i3 | February 19, 2019

How to Thrive Despite Disruption

Scott Steinberg

Welcome to 2019: blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), big data, robotics, virtual reality all promise high-tech disruption. While continuous change is the new norm, five simple shifts in thinking can keep you ahead of the curve.

Make Change Your Secret Weapon 

Trade secret: Innovation is another word for improvisation — anyone can adapt to novel challenges by studying problems, brainstorming original solutions, then steadily improving as they go. The more you get customers (the #1 best source of successful new ideas) and frontline workers (those closest to clients) to share their insights, the more successful you’ll be. For example: When Dell EMC has trouble solving business problems, it routinely turns them into innovation contests for its workforce. Employees worldwide share and vote on ideas and the winners become real prototypes. Customer responses from these pilot programs enhance future efforts, producing bigger and better innovations.

Emphasize Both Soft and Hard Skills 

Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page once created an algorithm that analyzed every job-related decision (e.g., hiring, promotion and firing) at the company since 1998. Shockingly, when it came to top-performing individuals’ on-the-job abilities, technical skills were the least important indicators of success. Rather, soft skills such as communicating eff ectively and empathizing with others were more important in defi ning an employee’s potential to be a strong leader. 

Cultivate Empathy and Effective Listening 

The best way to create positive change and promote teamwork is to stay keenly attuned to your environment and respond to changes more rapidly and productively. By cultivating eff ective listening skills, it’s easier to stay attuned to shifts in the market, cultural trends and competitive landscapes. According to the World Economic Forum, 90 percent of top performers boast better abilities here than peers, and studies show that without them, it’s diffi  cult to become a successful leader. The better a listener and more empathic an individual or organization, the more successful.

Turn Flexibility into Future Proofing 

Corporate giant Mastercard is no longer a “fi nancial services” business. Instead, it is a “technology and innovation company” — dedicated to engineering and re-engineering solutions to meet shoppers’ needs. Likewise, other multibillion dollar companies like Allstate Insurance cite core values that include using customer insights, data and technology to create disruptive innovation, executing decisions with precision and speed, and focusing on business activities that provide the greatest impact. As Allstate notes, “be a learning organization that leverages successes, learns from failures and continuously improves.” The more you adopt this outlook in your business, the easier it will be to stay relevant and in tune with fast-changing trends.

Building Relationships and Top-Notch Service 

Existing customers are easier to sell to than new ones, and building long-term relationships is the secret to success. Bain & Company found that raising customer retention rates by fi ve percent can increase your profi ts 25 to 95 percent. In 1994, software creator Stardock was making products for IBM’s OS/2. They treated buyers like trusted friends, sending them free copies of other products if release dates slipped. By 1997, the OS/2 market collapsed, as did company revenues. Switching gears to the Windows market, Stardock needed to raise funds fast. So it presold its new product (Object Desktop for Windows) as a $50 subscription —  a concept sketch at the time. However, its customers remembered how Stardock treated them and purchased it by the thousands. Because of this support, the company went on to create many other hit products.

It’s impossible to predict the future. But when you apply these strategies, you’ll discover more eff ective ways to keep up with competitors and align with even the most disruptive business markets. 

January/February 2019 i3 Cover Issue

Subscribe to i3 Magazine

i3, the flagship magazine from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®, focuses on innovation in technology, policy and business as well as the entrepreneurs, industry leaders and startups that grow the consumer technology industry. Subscriptions to i3 are available free to qualified participants in the consumer electronics industry.