There comes a point in every company when leadership should ask one question - where are we in our life cycle? Everything has a life cycle. We all move through the startup, growth, and maturity phases but we come to forks in the road at each phase. Do we innovate and renew - or keep doing what we have been doing and stagnate and decline?
There are plenty of examples of people who did not ask this question - or did not ask it soon enough. Case in point of a company who violated the very oath they pledged to uphold to their employees and stakeholders—Blockbuster! Blockbuster’s market arrogance and their intoxication of their own success was overtaken by Netflix. There were many trending indicators signaling that streaming video was the future but Blockbuster chose to ignore the “tea leaves” and, as a result, 84,300 people lost their jobs.
As we transition through the various stages of our life cycle, we have to ask ourselves: “are we moving where the market is trending?” Doing this often involves stepping away from the day-to-day demands of our businesses to take an honest look at the realities facing us, our competitors, our industry, and the greater culture and economy where we live and work. No one can predict the future, but what we can do is read what is trending in Europe, California, Canada and so on; hold regular focus group meetings with clients, prospects and vendors; listen to our gut; and, most importantly, buy a crystal ball and place it on our desks as an icon that we must think about the future!
Once we have reflected on where we are, we need to plan for where we need to go to successfully transition our business into its next stage. Sometimes, it can be as simple as changing how you deliver your product. As an example, most sit-down restaurants have always served meals inside in a traditional setting. But as people became more focused on having healthy family meals at home - while at the same time living crazy-busy lives - traditional restaurants have evolved to now offer easy and convenient “to-go” and delivery services.
Other times, staying relevant means significantly altering your service—thinking outside the box! For example, Netflix used to mail DVDs to customers’ homes for viewing but Netflix executives had a bigger plan in mind. They had a vision of an on-demand streaming service that would forever change the way we view movies, shows, and documentaries. As a result, today there over 49,000,000 Americans that are Netflix subscribers, and over half of the households in the US have a streaming service coming into their homes. So much for the future of DVDs!
Today, big box stores are losing out to the online retail giant Amazon; the big 3-networks (ABC, NBC, CBS) are now competing with 900+ cable TV options plus You Tube and other streaming services; print media is dead or dying, and NASCAR’s attendance is alarmingly down. The rate at which everything – technology, society, products, services, our businesses! – are changing is increasing with greater and greater speed. Businesses are moving through their life cycles quicker than ever and we are continually faced with innovation – or stagnation. Are we Blockbuster or Netflix - are we selling DVDs or are we positioning ourselves to sell streaming services? These are important questions that demand our reflection. After all, countless people are looking to us for our insights into the future and how we intend to execute our insights into results.