Adaptation is the New Competitive Advantage
There is no question that change is the new constant. While this creates incredible challenges, it also represents tremendous market opportunity. Successful companies embrace this new reality and retool their companies to take advantage of it.
As a user-experience agency, we partner with corporations nationwide to identify and maximize these market change opportunities. Over the past 20 years, we have helped corporations change so they can succeed in a changing world.
While every company and market is different, here are a few common traits that we have found all companies require to successfully retool for change.
Executive Level Involvement
Innovation requires support from the highest level. These are not new IT projects or marketing campaigns that you can delegate or turn your back on — these programs often change what you sell, who your customer is or how you are structured.
This demands direct executive involvement to help guide, advocate and support meaningful change.
Launching disruptive new products while also maintaining legacy ones is impossible with a single team. Not only because it requires fundamentally different skill sets, but the support of current systems will always steal resources from the innovation team building new ones, distracting and starving it until it fails.
Successful innovation requires a separate team, often located in a different physical location, not constrained by legacy decisions, internal politics and technical debt. They must be properly resourced, free to ask hard questions and have room to test new ideas and take risks.
A dedicated innovation team needs direct access to all departments and team members. Innovative solutions that solve user problems typically involve novel connections between different internal/external groups or systems.
If your innovation team is stuck in a silo, they will fail. This is not a new department — innovation and change management affects all departments.
Innovation teams must remain firmly centered on users and not the organization. After all, user expectation is constantly in motion, while organizations (by default) prefer to stand still.
Seeing the world through a user-centered lens is critical to understand what product changes are necessary to win new sales, earn loyalty and grow market share in the midst of aggressive global change. Companies that don't follow their customers will lose to competitors that do.
Test, Refine, Repeat
Speed is key. Build the smallest version of your concept and get it in the hands of users to test. Be honest about what you learn. Validate or disprove the theories you were building from and further refine it from there. Only after the concept is proven do you spend the time and resources to bring it to production level scale.
Breaking away from the “big bang” development mindset and into measured iterative steps is critical to move fast enough to innovate, test, get value from an opportunity before something else happens that makes it obsolete. Luckily, when that happens (and it will), you will have the team and process in place to quickly pivot and capitalize on an even bigger idea that your competitors never saw coming.
Growing a business in a hurricane of change isn’t easy, but with the right team, structure and support, you will find far more opportunities exist today than ever before.
Create and empower a dedicated team focused on bringing company-wide innovation to life, support them along the difficult journey to innovation and celebrate every success and failure — even a stumble is valuable forward motion if you can learn from it. In this perpetual storm of change, the greatest failure is standing still and no company today can survive that.
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