Business journalist Rod Oram is a key speaker at SBN’s upcoming Inconvenient Conference. Here are his three requirements for businesses to survive and thrive in today’s world.
1. Be engaging
We run a full service country with so few people. In any industry a very high proportion of people have to be engaged in their industry’s issues. You can’t just leave it to other people, because there aren’t enough other people! You might feel you are terribly busy with your own business, but the time you spend out there with others is really important.
The first thing businesses need to do is engage their staff. In Auckland for example, 40% of people were born outside New Zealand. You need to think about creating a culture that engages that diversity.
It means creating authentic relationships with customers – building conversations and loyalty. It’s about the whole tone and approach taken. Compare and contrast, for example, the Facebook page of a company like Whittaker’s with a company like Cadbury. Whittaker’s feels like quite a natural relationship. Cadbury’s feels like quite an artificial one, it’s much more ‘a big company trying to communicate with its consumer’.
Enhancing your company’s relationship with its suppliers is about moving beyond the transactional. It’s about creating that mutual benefit to each other in your value chain. You are important to each other and help each other progress.
And of course, your company needs to engage with its community. This is about the places where people live and work. It’s about learning from and contributing to colleagues, collaborators and competitors with richer relationships.
2. Be nimble
The world is changing at an unprecedented speed, scale and complexity. Everything is in play. Your business is being swept along by that. But if you are in a row boat on a fast river you only need to row half a knot faster than the current. You can then decide where you are going.
Forecasts and predictions are unreliable. But there is great value in spending time on ‘what ifs’. To sit down and say: “What if this happened? How would we respond?”
You don’t need a detailed plan. You don’t have to implement anything straight away. You think through scenarios. For example, if you experience a spike in competition from cheap imports how will you respond? Go and find your own cheap imports? How would you do that if you have never done that before?
You don’t need to spend hours on retreats and such. Regular quick team meetings with an agenda and purpose to think in those terms is very powerful. The time spent on brainstorming is never wasted. As long as it is not just a talkfest and is genuinely turning over ideas.
3. Build strategic resilience
In this I take the view from Gary Hamel, one of the world’s best business academics.
It’s about having a strategy that is forever morphing, forever conforming itself to emerging opportunities and trends. It’s about an organisation constantly making its future, rather than defending its past. It’s organisations where people know where they are going, but there’s a culture in which people can make lightning quick evolutionary steps. Those aggregate quite quickly into big steps. It’s that permission for those adjustments and changes to be done really fast to see how they work.