In a fast world and slow economy, innovators, disrupters and trendsetters view change as a means to accelerate both brand and business success. They acknowledge that innovation and development are no longer the primary domain of technology companies; they are an expectation in every sector, every part of business and every aspect of consumer life. And recognising why there is a need for change is the first step.”
Change has long been the subject of many a wise word. Benjamin Franklin once said that “when you’re finished changing, you’re finished”. Winston Churchill proclaimed that “to improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often”. And whilst not directly a quote, the concept that ‘it is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones that are most adaptable to change’ is aligned to Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species.
In a time when 1 in every 6 marketing dollars is spent on innovation1 and innovation budget allocation is forecast to increase, it is fair to say change is more important than ever.
Evidence shows that today’s world rewards those who continuously challenge the landscape of their sectors – just look at the success of brands such as Amazon, Netflix, Uber, Peloton and Airbnb. And new generations of audiences are demanding continuous enhancements and evolution, year-on-year. In 2018, Apple was named the most innovative company in the world by Fast Company2. By 2019, in the same list, they had dropped to No.17 for reasons that they “didn’t break new ground”. Perhaps the tech giant set its own bar too high!
In a fast world and slow economy, innovators, disrupters and trendsetters view change as a means to accelerate both brand and business success. They acknowledge that innovation and development are no longer the primary domain of technology companies; they are an expectation in every sector, every part of business and every aspect of consumer life. And recognising why there is a need for change is the first step.
The case for change
When considering change within a business, the requirements can seem overwhelming. However, innovation can come from many forms of change – whether anticipating, responding or adapting to internal or external shifts. If you’re considering change, it’s important to focus on the type of change you should implement and the driving force or forces behind the need for change. Below are some of the factors that might highlight a valid reason to evolve or even transform your business, brand or people.
Being one step in front is crucial to future-proof your business. Anticipating social, economic and environmental shifts creates opportunities for sustainable competitive advantage. And preparing for evolving attitudes and preferences amongst your customers, staff and stakeholders will create relevance, drive authenticity and underpin more sustainable relationships. Anticipation as a form of implementing change, might come from a number of factors, such as:
– Preparing for growth and the dynamics that come from sudden organic growth or ambitious future targets
– Planning a new strategic direction to stay ahead of the curve and your competitors
– Evolving narratives in order to stay relevant alongside anticipated market and audience trends
Social media has been a core driver in the need for businesses and their brands to be responsive. For example, IBM was one of the first to recognise the need for specific responsiveness targets and put in place a strict rule that all customer requests or questions must be responded to within 24 hours. However, in a time of uncertainty and change, being responsive is a matter of speed AND value. It goes beyond customer relations to how you respond in defining your value to them. For instance:
– Repositioning and realigning your value proposition to respond to a world of flux
– Strengthening your purpose to tackle systemic change and reflect cultural shifts
– Responding to changes in employee expectations and talent retention rates
With change being a constant in business today, the need to adapt is crucial. There are many stories of how some of the biggest brands in the world have collapsed from failing to adapt to technological progress. However, the real stories are often more complicated and a mixture of external and internal forces, together making adaptation more difficult and something that is required on a more regular basis. Rather than only adapting to the most significant developments or to a whole new NextGen, adaptation is often about agility – whether a business is big or small in size – and the ability to focus on certain aspects, processes or teams within the business at one time. It might be required for:
– Adapting to a specific new audience or a shift in an existing audience’s mentality
– Realigning your internal and external propositions due to a change in leadership, ownership or structure
– Refocusing the right resources for the right task in order to drive impact for the business
The Case in Practice
Innovation is considered to be a leading cause of long-term economic growth and therefore one of the main contributing factors to the success and profitability of businesses today. According to McKinsey3, 80% of executives think current business models, if not innovated, are at risk in the future and a similar picture is painted by Accenture’s survey4 which found 84% of executives considered future success to be very or extremely dependent on innovation. In fact, the risk of not innovating is considered so significant that it is forecasted that half of the S&P 500 will have been replaced in the next ten years5.
McKinsey’s survey found that one of the few core practices that correlate to the success rate of an organisation’s transformation, is creating an environment of continuous improvement so that the organisation can keep their performance from stagnating or regressing. Under the same survey, communication, leadership and empowering employees were also ranked as practices that contribute most to the success of transformation.
In our experience, incorporating these processes into a strategic change programme creates the clarity, alignment and internal buy-in needed to deliver a successful roadmap for change. In fact, we have spent the last year developing a specific platform6 that integrates these practices in order to create the most effective and efficient way to collaboratively improve corporate brand, identity and communications strategies.
We’ve worked alongside client teams of all different functions, forms and sizes to decisively deliver the environment, outcomes and principles for unity, innovation and growth. In today’s world, it’s not often about large strategic programmes that take months, even years, to formulate, let alone implement. It’s about identifying areas most in need and with most potential, leveraging internal capabilities, and creating a high-performing edge. And it is from this point and mindset that businesses are able to more successfully evolve or transform their brands, products, services and teams.
Innovation vs Consistency
It’s been established that the demand and requirement for change – as well as the potential rewards that come from it – are significant. However, how can this be reconciled with the need for consistency? For instance, a business or brand strategy, put in place in advance of their activation, will never be achieved if the goal posts and tactics continuously need to change.
The industry is responding to this and focusing on ways to evolve strategies, processes and communications, whilst retaining a level of core brand value and consistency. One such way has been the focus on brand purpose. However you define brand purpose, either as a strategic rationale or as a force for social good, it is a way to authentically drive your brand forward in a consistent direction whilst manoeuvring the brand’s personal, social and cultural engines of change and growth.
Innovation vs Change Management
Innovation will not be innovative if not activated. So as important as it is to change, it is just as important that the process of change is managed correctly and shaped to fit the internal culture of your business. Innovation success rates are directly impacted by the implementation and management of associated changes. However, it is worth noting there is a significant difference between the innovation process and change management process.
Managing innovation is about introducing processes and tools that define the new and develop groundbreaking ideas by looking at elements of the organisation, brand, product and services. It is about progressing from a known point to an undefined point of discovery and is is designed to make the organisation anticipate opportunities, be responsive to trends and adapt to new situations. Managing the changes that are identified from this process of innovation on the other hand is about transitioning the business, brand and people assets from the normal to the new. The final destination is a desired and known point and the focus is on smoothing through the required changes.
Accelerating business growth and success
In practice, change doesn’t have to be a long drawn out process – you can focus on the areas that will have the most effective and cost-efficient impact on the business and involve those that have the internal knowledge and who need to be involved in the process to accelerate both the process and the outcomes.
What has come to light is the importance of how innovation is executed. In a survey of US executives, many believe innovation is most likely to succeed when focussed on new products and services. However, 72% admit these opportunities often languish because they have no organisational “home” to nurture the them7.
Innovation must be well rounded and embedded across the business, and not focused purely on the external offer. In order to build the energy and collective effort needed to truly accelerate business growth and success, innovative must be supported by an organisational culture where that innovative thinking is valued, responsiveness is planned for and change is embraced. At the very least, businesses today must be prepared for the world of change we exist in and, amongst other things, will need a robust survival kit containing a well-thought out mix of ambition, value, speed, diversification and alignment.
For more information on how we help our clients innovate in a world of change or to specifically discuss Change-Storming, feel free to contact us.
1 Gartner CMO Spend Survey 2018-19
2 Fast Company survey
3 McKinsey Global Survey
4 Accenture 2015 US Innovation Survey
5 Innosight 2018 Corporate Longevity Forecast
6 For more information on Whitestone’s strategic platform Change-StormingTM visit www.change-storming.com
7 Accenture 2015 US Innovation Survey