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Finding a Better Place: The new world of business opportunities


TSI explores a new business world, where a new generation of brands and innovators are reshaping markets, and seizing the opportunities of change
TSI | Issue Dated: March 9, 2014, New Delhi
Tags : VUCA |Alibaba | Amazon | Ashmei | Zidisha | Zipcars | Zilok |

We live in a VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – but at the same time vibrant, unreal, crazy and astounding. Whilst change and uncertainty can lead to fear and inertia, change is also the catalyst for new opportunities and the breeding ground of innovation.

Indeed your world might still feel turbulent... and if not because of economic crisis, then because of the relentless flow of technology and expectations. Yet change offers vibrant opportunities for new beginnings – culturally and commercially, and particularly for those with entrepreneurship in their blood. Everything has been shaken up. Everybody has had to change their mindsets. And now is the time to look forward not back.

As Pablo Picasso once said “Times of turbulence are the most exciting times, because everything changes” ...and with change comes new ideas, and new opportunities. Every part of the world is either struggling or thriving on change – from crisis-hit Athens to the beautiful wind-farms of Mexico, debt-ridden New York to digital-manic Hyderabad. However, it is the smaller companies, the entrepreneurs who are doing best.

Like any great innovator, they are seeing things differently, and thinking different things. The reality is that most large companies are unable to see or respond to the changes. Success for them was born in the old world, where western economies boomed, consumers were predictable, and digital was a cosmetic enhancement. They cling to the formulae which made them great, often oblivious to the speed and nature of change.

From Coke to Levi’s, Microsoft to GE, the old heroes are slow to rethink.

Newness occurs in the margins, not the mainstreams... with the niches, the upstarts, and survivors. The best ideas are often born out of adversity in developing markets – the trends for frugal innovation, discount shopping, and social marketing. A new generation of market leaders is emerging in front of our eyes. Small companies, like speedboats, with the advantage of speed and agility, outthinking the big companies, supertankers who find it hard to change course. In the new world focusing on profitable niches, is much more successful than trying to achieve huge scale by developing average products for average people. The game has changed.
So what is stopping us from exploiting these new worlds? Why focus on your existing market, with concerns of more turbulence, uncertainty and zero growth, whilst other markets like Brazil and India, Mexico and Turkey are back up into double digit growth? Why tinker with your website and home delivery, when other companies are transforming their whole business models and customer experiences?

The real problem is mindset, not process. And in particular, leadership mindset.

The whole concept of “emerging” market is outdated. Ideas and ambition, demand and growth head east and south. These markets are equal, and have many advantages over the old, faltering markets of the north and west.
Who can change this? You! Not the crest-fallen politicians, the devalued economists, or even the increasingly-uncomfortable big company leaders. You, with an open-minded, outside-in perspective... making sense of new landscapes, building a vision that inspires others, being bold in creating new ideas, and making them happen.

Innovation, not incrementalism. It’s time to think bigger: We live in an ideas economy. We need to be the ideas agents – searching for them, shaping them, and applying them - looking beyond the current competitive set, learning from what works in adjacent categories and other geographies, teasing out insights about emerging consumer needs rather than those conditioned by current usage. These are the starting points to innovation.

But beware new product development. This is slow, costly and largely incremental. Digital technologies are at the heart of these innovations, but not simply as a physical extension or virtual pure play – instead it’s about a fundamental integration of how businesses work. And that starts with an inspiring purpose – how do we make life better for people, in some way – and then cascades through to value propositions and experiences, to products and services, operational structures and partnerships, and the bottom line.

Alibaba, Amazon, Ashmei... Zidisha, Zipcars, Zilok... these are true hybrid business (physical but digital, digital but physical), driving business innovation (innovative products, services, business models, experiences, channels, sales, pricing, communication, and much more) and driven by the vision, insight and determination of their people.

Of course many business innovators, from Jeff Bezos to Meg Whitman, Ratan Tata to Lei Jun, have succeeded with a marketing mindset, it requires marketers to fill the role, particularly in organisations led by people with financial or operational backgrounds.
Love or hate ROI, innovation is the engine of value creation: Brands, marketing and innovation are at the heart of business – from purpose to performance – and there is no getting away from the fantastic richness of data analysis which we have available to us. Yet, due to lack of capability or confidence, or maybe even laziness, we see data as the adversary or creativity, rather than a supporter. We need both, and we need to learn to use them together.

Market analytics, building an in-depth understanding of market dynamics – from segment profiling to value drivers analysis, price elasticity to scenario modelling – enables us to focus our creativity where it can have most impact, both in terms of marketspaces and marketing actions. Focused creativity - understanding the real problem to solve, the best opportunity to seize – is likely to have far more success, than random intuition filtered by prejudice and convention. Therefore data is essential at the start of the innovation process, but also at the end.

Everyone understands that real creativity and disciplined innovation are the lifeblood of organisations today. Therefore with focus and confidence, every organisation needs new “Idea agents” – visionaries, catalysts, disruptors and facilitators – driving their businesses in in the right directions, shaping the world around them in a better way, reengaging people with hope and inspiration, seizing the opportunities of a VUCA.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017