It’s true for all organizations. The outside world is just faster and they can do things better than what you can with your internal resources. It is a simple matter of size and diversity. This sounds like a total downside, but there are also opportunities related to this because your company does not have to be faster than the entire outside world.
It just has to be faster than your current and near-future competitors.
Here we can use a story about a hungry lion and two guys walking in the African savanna. The lion spots them and decides this is lunch. The two guys quickly realize the danger they are in. They are too far from their car to out run the lion, but they still have time to consider some options. One of the guys takes off his backpack and takes on his running shoes. The other guy looks at him and screams: You can’t outrun the lion! It is too close. The reply: I don’t have to. I just need to run faster than you, sorry!
The morale of the story is that someone will always fall victim to competition, but it does not have to be your company. You just need to be more nimble, faster and adaptive than the current or near-future competitors that you compete with.
It is of course a big challenge to watch out for these key competitors in times where the pace of business and innovation is very fast and where you can have unexpected, serious competitors in a very short time span. Nevertheless, successful companies will be able to do this. It will be an inherent part of their business and innovation DNA to sniff out not only the current competitors, but also those that will be a real threat a few years down the road.
This ties into some of the early learning we had on innovation management. Clayton Christensen brought us some great insights on how to handle industry disruptors in his work almost two decades back.
A key message was that you could not afford to let new players eat up your value chain even though they just focus on the low-margin, not so valued parts of your business. If they are a threat even at that stage, then you have to tackle them head on immediately. If not, then will only become an even bigger threat later on as everyone will try to climb upwards on the value ladder. This was true then and only even more so today because of the faster pace.
Since external speed is faster than internal speed, your company must identify the pockets of opportunity that allows you to bring better innovation to market than your competitors. This work should be done in partnership between corporate executives (top guys and business leaders) and innovation leaders. The latter group should have the tools, insights and mandate needed to contribute significantly on such a challenge. If not, then they really need to address this and bring their mindset and skills up to speed.
It will be interesting to see how innovation teams handle this in coming years of even faster pace in business and innovation.
image credit: businessman running image from bigstock
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Stefan Lindegaard is an author, speaker and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, social media and intrapreneurship.