Once upon a time, the world and our economy was dominated by a small collection of large companies that seemingly ran the world. The goal of every aspiring businessman or woman was to do well in school, go to college, and work for one of these companies, ensuring themselves lifetime employment, a pension plan, and the pride and reputation that came from working for that company.
Those days are over. Businesses (especially the big ones) are being decimated by the new economy. Powered by technology and the Internet, this new economy is changing the rules. For example, “leadership” and size are no longer synonymous. Being the behemoth gorilla in your market is not the competitive advantage it once was; in fact, it is sometimes viewed as a liability. According to Shelly Palmer, “Today is the slowest pace of change we will all experience in our lifetime.” And, if you’re big and slow – you’re in trouble. Competition is coming from all directions and from every continent. Our global economy and the opportunities afforded by the Internet and cloud computing are endless. Adaptation and agility are a critical component to survival, and companies who used to be the top of their game (think K Mart, Blackberry, Kodak, Lehman Brothers), all lost their way not because they didn’t execute well but because they didn’t adapt to this new world. Sadly, this same fate is waiting for many of today’s icons.
The bottom line in this new economy: yesterday’s rules no longer apply. Size used to be an advantage, now it can slow you down and make you less adaptable to change. Distribution and channel ownership used to be an advantage, but now it creates vulnerabilities exposed by smaller, asset-light companies. Longevity and brand recognition used to be the Holy Grail, but now customers are looking for the best experience, and are willing to try new things if they solve their problems more effectively (think Uber).
Thinking different, and acting different are the only hope for every company’s future. This is a new world with a new world order. In order to succeed, I believe companies need to do three specific things:
1. Have Superhuman Insight. Technology now affords companies the ability to know their customers even better than they know themselves. And soon, it will become an expectation for every customer.
2. Personalize for the Masses. Customization is no longer novel; it is required to compete. Customers expect your product to fit their particular (and sometimes peculiar) needs. A “one size fits all” solution won’t work, and a flurry of options won’t work either. It needs to be catered and curated for each individual.
3. Un-natural Customer Support. Bottom line is that you can’t suck at customer support. Today’s customer has no tolerance for it. Great customer support is becoming the norm; therefore, companies will need to raise the bar even further to differentiate and command loyalty.
Days of Old
Data used to be a “nice to have” for top executives. Now, it’s a critical component of decision making at every level. Part of the reason it has grown in importance is because the quality has made massive strides. Data used to be highly segmented and in silos, it was obsolete the minute you received it, and the time frames of the different data sets were not aligned, causing confusion and conflicting insight. As a result, it would be common to hear “this can’t be right” in an executive team meeting (and often times, it wasn’t right indeed). Today, though, the technology exists to bring together all your data, cleanse it, and utilize it to make comprehensive, timely decisions.
Recipe for Success
The company of the future must be S.M.A.R.T. about their approach to the market and to utilizing the power of data to their advantage.
S – Strategic, M – Measured, A – Analytical, R – Repeatable, T – Transparent
(we will discuss these items in more depth in upcoming blog articles)
When a company is acting SMART, they will use a set of powerful tools to gain an edge on their competition. First, they will use big data that is coming from multiple sources simultaneously in organized streams that is being organized, measured, and processed as it arrives.
Second, they will use machine learning to ingest massive amounts of data to create meaningful connections, use algorithms to extract actionable insight(s), and build capability to have this done autonomously and automatically. In a perfect world, the data processes itself and suggests actions that are relevant and strategic.
Finally, they will use neural nets that create a hyper-charged brain that selects paths of reasoning to make sense of the world of that particular business, filter good and bad/irrelevant information, and recognizes patterns and cross checks itself for accuracy. It’s like a human brain – but on rocket fuel and with a billion times more capacity and speed. In fact, that’s what we are calling it – “the Business Brain”. It is constantly optimizing with forever memory and it correlates massive amounts of information. Also, it lasts forever – making institutional knowledge permanent at a company no matter who comes and goes. The business brain will be the competitive advantage of the future, and determine the winners and the losers.