To say that we are confronting change on an unprecedented scale cannot even begin to describe the disruptions facing us in the coming decade. From the continued growth and pervasiveness of the Internet and the resulting changes in consumer attitudes and expectations towards business and government to the constant introduction of new innovations and technologies across countless industries we are living through one of the most momentous times in the last century.
So how are businesses and governments confronting these changes? To be frank, most (consciously or unconsciously) currently have their heads burried deep in the sand and are oblivious to the threats and opportunities that lie ahead.
It is important to understand that there are two kinds of attitudes that motivate change initiatives by governments and businesses worldwide:
In a rapidly changing environment, there are those that proactively rally their resources in a quest for "opportunities" across new frontiers while others only respond reactively to "threats" while trying to protect their existing dominion.
True leadership (usually closely followed by economic success) can only be found amongst the first group as the other scrambles and struggles to eat from the leftovers.
Many will come to me and say: "Andrew, what are you talking about? Look at all the initiatives that we have in place. We are doing something about it!". I have to respond that yes they are often doing 'something' about it but then question them by asking how 'seriously' their organisation is taking these initiatives. By seriously I mean in the sense that "are you absolutely 100% wanting this something to succeed and will stop at nothing to make it work?".
The response after this is a bit different: "Well our CEO/Chairman doesn't fully support this yet"; "It's not that critical to our business because it's small compared to the rest" - you get the picture... Essentially these organisations are not playing to win they're just playing! How motivating can this be for the managers and employees in these organisations!? What if this was football and your coach told you that he loved the game but you really felt that he didn't care that much if the team won or lost... I wish that I could have such a cavalier attitude when tens or hundreds of millions are invested to fund these initiatives...
I've so far only discussed governments and established businesses but there is a third crucial category - entrepreneurs. Why do I consider that entrepreneurship is so vital to be included separately here? Because an entrepreneur can never start a venture with a business plan premised on threats. He/she will always have to start a business in the pursuit of new opportunities as no investor will be prepared to fund them otherwise.
So what's so important about having entrepreneurs pursuing these opportunities? Well there's one simple prevailing fact about entrepreneurs: in order to succeed they know that they must create something that is somewhat or significantly better than what is currently available because customers will otherwise have absolutely no reason to flock to their products or services. Entrepreneurs are the ones who risk to dream the future, who have the courage to succeed, the ones who must have the motivation and energy to make it work because there isn't a nice 'cushion' to sustain them if things don't work out - they have to make it work. Naturally not all entrepreneurs will approach their business in this spirit and may also fall in the 'play to play' category but the odds are that most will.
In times of rapid change in particular, a country driven by entrepreneurs pursuing opportunities will over time completely outdistance its competitors. For example, we recently presented an analysis demonstrating how a comparatively simple competitive advantage compounded over 10 years could represent the difference between one company achieving $10 billion in revenues while its peer only managed to reach $1 billion over the same period. The biggest surprise actually came from finding out that people found this surprising!
As a businessman, futurist and change agent I often find myself struggling to get this message across and a wise friend suggested with the quote below that this blog may just be the right forum to do this.
"Reflection instead of confrontation,
articulation versus confusion,
persuasion under candlelight..."
I personally believe that much more agressive means are necessary because time is rapidly running out and I feel that my sense of urgency is not shared among many CEO's and politicians but as I said my friend is much wiser than I am...
You can learn more about successful entrepreneurship by reading Fanaticism Is The Secret Weapon at VentureBlog.
How are you or your organisation confronting change? This article seeks to generate debate. Make the most of it. Use your mind, use your voice, use your pen, share your thoughts! Post your comment below and share your own experiences with the many global entrepreneurs (or will-be entrepreneurs) who visit this blog and are at this very moment going through the same travails as you are or you can email me if you prefer. I will write a follow-on piece to disseminate and share your views with others and hopefully together we'll build the pressure to get things moving! Thanks for visiting and a particular thanks to all those of you who have already exchanged your remarkable stories with me and who continue to inspire and motivate these discussions.