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Consulting, Innovation, Strategy, Vision, Education, & Ideation

Discontinuity – The New Norm?

Wow. What a mess. Jobs, Economy, Lending, Consumer Confidence, Economic Growth, Home Sales (New and Existing), Stock Market, and all other indicators of a healthy economy …. cratering! SO much for the “Summer of Recovery”. Unfortunately, there is no sign of improvement any time soon. Despite what the head in the sand, propagandist and idiots who ignore reality say (White House, Giethner, Congress, Politicians, etc). Yes, I know that’s a strong statement, but the reality of the economy is pretty sobering.

So where does that leave us? Well, I believe it leaves us in an interesting predicament. We can cry, whine, bitch and moan OR we can look at this as an opportunity. I believe that we are living in a disruptive and discontinuous time in our history and economy. This is a painful blip in the bigger long-term picture. Sure things suck right now – economically, and at the rate the current U.S. government is spending American’s and American Business into oblivion with unprecedented debt, entitlements and other nonsense, not to mention an upcoming “mother of all taxation” – including the taxation of the middle class (you really believed Obama when he said you wouldn’t see a take increase?) and more coming.

Yes, these are all economy, jobs (unless you’re in a union or government worker), and growth killers. No question about it and NO it’s not a political thing. It’s an economic truth. Just look around! As Chevy Chase once said in one of my favorite movies Christmas Vacation – “Look around you Ellen – we are at the threshold of hell”.

But in times of discontinuity, there lies opportunity for those brave enough to push forward. Maybe discontinuity is the new norm where things are dynamic, fluid and change on a dime. Is this really so different from the pre-2008 crash? Sure, some things have changed for the worse and for the better, but instead of your business being paralyzed by these challenges it’s time to adjust course, look for new and creative ways to succeed, and forge on. If you look closely, there are companies succeeding in today’s economic conditions. Look at Apple? Most of Apple’s products are not mission critical. They do not run power grids, hospitals or air traffic control systems, yet Apple has had record sales and consistent adaptive innovation over the last 10 years with people standing in line for days to buy their products, spend money, and possess Apple’s latest non-essential and non-mission critical gadget (regardless of “essential” your Mac and iPhone are.. like me!). Lets not forget about all the accessory, peripherals and AT&T services and products people buy to “accessorize” their new Apple gadget. Apple has even created its own micro-economy/industry of apps developers, peripheral developers, accessorizes, etc. If the Apple analogy doesn’t do it for you, look at Droid and Google and the list goes on.

What does this mean? Especially in the lenses of today’s very very difficult economic challenges? It means, the world has changed. Business has changed. Trying to apply late 20th century and early 21st century metrics, strategies and methods…today…DO NOT WORK! Look around you. Do you think its working? The paradigm has changed folks. For better or worse. Its changed and will continue to change over the next 5 -10 years. Consumer behavior and interaction has changed on all levels. Not just retail. How a business spends and makes money, acquires, develops, and deploys technology, acquires talent, sells product and services and interacts with its employees and customers has all changed. Some organization have adapted and are succeeding. Others are swimming against the current and struggling.

It is my belief that the next 5 – 10 years will be difficult for more than 75% of the worlds businesses and economies. Why? Because the world is not keeping pace with human behavior/interaction, consumer buying and interaction, smart sourcing, smart and lean technology adaptation and innovation, product/service development and new methods of engaging employee’s and customers. These are tactical issues that are at the core of success regardless of the century we are in. Combine the fact that most organization don’t do this with reckless spending, high personal and business taxation, huge deficits, inflation, and every other counter-productive method governments virtually enslave people, you have a mighty big challenge. Countries, companies and people who take action, adapt and overcome succeed. Those that keep trying to put the round peg in the square hole continue to suffer, stagnate and ultimately fail.

So is Discontinuity the new norm? I say for the foreseeable future… yes. It is. So what does this mean for your business? Well, first remember that you are limited to the things you can control, so control the things you can and deflect the things you can’t. For example, you can’t control the government (you want a change? Vote!), you can’t control the banks, you can’t control regulators, for most of us and most businesses – you simply can’t directly control the large macro things. But here are a couple of things you can do in the interim to affect the micro and hopefully position you to better navigate the macro:

– Adapt and Overcome: The world, business, markets, etc. have changed. Adapt and overcome. Sit Idell and you will stagnate and die on the vine.
– Respond versus React: By being responsive to changes, challenges and discontinuity you are in a better position to respond versus react. Reaction is a bad place to be. Responding is proactive. Reacting is static – chasing every emergency and challenge. This equals wasted time, money, resources, personnel, failure, etc.
– Innovate: Find ways to do things better, more efficiently, more effectively and more responsive to meet the needs of your business, your clients and the market. Do this and I guarantee you will have a much better chance of success than those that don’t innovate and adapt.
– Stop, Look, and Listen: Remember this when you were a kid? It works for business as well or when your drowning – figuratively and literally. Stop flailing, look around you, your business, your people, your market, the way you are currently doing things and listen to your people and your customers (Sometimes they are your smartest resource!). Sometimes the answer is right in front of you if you only took the time to stop, look and listen.
– Be creative: There is always more the one way to solve a problem. There are also a plethora of ways in which to creatively adapt and overcome. Think outside the box. If your still stuck, look to other organizations that have succeeded and explore what they have done to succeed i.e. Apple. Even if you’re in a totally different business segment, there are still macro fundamentals that can be applied, adapted, etc. Hell, it might even inspire you to do something you never thought of before. If none of that works? Call me. We need to talk.

Finally, understand the world moves in cycles and waves both on a macro and micro level. Even on a sub-atomic level (yes, I know you could argue the wave/particle duality argument but just go with it in this analogy). We are in a cycle of discontinuity and challenge. I view this as a positive. We are experiencing a tectonic shift in business. Even if the economy, governments and other inept forces weren’t driving us off a cliff. Technology, society and life is shifting with our evolution. For better or worse. To ignore this is plain ignorant and hiding your head in the sand syndrome. Suck it up. Get over it and move forward. Focus on what you can control. Look at ways in which to adapt, innovate and overcome. It can be done and is being done. And those organizations that are doing this are succeeding. Those that are not, are struggling or dying.

Whining, complaining, commiserating, etc. may be satisfying at some level, but its unproductive and ultimately destructive. Overcome adversity, adapt and find a way. There are a million ways. Pick one. Doing nothing is fatal. Realize that things have changed. Adapt and overcome or struggle and die. Your choice. But discontinuity IS the new norm.

In closing, remember this. I know things are tough. People are really suffering. Business are suffering. This is a very, very difficult time. It sucks and wont get better in time to help a lot of people and businesses. But, the sky is not really falling. The world is not ending. And we will survive to see another day. Contrary to the efforts of Congress, Politicians, The White House, Over-Regulators, and other world governments that are inept, irresponsible and incapable of getting out of their own way. Yes, it will be tough and in many cases painful. But by staying positive, keeping the faith, keeping what the military calls situational awareness, and being aggressive about innovation, adaptability and navigating the river versus fighting the current you have a strong change of success and prevailing to fight another day. Focus, adapt, innovate and overcome. I have faith. So should you.

What do you think?



Written by David Frederick

July 6, 2010 at 3:19 PM

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