To innovate or to die is what companies have in common with the medieval armies that battled for leadership in Shakespeare's plays about the crown of England. Despite all strategies to achieve market dominance or finding niches to target profitable segments, in his book Scale, Geoffrey West shows a sobering fact: companies will eventually disappear in about 30 years.
This might be a disturbing message to an ambitious CEO, wondering what all the investments in the past have yielded. Taking a closer look, most of it probably were maintenance cost, which kept the existing business model alive; Building up some entry-barriers in an attempt to monopolize the market place and keep the competition out. This might work for sometime, but with changing customer needs and technology providing a low cost entry in various market spaces, not a sustainable one.
What about those brands that still exist after 50 years and more? They managed to reinvent themselves in cycles, achieved growth through mergers and acquisitions and most of all were able to innovate in time, before it was too late. Complacency is the kiss of death in that sense. Although innovation seems to be a costly affair, rejuvenating the life systems of a company (products, people, process) is key for survival. Until there is a market disruption a lot of companies are able to present "ok" results. But these days, game changers can come from outside its own industry sector, catching enterprises by surprise. What can be observed is that innovation cycles are presenting themselves in shorter time frames, resulting in a declining time-to-profit.
Organizations need to be agile and responsive to changes taking place. Adopting outside-in thinking helps them to expect and react to the black swan events. Spending time on a vision for the future is a necessary step towards a sustainable business. Devising a game-plan to execute is a prerequisite for success.
It has been just a decade ago since the smartphone entered our lives, which also marked the end of the traditional use of phones. This merger between the computer and phone started off a development which not only enabled our flexibility to communicate but made us dependent on it. Due to the abundance of apps to help us navigate, digest information communicate, entertain ourselves, socialize etc., our lives improved at the best, but on the other hand introduced new problems to deal with. The incredible power of the devices helps outsource some of the thinking and decision making we needed our brain for. Nowadays, we are stepping into the next phase in which machine to machine communication and algorithms are able to skip human interaction required for transactions and present us just with the outcomes to be followed.
It will not take long untill we are not able anymore to distinguish between our interactions online with humans or computers. This will affect the way we do business. Getting a person on the phone to answer all your service questions is allready a premium. In case business processes are executed by algorithms, what work is there left to do and who takes responsibility for the result. Technology has served as a means to improve productivity and efficiency, which helps companies grow and prosper. Robots and AI are an extension to this use of technology. In case of a labour shortage, the use of robots have helped us to cope with the challenge. But what happens if robots take over and are able to decide for themselves. This will eventually mean the end of work as we know it.
The more likely alternative is that Robots in any shape or form will join the workplace and act as an intelligent team member. This type of robot will be tasked with providing answers to immediate questions that arise during team meetings. No more " I have to look in to that" answers, instead real-time and accurate responses, that can be actioned upon. This might evolve to another concept of a customer service team that is run by a team of "bots" and supervised by humans, to monitor quality of service and results. Working together with Robots will be one of the 21st century skills, that millennials are most likely be good at. One thing less to worry about. All's well that ends well.