Like any good management speaker and leader knows, winning business strategies begin with a solid playbook. But to stay ahead of the competition, that playbook has to change over time – and, in fact, plays themselves evolve the moment they’re put into action, as situations evolve and change. In fact, flexibility is the essence of future-proofing, and today’s most successful change management pros’ top source of competitive advantage.
Every year, management consulting firm Strategy& studies hundreds of the world’s top innovators – companies like Samsung, GE and Procter & Gamble – to see what makes them tick. Like management speakers often remind, if you want to succeed, try borrowing a page from their playbook:
- Hear what your customers are saying and capture this feedback.
- Empower your staff to speak up and present novel solutions for meeting buyers’ needs.
- Transform these insights into actionable ideas.
- Deploy these concepts on a routine and recurring basis, learning as you go, and responding and course-correcting in kind.
It’s a simple, but hugely significant formula – and one we often forget, especially when we’ve met with past success. But no matter how comfortable that success feels, we can never stop striving to change and innovate.
As a simple example, once upon a time, a small appliance retailer from Richmond, VA decided to expand into home electronics. By experimenting with several different retail brands and varied locations including mall outlets, strip mall centers and floor space leased from department stores? It grew to become the second-largest retailer of its kind in the US – and was even featured in author Jim Collins’ bestselling book Good to Great.
It may surprise you to learn that this company’s name was Circuit City, however.
Despite its pioneering success, the firm has since become a textbook example of how not to operate a modern retail business. In fact, it took less than 7 years to take a company that took 40 years to build from big box leader to bankrupt. (Obviously, Collins didn’t realize things weren’t so great after all.)
So what caused this meteoric decline? Experts say that:
- It failed to update older stores to compete with rivals’ like Best Buy’s newer, catchier formats.
- Concerned with growing competition in the field, it stopped listening to customers and quit the appliance industry, even as the housing boom began taking off.
- And three, most crucially, Circuit City didn’t have a distinct brand position—unlike low-price leader Walmart or convenience-focused eTailers like Amazon or NewEgg, it stood for nothing in the mind of its customer.
In short, it became outdated, became out of touch, and – worst of all –
became easily replaceable in the minds of its customers.
Like any veteran management speaker can tell you, it’s the same in every field. You can create a culture that celebrates the status quo. Or you can create one of innovation –a culture of constant change one that celebrates creativity, action and leadership at every level.
If you do only one thing today as a business leader, make it to constantly rethink what’s important to customers and how well you’re meeting these needs. And don’t assume that the way that you’ve always done it is still the best. Times, trends and customers are constantly marching onward, which means value and relevancy are fast-moving targets. If you want to keep hitting them, start keeping an eye on where they’re headed, keep firing away, and keep readjusting your aim.
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