I’ve been talking a great deal lately about the conversations taking place around boardroom tables as leaders struggle to address the disruptive forces driving the digital economy.
But all talk and no action threatens businesses as much as other market disruptors.
In my travels across North America, I see executives in every industry and every corner of the continent strategizing on how to protect their businesses from being eaten alive by one of the born in the cloud digital businesses that are far nimbler than they are.
Strategizing and talking about the issues is important, but I think it’s important to consider what a strategy really is: A strategy is nothing more than a plan … and a plan is, well, worthless unless it’s put into action.
The time for action is here
In the days gone by, a board would hand off an idea to a committee or executive who would investigate the opportunity, draw up a strategy with its implementation plan, present it back to the board at a future meeting, be asked to make modifications and then come back at a future meeting when it may or may not be approved for implementation.
The timeframe to get the strategy built, approved and implemented in today’s accelerated business climate is, to be blunt, shorter than you have!
Disruptive companies are already making moves that will shift the foundation of your company so you need to put talk into action before it's too late.
Unfortunately, when it comes to transforming a traditional company into a digital business of the future, I am still seeing a lot of talk and not enough action (or investment).
Are you a leader or a laggard?
There’s no doubt that some industries are consistently on the cutting edge of innovation and are looking beyond the horizon for both opportunities and threats. Other industries are more likely to take a conservative approach, waiting for the trend to be well established before even investigating whether or not it’s right or beneficial to their business and customers.
I’d argue that with the number of entrepreneurs out there looking for a niche upon which to build a business, the conservative, plodding decision-making of the past is doomed for failure. A business might not survive the competition that’s just over the horizon, and the internal efficiencies that could be had can’t be put off or ignored.
You’re not as unique as you think you are
For those companies not used to leading the pack in their industry, you might take a page from the likes of Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who looks beyond his own industry or market sector for ideas on how to make his company better.
“You want to look at what other companies are doing. It’s very important not to be hermetically sealed. But you don’t want to look at it as if, ‘Okay, we’re going to copy that.’ You want to look at it and say, ‘That’s very interesting. What can we be inspired to do as a result of that?’ And then put your own unique twist on it.” - Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO.
People like to hide behind the fact their company or industry is unique or has different challenges from every other business out there, but in reality, you could learn a thing or two from those you are competing against, as well as companies in different industries, to accelerate your own transformation.
The truth is: You’re not as unique as you think you are.
When it comes to technology and digital business, effectively handling the challenges of mobility, analytics, cloud and storage are similar whether you’re serving patients in the health care sector, clients for financial services, or customers in a retail setting.
Let me put it another way: If you tour a data center for healthcare or financial services they look the same so don’t you think there could be a thing or two to learn from those who have done it before you, whether or not they’re in your industry?
During my travels across the Americas, it’s abundantly clear you also need to look beyond your backyard because the new economy is global. You need to be aware of how business is being done in other cities and countries because they could become your biggest competitors in the future.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
Organizations are trying to figure out how to become a digital businesses and regardless of their segment, they are asking the same questions (or they should be):
- how do we become more nimble;
- how do we become more transparent, and;
- how do we become a more attractive employer to the next generation workforce?
And we’re all trying to answer these questions using the same building blocks that are available to everyone else, so why not take the blinders off and see what really cool thing is being done by someone else that could benefit your enterprise?
Cross industry plays present an opportunity to drive efficiency, and maybe differentiate a service or product by learning from other industries to see how it can be applied to your environment.
There is no one who does this more visibly and successfully than Amazon and Bezos.
Take a Risk
There’s no doubt, change can be scary and leaders want to have all there “I”s dotted and “T”s crossed before embarking on a significant corporate transformation but without action, all this talk won’t deliver the competitive edge enterprises of today need to stay in business.
Taking risks and embracing change are hallmarks of leaders of the future.
Are you ready to take a risk?