Business survival: the battle for relevance

by REP29 Jun 2015
Recent years have seen scores of iconic businesses and brands fall by the wayside. The demise of Kodak, SAAB, Borders and Blockbuster leaves us with little doubt – a shift is happening and no organization or brand is immune to extinction.
Amid these disruptive headwinds, the words of Charles Darwin ring true: “It is not the strongest that survive, nor the most intelligent. Rather, it is those who are most responsive to change”.
The challenge for every financial services business today is to evolve in the face of rapid and widespread change. Simply relying on conventional wisdom or assumptions that have held true in the past will set any brand or organization on a collision course with obsolescence.
Below are 10 keys to winning the battle for relevance in the years ahead:
Change before you are forced to
Most businesses wait to innovate until their hand is forced. As Steve Jobs once observed, if you are not willing to cannibalize your own business, someone will do it for you.
Become clear about the business you are actually in
Many businesses fall into the trap of defining themselves by the products they sell or the markets they are operating in – all the while losing sight of who they are and why they exist.
Prune dead wood
Any gardener knows that restoring vitality to a garden requires pruning away the old in order to make way for the new. It is the same in business.
Question everything
The moment any business or leader thinks they have made it, they have passed it. Never fall into the trap of feeling that you are too big to fail or that what has worked in the past will work in the future. Question everything and spare no sacred cows.
Re-engineer outdated systems and processes
There is a big difference between being in a groove and being in a rut. Many businesses need to evaluate their internal systems and processes honestly. Which of them is outdated, inefficient or simply the ‘way things have always been done around here’?
Become ruthlessly customer-centric
It is critical that you stay focused on how the needs, desires and preferences of consumers are changing. Your strategy can never be a ‘set and forget’ one.
Look to ‘imovate’
The term coined by leading business thinker Oded Shenkar highlights the values of innovating through imitation. He suggests that others may be doing things you can learn from.
What practices and ideas are competitors using that you could incorporate and do differently or better?
Encourage dissension within the team/organization
The most valuable source of innovation in any time is the individual who has fresh eyes or a dissenting view. Are you allowing and encouraging those views to be heard? IKEA did and the whole basis of their flat-pack business model came about as a result.
Seek a point of difference
The old marketing adage is true: it is better to be different than better. Rather than trying to outdo the competition in your market, how can you pursue a new market in a new way?
Eyes on the horizon
Setting up a brand or organization for enduring relevance involves a principle every experienced surfer understands well. In order to catch the perfect wave, a good surfer knows the importance of keeping their eyes firmly on the horizon.
While a wave is still forming a long way off in the distance, surfers know that this is the time to move – to paddle out and get in position. Move too late or not at all and you’ll simply get washed up as the wave crashes over you.
In much the same way, winning the battle for relevance is about anticipating, preparing for and embracing change, no matter how uncomfortable or confronting it may be.
This is a slightly amended version of an article written by Michael McQueen, author of Winning the Battle for Relevance. It has been shortened to make it suitable for web publishing.

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