As market leaders are often all-too-aware, today’s cultural and business environments are rapidly shifting—often in highly unpredictable and disruptive ways. In the past few years alone, physical has quickly given way to digital (including cloud and app-based solutions); meetings and events have evolved into virtual and streaming solutions; and promotional and outreach efforts once aimed at connecting with Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are quickly being transformed into initiatives targeted at Millennials and Gen Zers. As analysts at IBM discovered, continuous change is the new normal—and now more normal than new, given that these findings were published roughly half a decade ago.
Organizations that consistently thrive in these unpredictable times are those that are most skilled at embracing change and evolution. In fact, they succeed up to 10 times more often than their less-adaptable peers. But it’s not enough to be able to acclimate to unforeseen events. According to IBM and many of the world’s leading consulting firms, success hinges less on business strategy or operating models than human capital—i.e., it revolves more around people, not processes, or procedures. In fact, as I often point out in keynotes and workshops, adapting to change and disruption needn’t be difficult for business leaders—or meeting professionals—as long as you make some simple shifts in planning and mindset.
For example: Studies of the world’s most-innovative organizations show that their key source of competitive advantage is merely providing staff and contributors with better platforms for speaking up, sharing insights, and taking action. Clearly, organizational culture plays a pivotal role in driving innovation. Following are seven habits that can help you adapt to be more competitive and stay ahead of highly-disruptive business environments:
• Create a culture of trust and encourage employees to speak up. Leading enterprises empower workers and reward them for bringing potential opportunities and challenges to their attention. Frontline staffers are often a firm’s most informed audience—to create and sustain a competitive advantage, provide your team with the tools they need to translate ideas into action.
• Constantly rethink operating practices. Is “the way it’s always been done” still the best way to do it?
• Freely collaborate across the organization. Flatten lines of communication, and allow information, insights, and support to flow throughout your organization. The more readily you can align tools, talent, and resources towards common goals, the more readily you can foster innovation.
• See the future today. Rather than simply keeping pace with rivals, top innovators always consider where the future is heading and strive today for the solutions that tomorrow’s audiences will demand.
• Be open to change. Expect employees to stay abreast of changing business environments—and intelligently and flexibly respond to them. To this extent, staffers are given the freedom to take small, smart risks with new programs, initiatives, and communications campaigns that have the potential to help the organization better serve its customers… so long as these risks are intelligent, productive, and affordable.
• Spread your risk. Leading organizations don’t try to be risk-free, but rather actively pursue a more calculated range of business bets. As with financial portfolios, these organizations constantly manage and adjust a portfolio of new initiatives, outreach efforts, and strategic ventures. Not all wagers will pan out. But all are designed to collectively help the organization grow its capabilities, spread risk, and learn through real-time monitoring and course-correction.
• Never stop learning. Rather than relying solely on contingency plans, market leaders experiment with new innovations and solutions—especially when things are going well, and they can most afford to gamble. By consistently pioneering new ideas and approaches, and extending their experience, capabilities and comfort zones, they create added flexibility and room to maneuver in the face of changes or unforeseen events.
In short, leading businesses turn employees into emergency responders. They transform infrastructures from barriers into enablers. They see business strategy as flexible, not fixed. And they continually provide collaborators with the tools and runway they need to innovate their way to success as scenarios change. You too can consistently adapt to changing times and trends and go from strength to strength.
Professional speaker Scott Steinberg is a trends expert and futurist, and the bestselling author of Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty, The Business Etiquette Bible and Millennial Marketing: Bridging the Generation Gap. The founder of travel + hospitality trends magazine SELECT: Your City’s Secrets Unlocked, and host of Next Up on NewsWatch, his website is www.AKeynoteSpeaker.com.