Businesses that survive are entities which are able to adapt – Sanjeewaka Kulathunga

There is a famous Latin adage ‘Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis,’ which means ‘the times things change, and we change with them.’ In physics, time is the most dominant force that has made energy, matter and the very fabric of space evolve throughout the universe’s existence.

And evolution with time is not only applicable to science but the business world too.

The indefinite survival and continued growth of a business from the past through the present and on to the future is dependent on the time bound approaches employed through strategic management, according to changes in the business, social, economic, political and technological environments.

Strategies used during the Industrial Revolution may not apply in the Information Age. Everything changes with time; and as Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, the only constant in life is change. Accordingly, the constant reality in the corporate world is change.

Irrespective of whether businesses are large or small, they are profit motivated – and they struggle with time while applying various corporate strategies to sustain and grow in a competitive market environment.

Most businesses around the world have stagnated due to the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, the second wave of COVID-19 has led to extreme difficulties in the social and economic lives of people. It is another blow to businesses that were gradually beginning to resume activities in the aftermath of the first wave.

Prominent medical institutes are collaborating with the best medical schools and universities to produce vaccines. And a few demonstrated high efficacy rates late last year that may yield promising results sooner rather than later.

There have been many pandemics in the past such as the Black Death and Spanish flu, and millions of lives were lost as a result. However, due to the evolution of human civilisation, people are now able to confront both natural and man-made calamities and debacles in a more strategic manner.

If one applies the idea of survival of the fittest (a Darwinian concept that has emerged from Herbert Spencer’s reading of On The Origin Of Species) to a business environment, it is evident that it isn’t the strongest company that survives but the one that’s best able to adapt and adjust to an ever-changing milieu.

For instance, Nokia was the strongest and largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world with a market share of more than 35 percent of global production. However, the company was not strategic enough to switch to novel smartphone technologies such as Android and iOS, and leave its Symbian technology behind. As a result, Nokia has been a strategic failure.

An inability to adapt to changes in the business environment results in utter strategic failure. There are several such examples throughout business history such as Kodak, BlackBerry Motion, Netscape, HMV, Concorde and so on.

The definition of a business strategy is a plan of action that’s designed to achieve the long-term objectives of an enterprise.

Whatever business strategies are employed – whether they’re in finance, HR, marketing or operations – they should be flexible enough to adapt their proposed plan of action in a manner that’s strategic, as well as relative to the trends and signals in the business environment throughout the timeline.

There’s considerable evidence relating to successful companies that have turned calamities into prosperity after having identified opportunities and silver linings, which appear among the dark clouds that sometimes hover over the entrepreneurial landscape.

Some of these include online companies such as Amazon, Alibaba and Zoom, which have identified opportunities to expand business during the pandemic.

Zoom, which is an American video communications company that was launched in 2011, took over from ExxonMobil in terms of market value during the COVID-19 pandemic. In comparison to Zoom, ExxonMobil has a long history of nearly 150 years as a successor to John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, which was established in 1870.

During the First Industrial Revolution (Industry 1.0), oil, steam power and mechanisation of production were the most demanding tradable items in the business world. After more than a century, we’re now in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0), which is energised by information and communication technologies.

Today, digitally enhanced information is far more valuable than a barrel of oil from the Middle East as it’s the driver of the Information Age.

In the next decade, oil, electrical and automobile companies will no longer be the most powerful business giants. That position will be held by digital and online-based companies, which are powered by AI and artificial consciousness (AC).