The new economics of Covid has forced many organisations to think both differently and quickly about the voracity of their current business proposition: what they do, how they do it and how they market it to an audience who wants and needs have changed rapidly.
In these times of individual or collective commercial difficulty, we are getting used to the idea of ‘pivoting’ our business strategy. However, with the need for rapid change it seems that simply pivoting is not enough for many, and the dependable pace of step-by-step change has been replaced by leapfrogging stages of development in a dynamic drive to survive.
Recognising the value in creative leadership
While the recent need for rapid change has been, and continues to be, terrifying for many business leaders and organisations, what is very exciting is that sudden change has forced many to appreciate the value in truly creative strategic thinking. In the words of Hercule Poirot, those little grey cells have had to work overtime. We have had to think differently and creatively, not just about creating a better advertising campaign,but because it is integral to understanding the entire business – the value of the brand, its operations and continuing to deliver customer satisfaction.
Of course, leapfrogging is not a new concept. For example, while most of the Western world enjoyed a gradual evolution in telecommunications over the years, in countries like Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, consumers jumped from having no phones at all to adopting broadband and mobile technology; mobile and broadband penetration leapfrogged ahead of fixed lines in many countries.
Reimagining businesses to protect brand value
However, there are also potential downfalls to great and immediate change. This year we have seen the rise and rise of the work from home culture, and for many businesses that change will shape the future of their organisations forever. That’s no bad thing in many respects – we have the capacity for more remote working, and for many people that will have enormous benefit – no long commute to work, no expensive seasonal rail ticket, and possibly a better work/life balance. However, the downside is that there can be a loss of company culture, an increased sense of isolation, and the loss of an environment for osmotic learning and iterative creativity. I have found it fascinating seeing the different approaches so far that organisations are beginning to employ in order to address a new approach to work – in particular, Google’s announcement of designs for a technology-focused village filled with office space, shops, lakes, playing fields and new homes. A reimagining of early Quaker industrial principles?
Naturally, a massive change won’t be necessary or relevant for all organisations as they face the future. Although it is hard to conceive of any company that will not need to take a good long look at itself in order to ascertain its ongoing relevance and make sure its values are in line with those of its target market. In a recent report, McKinsey wrote: “in order to come back stronger, companies should reimagine their business model as they return to full speed.” As part of that, they suggested adopting a ‘start-up mindset’ – characterised by a sense of agility and accountability. They also referenced the need for a ‘purpose-driven customer playbook’ – i.e. making sure you understand new customer values; and adopting adaptable ecosystems to ensure against future disruption to supply and service lines.
We all have a role to play in creating opportunities
Central to whether a business pivots or leapfrogs, is this fundamental need for self reflection, self analysis and market analysis. In short, it’s about listening and is at the core of successful leadership. Crucially, we can all contribute to positive change, especially in the City of London; the economic heartbeat of the UK. As individuals, as business leaders, as consultants, as citizens and as those in paid or voluntary public office positions such as our Aldermen. There is an opportunity to proactively listen, to set a context for change and to create opportunities. There is a need to start conversations, identify opportunities, create connections and seek to amplify the benefits of all of those things in the right way, both for individuals and for businesses.
It is a frightening time, but it also has the capacity to be an exciting time where we see businesses doing incredible things. Certainly, at no time in living memory, has the need for thoughtful and creative business and community leadership been more important.