From innovation and co-creation to embracing the reality that change is inevitable, traditional norms in the business environment are undergoing an exciting transformation that can lead to new opportunities – if fresh and agile ways of doing business take root in fertile soil…

COLLABORATION For many years, businesses have competed with one another to gain market share. However, more recent thinking is to identify ways of working together – even among competitors – and create new opportunities, expand the market as a whole and accelerate business growth for all parties by leveraging on collective synergies. The focus is not on building cartels and oligopolies to disadvantage consumers but developing collective propositions that benefit the consumer – both in terms of price and value. There are many examples, particularly among global tech companies that have become more open to collaboration with one another.

AGILITY Building scale to gain competitive advantage was a popular strategy for businesses aiming to become dominant players in the market. With technology changing so rapidly and the need to keep evolving, scale can sometimes turn out to be a disadvantage. The focus is now on agility: how soon a business can scale up or down and adjust to market conditions is believed to outweigh the benefits of sheer scale. A lean and evolving structure is often seen as a key driver of organisational success in the present context.

CO-CREATION Market sensing is the attempt to ascertain customer needs from trends and patterns in the market, by identifying what customers would be interested in and willing to pay for. Co-creation on the other hand, is a more innovative approach that involves working together with customers in new product development. Active customer involvement and inputs throughout the process are considered, when improving market viability, and calculating the success rate of new products and services.

INNOVATION There’s a saying that ‘the light bulb was not invented by improving on the candle.’ New product development is better approached from a completely fresh perspective rather than working on improving existing products. The fresh canvas for thinking means that there are wider possibilities. For instance, conventional thinking would have been to develop film rolls that could have more photos whereas innovative thinking questions the need for a film roll in the first place and its possible substitution by a digital alternative such as a memory card for storage.

ACQUISITIONS Conventionally, many corporate entities are invested in building businesses, hiring the right talent and growing operations organically. Most often, this was a long and time-consuming journey with many pitfalls along the way. In recent times the focus has moved to a much quicker alternative of acquiring target companies. The targets are generally tried and tested businesses, and this inorganic approach saves time and allows companies to expand much faster.

KEY INDICATORS Many organisations sought advisers for guidance and deliverables such as reports. In recent times, there’s been a shift to results rather than deliverables. Results can be associated with measurable indicators such as revenue growth, customer acquisition, improved experiences (assessed through feedback), cost savings or even enhanced operational efficiency (based on agreed on benchmarks).

COMPETENCIES These are much broader than skills. More often, building a competency requires gaining a number of skills, which are required to carry out a particular activity efficiently and with due precision. Competencies are also further strengthened through practical experience. In a competitive labour market, companies will likely increase focus on hiring people with broader competencies than those with very specific and limited skill sets.

LEVERAGING Traditional businesses aimed to build physical asset portfolios that included buildings, office space, machinery, vehicles and so on. In the present context, many businesses are moving away from physical asset ownership and the administrative hassles associated with this, and towards leveraging approaches.

For instance, cloud storage is used instead of maintaining in-house computer servers for data storage. Transport is often outsourced and office space leased instead of owned. The change in approach is likely to increase the focus on core business activities.

VALUE PROPOSITION In the past, many businesses aimed to balance cost and value. Innovative approaches and technology have led to a situation where it’s often possible to simultaneously enhance value and reduce costs without compromising on one to gain the other. For instance, online search engines operate at a low cost and sometimes at no cost to the consumer; and at the same time, they offer a considerable value proposition.

EMBRACING CHANGE The reality is that change is inevitable. Businesses struggling to prolong current operating models could do so for a limited time before change becomes more or less forced on them. An alternative would be to ride on the waves of change and tap into any new opportunities that are generated by each wave.

The rules of play are changing and the question for business leaders is whether their businesses are ready for a new game…

BY Rehan Fernando