Is it possible to anticipate the future thereby helping your business not only survive but also flourish? Chris Anderson looks into different ways to do this.
Business future-proofing entail various quantifiable and theoretical methods that attempt to forecast future developments in corporate and consumer behaviour. It includes changes in marketing trends and platforms, and product/service strategies that can aid continuing and sustainable financial success.
While future-proofing has played an intrinsic role in the successes of the information technology industry over the last thirty years, the methods and theories are now being successfully applied to conventional business enterprises.
The reason why future-proofing has become one of the most paramount business considerations, is the growing importance for businesses, no matter what their size or reach, to curtail adverse consequences of an ever changing and unpredictable world, and to be able to confidently seize opportunities that this global dynamism can offer. While essentially a kind of business survival tactic, the concept his fast becoming an indispensable building block of modern industrial evolution.
Five Elemental Organisational Skills for Business Future-Proofing
1 Finding the balance between Keeping the Lead and Taking the Leap
Businesses need to avoid what Harvard professor Clayton Christensen referred to as the Innovator’s Dilemma. This is something a post-Steve Jobs Apple has regressed into, with little new innovation on existing products and services in an effort to maintain a loyal but fussy client base and keep stakeholders comfortable. While maintaining a status quo can be seen as safe, it can present an opportunity for competitors to gain the upper hand.
2 Invest in Trust
Building customer confidence and instilling trust in the client/company relationship is one of the great differentiators of modern economics. Steve Jobs was one of the first of a new generation of business thinkers – along with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and the Google collective - to regard the focus on maximising shareholder value above customer needs as an inherently flawed and blinkered idea.
While Apple may have since lost this philosophy, Amazon’s lower margins and willingness to sometimes concede profit in lieu of keeping the customer experience a happy one, still enable a steady turnover, thanks to the resultant return business.
3 Get comfortable with Big Data
An investment in not only large data storage, but also the ability to access, manage and process the information is vital. Predicative analysis, understanding the algorithms of a vast amount of information and using effective filtering methods to dissect this information offers a company the upper hand in anticipating the clients’ needs and wants.
Google’s intense focus on the science of information, along with a sound understanding of consumer trends, have enabled them to not only identify customer needs, but also constructively add value to these needs. Information, now as much as it will be in the future, is king.
4 Technology: the Great Enabler
While the role of technology in our daily lives is ubiquitous, simply understanding the tech is not enough. In order to have a reasonable online presence, companies need to embrace the actual culture of technology, especially that of social media and the use of authentic interaction.Traditional marketing is based on the principal of ‘one message to many receivers’. New non-traditional methods, such as online social media, use a ‘many to many’ model, an interactive experience with new and existing client bases. Companies should create an authentic and relevant identity, in order to constantly engage with the public without losing their interest.
5 Agility and Flexibility
Diversification and experimentation are some of the most prominent qualities of today’s global businesses. Companies like Google actively embrace transdisciplinarity, investing and developing a familiarity in a broader range of disciplines, products and services. This is the open secret to organi-sational survival. Companies that practise this have become untouchable and immovable brands.
But what about training?
Businesses should view the cultivation of versatility in its workforce as one of the more crucial features for commercial viability and longevity. An investment in the training of the workforce in fundamentals of diverse atypical thinking and focused future-planning means employees can be more easily adaptable to sudden changes, particularly valuable when gaining the commercial upper-hand at times of more significant, broader changes throughout an entire industry.
Developing and nurturing a variety of talents to suit the needs of a business, over and above just looking at the formal qualifications and on-the-job experience of employees, helps create an ever-evolving and enthusiastic team collective, an unbridled resource of skills and strong work ethic.
Google is one example of how workplace synergy translates into unparalleled success. Not only is Google an abundantly interactive and encouraging place to work, its environmental influence has enabled the company to make a success of its primary product, as well as countless other avenues of innovation and ideas that would normally, in a more conven-tional, more traditional work environment, never been realised.
The Proof is in the Future
As the seemingly endless US economic crisis continues to pound against the ebbs and flows of uncertainty during 2012/13, its impact on business survival, and specifically the role of business future-proofing, becomes even more challenging, but no less urgent. At every level of business, right across the world, thinking clearly and acting constructively about the future must remain a vital navigational tool for the survival of every enterprise.