My business associate, Hani Iskander, writes an excellent weekly email blog titled “The Weekly Rant”. (Email Hani if you want to get onto his mailing list for his Weekly Rant.)
Below is an extract from his Weekly Rant of 5 March 2011:
In Greek mythology Procrustes was a bandit from Attica who physically attacked people, stretching them, or cutting off their legs so as to make them fit an iron bed’s size. He invited every passer-by to spend the night, and where he set to work on them with his smith’s hammer, to stretch them to fit. If the guest proved too tall, Procrustes would amputate the excess length. Both very painful experiences.
A business with cutting-edge products and services might have the advantage of setting an iron bed and getting its clients to size up or down to suit the offering. Perhaps Apple, for example, has done this with the iPad, as it is the benchmark of tablet computers today. But most businesses don’t have cutting-edge products and services, and they cannot cut the legs of tall clients and stretch short ones.
Businesses that are fixed in their offering, pricing, terms and conditions tend to head south very quickly. On the other hand, when a business has a suite of services and product offerings that can be tailored to each customer – it will succeed.
Sadly, in these uncertain times, I am seeing many businesses that are spending more time keeping track of their competitors than their customers’ needs – and hence they’re unable to anticipate and innovate what they will be selling around the corner. And others, doing today what worked for them back in the 20th century.
Hani’s piece above say resonates strongly with my own views about how dangerous the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to business is in today’s fast changing world.
“If ain’t broke, don’t fix it” was probably fine back in the Industrial Age and perhaps didn’t do much harm in the first phase of the Internet Age (what is known as Web 1.0). It’s not a mentality that fosters innovation but outside of the technology industry, most businesses bubbled along quite well with that kind of mindset. The economic cycle, import competition, exchange rates etc were the main external shocks that had to be grappled with.
However, the Internet Age is now well into its second phase: the Web 2.0 era; an era in which interactive technology has literally flattened the world and wiped geographical borders off the planet. Technology is now within reach of everyone (when was the last time you heard the term “hi-tech”?) in terms of both cost and usability.
Small Is The New Big – the title of one of the books by respected serial entrepreneur and business thinker Seth Godin – sums the tremendous opportunities that the new technology opens up for Small & Medium Businesses. (Actually, the Web 2.0 world isn’t a new world anymore as it has been around since around 2004 and the talk is now about Web 3.0).
BUT as I’ve said before in various articles, THREAT is the flip side of the OPPORTUNITY coin. Those who fail to innovate will go the way of the dodo.
Innovation today isn’t limited to inventing the next big thing that changes the world. Tweaking a part of the business to improve a business process by using new technology available is innovation in today’s world.
New ways of doing things – whether it’s in your supply chain or sales channels or even tracking cattle – are appearing faster and faster as people apply technology to change their business models.
Three simple examples:
- How can social media be used to improve potential market acceptance of your new product?
- How can technology help you create a more flexible supply chain to better manage inventory and cashflow?
- How can technology assist in improving product delivery to your customers?
If you don’t stay open to exploring possibilities – or as I have previously written; being willing to imagine the unimaginable – for evolving your business model in line with (or better still, ahead of) shifting dynamics of the marketplace, your competitor will or a new upstart in your market will.
What do you think?