Evolve or Dissolve

In a world where change is the only constant variable- we’re reminded that agility and flexibility are more of a need than a nice-to-have. The ability to establish the structures that predict and anticipate change is now a key capability [two steps further than just agility].

In our strategy planning- we normally integrate risk management strategies to accommodate / manage impending risks to the ultimate delivery of our plans. We do this in two ways:

  • Risks [ where the decision outcomes and probabilities of occurrences are understood by the decision-maker] and
  • Uncertainty [where such information is not available to the decision-maker].

In today’s world this nice strategy [on paper] may not be sufficient for the levels of rapid and substantial disruptions we’re seeing which cut across industries, market segments, geographical expanses etc.
We’re seeing change itself being changed!

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

– George Bernard Shaw

From Built to last… to…Built to Adapt

In their book Built to Last; Jim Collins and Jerry Porras lay down timeless principles that govern the success habits of visionary companies. They talk on the Clock building orientation – being a clock builder vs just a time teller; the genius of combining via the power of AND as well as observable mechanism and behaviors.

A few of such behaviors which resonated well with me was the concept of BHAGs [Big Hairy Audacious Goals], the Cult – Like Culture as well as experimenting a lot-testing the waters.

These concepts are indeed breakthrough thinking for businesses expecting to stay relevant whilst solving problems and thus standing the test of time, right? I guess so… But what if the problem itself changes!

Choluteca Bridge

The Choluteca bridge is a 484-metre-long bridge in Honduras; a country in Central America predominantly ravaged with storms and hurricanes. The bridge, completed in 1998; was designed and engineered to withstand the most intense pressures / forces of nature.

However, in the same year the Choluteca bridge was commissioned for use, Honduras was hit by Hurricane Mitch, leading to severe damage to the infrastructure across Honduras.

As expected, many bridges across Honduras were affected- some were damaged. Despite the severe hurricane hits the Choluteca bridge survived in near perfect condition. The interesting thing however was that roads on either end of the bridge completely vanished, leaving absolutely no trace of their prior existence.

Even more shockingly was the fact that the Choluteca River had carved for itself a new channel during the resultant floods caused by the hurricane. Basically, the river was displaced from its original position which was under the Choluteca bridge as expected. This meant the river no longer flowed beneath the bridge, as the bridge now spanned over dry ground. This led to the revised name of the bridge from Choluteca to “The Bridge to Nowhere.”

The message here is quite clear- A lot of times, we channel lots of focus via our strategy planning and resultant implementation to fix current problems. This is how to “do things right” and challenges us to be agile to change. However, in the last two years, the pandemic has forced us to re-think our strategies via thought leadership and thus “do the right thing”.

The Choluteca bridge is a golden example of how the problem itself can change and so if we focus only on building the best product or service, we need to also think ahead as requirements could evolve, or the markets could even vanish. Hence, in our world today where change and hyper dynamism is the order of the day, to stay relevant, we need to focus more on “building to adapt” vs “building to last”.

How to Evolve [and not Dissolve]

Basically, staying relevant in today’s world would require we relook a few areas:

  • Maintain your Strategy but be flexible with your methods. Your strategy reflects your purpose and should stay constant. Your tactics can change based on markets, demographics, psychographics etc.
  • Customer centricity is the key strategy to unlocking maximum consumer conversion and further positioning one’s offering [product or service] in the right Mindspace with consumers.
  • Consumer Value: Thought leadership thrives on value creation for the consumer. Every time we build systems that enable consumer convenience – we stay ahead of the game. Amazon is a stellar example of this.
  • Stay close to the market- Constant feedback will enable you understand the consumer, competition and customers so much better. This will enable you design the best marketing and trade engagements.
  • Exploit & Explore Smartly: Strike the right mix between exploring new markets via innovation with new products, services etc. and exploiting existing markets, products and services. The right balance would ensure you win today and prepare for tomorrow.
  • Look to the future. Businesses that plan for growth are usually more successful than those that are fixated on only the present. Anticipate developments in your sector, embrace consumer trends, invest in new technology and stay close to customer centricity.

Remember, it’s all about “building to adapt” vs just “building to last” once we do this, we will be on track to Evolve and not Dissolve!

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