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Navigating Change and Thriving in Times of Uncertainty and Complexity

Power of Ideas
Navigating Change and Thriving in Times of Uncertainty and Complexity

If there was ever any doubt about the importance of one’s ability to navigate change, uncertainty, and disruption, the recent periods of turbulence and the pandemic made this necessity abundantly clear. In fact, many have already accepted that the era of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity is here to stay.

Recent disruptions have proven that while some companies are already impressively agile in adapting, many are not. Larger businesses have spent the last few years lurching from one crisis to another, relying on limited moves taken from old playbooks. The new adaptability means the ability to anticipate and respond to opportunities created by shifting markets. To further succeed, one needs to be agile and able to move at multiple speeds across three horizons:

To further succeed, one needs to be agile and able to move at multiple speeds across three horizons.

  • Optimizing for Today: Less Is More
    Business operating models must evolve more rapidly to deliver a better portfolio of products and services to customers. They must become even more efficient, whether by centralizing or outsourcing back-office functions for greater scale or lower costs.

  • Rethinking for Tomorrow: More for More
    Planning for the near term includes innovating and expanding product and service portfolios and reaching out to adjacent target customers. Companies can also leverage brand relevance to expand into new categories and integrate new capabilities.

  • Reimagining the Future: Bolder and Better
    Building for the future may require a radical transformation of business models, fundamentally changing how businesses generate revenue and create value for customers and employees. It’s a seismic shift because the speed of change is now faster and shorter.

Four Strategies to Adapt and Thrive

Thriving in today’s growing complexities requires a thoughtful and adaptive approach to addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by the rapidly changing business landscape. Here are four strategies to enhance adaptability and create future-ready, resilient organizations:

  1. Double Down on Purpose
    While purpose-driven branding has been part of the corporate playbook for over a decade, the definition and expression of purpose continue to gain importance. Customers increasingly demand that companies stand for something beyond profits, seeking meaningful relationships with brands that align with their values and beliefs.

    While the purpose may be steadfast, it can still be leveraged differently and more effectively, filtering throughout an organization’s activities. This provides renewed focus and guides decisions and strategies. A well-defined brand purpose allows companies to address these issues proactively, contributing to positive change and earning the trust of consumers, regulators, and investors.

  2. Fail Fast, But Fail Better
    Adaptability requires innovation, which inherently involves the risk of failure. Organizations must have realistic conversations and processes about what that means and what those failures might cost, especially in an uncertain economy. It’s easy to invest in experimentation when business is good, but experimentation is too often a prime target for budget cuts when revenue gets tight.

    To be truly resilient, an organization must practice failing. Cultivating a culture that encourages fast and safe failure with risk mitigation measures in place allows for the regular exercise of resiliency.

  3. Reinvest to Realign
    Aligning new strategies with existing structures is often challenging, especially for big companies that typically overinvest in growth areas during prosperous times and overcorrect by culling these areas during times of economic uncertainty.

    Overcorrecting emerged within the technology industry, resulting in hemorrhaging talent, confusing investors, and disappointing customers. These massive gaps between their current structure and new strategy inhibit growth. Companies that overcome this risk and protect their business from boom-and-bust cycles are the ones creating agile operating models and continuously aligning structure with strategy.

  4. Embrace Uncommon Growth and Transformation
    Digital transformation continues to reshape how industries operate and deliver value to customers. The recent explosion in artificial intelligence makes automation more accessible than ever before and will usher in the next generation of digital transformation.

    Best-in-class organizations embrace new technology to innovate the customer experience and streamline operations. They are using it to redefine systems, making work and life better. Rather than fearing it, they’re upskilling employees to work with these innovations, finding ways to drive better business outcomes. With a leadership team determined to decide when and how to adopt new technologies proactively, companies can guarantee decisions that boost productivity and encourage growth while staying true to their DNA.

If history is any guide, the companies that are best able to adapt will not only survive but thrive faster and have an outsized advantage in attracting both talent and customers. Those that fail to adapt will fall further behind.