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How to survive exponential change in your business

Article by Matt Brown on www.entrepreneurmag.co.za
How do you get out of the habit of thinking small, and start thinking in giant leaps for radical – and profitable – change?

I recently went to a meet and greet session at a company that turns over R13 billion a year. As I was introduced to other executives, I was referred to as ‘the guy who is at the pinnacle of podcasting in South Africa’. This kind of feedback is truly humbling, but after hearing that, the only question I had on my mind was: “But for how long is anyone or any brand at the top of any market?”

The Challenge of Change

Change is no longer happening in a linear fashion; it’s occurring exponentially. We love linear thinking, because we have been conditioned to think in small steps (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) but we totally suck at exponential thinking (1, 2, 4, 16, 32, 1 024). To a greater and greater extent this is the world we are heading into.

Almost inevitably, markets that used to be relatively predictable are winding up in an entirely new paradigm and some of the world’s largest and most reputable companies have been caught unaware. The main culprit? The exponential growth surprise factor.

For example, in 2012, Toys R Us was a $12 billion company with a retail footprint comprising 1 600 stores. In September 2017, they filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy… only five years later. The message is simple: Innovate or die.

But more importantly, there is a new challenge facing all entrepreneurs today: How can you prepare yourself and help your business survive in an exponential business world?

Here’s a four-step process that can help you get started:

1. Look out for the Warning Signs

In my experience, the warning signs of disaster are present in every industry one to three years before disaster strikes. Ironically, many businesses are simply not paying attention to the warning signs in their market — or even worse, do not know what warning signs to look out for.

Because all industries and businesses are subject to different warning signs, a simple, yet highly effective way to know when your business is in the throes of a critical warning sign is when something within your industry doesn’t make sense.

When a linear industry is on the verge of disruption it generally manifests into something that doesn’t make sense for the incumbents in that industry.

In 2008, when blockchain technology and the Bitcoin first manifested itself, it didn’t make sense to many in financial services. Fast forward to today and there are over 1 000 cryptocurrencies that you can actively trade and the promise of the decentralisation of all industries — not just the financial services industry — is very real.

So, if something new enters your industry and it doesn’t make sense to you it’s time to apply step number three.

2. Ask Why

If you ask a group of incredibly smart people to solve a very difficult problem and they can’t seem to solve it, you may find that they don’t lack collective intelligence, but perspective on the problem itself.

Whenever this eventuality occurs the best thing to do is ask “why” repeatedly until you find the perspective that you need to make new decisions in your business. It’s one of most powerful yet completely undervalued questions that any business leader can ask.

3. Act

Almost all success in business comes down to execution. Toys R Us didn’t act. When all is said and done, they simply did not believe in the Internet and they paid the highest price. In an exponential world, the ability to not just act but to act quickly is priceless.

4. Move forward

No industry is immune. Let’s take podcasting for example. Our data shows that the addressable market for podcasts is already 16 million people; 50% of all podcast consumption growth over the last five years has happened in the last 12 months; and media consumption is shifting faster than we think into the on-demand space.

Article by Matt Brown on www.entrepreneurmag.co.za

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