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  • Writer's pictureMark Hastings

Evolve to Survive, Re-Invent to Thrive

Never has the context in which businesses operate been so volatile. The concept of a VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) has been around for years. It has been explored by the Harvard Business Review and Forbes (amongst others), but never has it been so relevant!

The Covid-19 global pandemic has arguably been the single most disruptive event for businesses around the globe since the dawn of time. That disruption is set to continue for the foreseeable future and there is no guarantee that this will be the only such disruptive event. In parallel, there are a number of other disruptive influences on businesses:

  • We have seen a rise in remote/flexible working in recent years with many organisations struggling to understand how to trust, manage, motivate, lead and support geographically dispersed staff and teams.

  • Technology is transforming how we communicate: from binary 1:1 conversations to collaborating on digital platforms and video-conferencing with people on the other side of the world.

  • Getting hold of the right talent is no longer just about employing the right people – it’s about partners, eco-systems, interim staff, augmenting core capabilities with services. Indeed organisational and international boundaries are blurring and talent can be sourced from across the globe in a multitude of different ways.

  • That workforce is being augmented by technologies such as Robotics Process Automation & AI as business models become more digital.

  • There is a clear move away from individual authority to a hive-mind which spans traditional silos and even organisational boundaries.

  • Technology is evolving faster than ever before – and it will never be this slow again – presenting new possibilities for businesses.

  • Non-traditional aspects of business are coming to the fore, in particular climate change, ethical investment, diversity & inclusion, fairness and other societal factors.

One thing is for certain – the ‘normal’ we were used to before Covid-19 is over – things will never be the same again. As a result, now is the time to rethink. Businesses are not going to ride out the storm by battening down the hatches and waiting for everything to go back to normal. Normal has already changed. Now is the time for bravery. Now is the time to evolve business models and operating models to survive. But to thrive, you may need to go further: to reinvent.

Where to start? As Simon Sinek says, ‘always start with why’. What is the why of your business? Start there and consider how that ‘why’ can be achieved in an environment where nothing is the same and where all bets are off!

Take heart! Businesses can be reimagined: Nokia, founded in 1865, started out as a pulp mill and is now a multinational telecommunications, information technology and consumer electronics company. And there are plenty of examples of the consequences for businesses who didn’t evolve: think Blockbuster who failed to react to the digital age.

In this VUCA world, the need to iterate your business and operating models is real. Covid-19 has triggered many businesses to ask fundamental questions: do we really need an office? What purpose is it serving? How come my people are more productive working from home? Now consider the environmental implications of all the non-essential commuting we’re been doing for years! Then factor in the importance of personal choice in how they work with every one of us with different personal circumstances and at different stages of our lives. Why would we ever think that all of us working in the same way was even remotely sensible?! If you’re not asking these fundamental questions, you can guarantee that someone is – and that someone might just be about to cannibalise your business!

Asking those fundamental questions on a regular basis is key to business success. As Richard Bach said, “Bad things are not the worst things that can happen to us. Nothing is the worst thing that can happen to us!”

Advice: One important aspect when asking these fundamental questions is to make sure you solicit advice. From colleagues, from peers in other organisations, from professionals. By getting this advice from a range of people you are recognising that no single person (or organisation) has all the answers. Now may be the right time to consider an advisor. Or better still, harnessing the hive-mind of a set of advisors who can collaborate and bring significant experience to bear on your business challenges.

Evolve to survive. Reinvent to thrive.

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