when there is a clear intended use for it. Consumers will no longer hand over their data at random; instead you have to provide something of equal value in exchange.
This can be achieved by using the data you capture to improve things for your customer. You can take location data to make valuable suggestions for things that are near to the user, or you can recommend things the user might like based on their purchase history. Creating a personalised experience in this way is often seen as a worthy exchange of data.
The other point to consider when it comes to data relates to consumer trust. You gain consumer trust when you implement strong customer-facing security policies which will work towards keeping your users’ data safe. But a big part of inspiring confidence in your data protection capabilities is the PR exercise that comes with telling people that you have the security in place. So make sure to implement strong policies – and shout about them when you do.
The world we live in is accelerating. And as things get faster, it’s more important than ever not to fall behind. The risk of being overtaken is very real - according to the Harvard Business Review, 60 years ago corporations in the Fortune 500 had an average stay of 61 years. In 2011 that had fallen to 11 years – and it’s probably fallen again since.
There’s no time to rest on your laurels. You need to become your company’s biggest challenger, to ensure you don’t meet a challenge for real.
To find out more about any of the three areas mentioned above – rapid reinvention, removing silos and data utilisation – read the full guide.
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