Business Technology

5 dangerous arguments for not re-inventing your own business

6 min read

22 March 2014

Not rethinking your industry is a very dangerous thing to do these days, but every week I hear loads of excuses from companies that don’t see how this is relevant to them, says Professor Steven Van Belleghem.

I’m writing this blog in Finland. I’m here for the week for different speaking opportunities and I can’t help but notice how ‘Angry Birds’ is everywhere here. It’s not that surprising, really, since Angry Birds was created by a Finnish company. 

Their change in business model is an interesting story, actually. They started out as a gaming industry outfit but now they are looking to position themselves as a Disney-style company. 

As in so many other countries, Angry Birds is omnipresent here thanks to merchandising, activity parks, etc. It’s a wonderful success story. Essentially they’re doing what Disney does but contrary to the Americans, their point of departure is not a movie or a cartoon. 

Instead, they built their empire around a highly successful game. This is a very clever business model innovation. This type of story is popping up everywhere now. Not rethinking your industry is a very dangerous thing to do these days. Still, every week I hear loads of excuses from companies that don’t see how this is relevant to them.

Below I’ve listed the five most popular excuses. If you catch yourself or your company using them, think fast and correct your course.

1. Look at our results, we are very successful

This is probably the top answer. Executives with excellent financial results don’t see the need to rethink their business. The truth is that rethinking your business is actually the most fun when you’re doing great. 

When your results fall short of expectations, the pressure to rethink your business can lead to a negative vibe. The best time to think about the future is when things are going superbly well. 

Rethinking the future doesn’t mean changing all the good things in an organization. No, the goal is to anticipate changes in the market that may influence your business in the future. Proactive behavior may help you make some important strategic choices: making certain acquisitions or hiring specific talent are just two examples.

2. Our industry is conservative

‘Our clients don’t change that fast’. ‘Our competitors are the most boring companies in the world. They will never change, so we are safe’. This line of reasoning is very dangerous because it implies change can only come from within the industry. The most recent models of business disruption originated outside the industry in question. When a good alternative presents itself, industries are often surprised how fast buyers are willing to adapt. Who would have thought consumers would be so fast to switch to tablets or use Uber taxi services, Airbnb… Benchmark your company against the most successful companies in the world instead of merely looking to the most successful competitors in your sector.

3. We are not a technology company

Business disruption is not about technology; it is about new models of customer relationships. Many of the newly successful companies figured out new ways of presenting themselves in their market. They use technology in a smart way, but the key point is often the amazing customer relationships they are able to establish. Also, global digitization is impacting every sector now. If you’re not seeing it, open your eyes because it’s there.

4. We don’t have the structure to reinvent ourselves

Some companies feel the need to change, but they are afraid their current structure can’t handle it. This is true in many cases. If you start by changing the company structure, the road ahead can be long and painful. That’s why I don’t think you should start by implementing structural changes. First you need to devise a strategy. Once your road map is finished you can take the necessary structural measures, not the other way round.

5. Cultivate a new company culture before making changes

The last argument I often hear is that the company’s culture is not ready for change. This is probably the most difficult problem to tackle. Company culture is an intangible factor and changing it isn’t easy: a company’s culture changes because of new behavior and a new attitude within an organization. Like before, it’s a good idea to start by working on a path for the future. Do small things differently and hire staff to suit the new philosophy. After a while, you will feel the wind of change. Don’t expect your company’s culture to change overnight because it won’t. Make small changes in how you think and act and a new culture will gradually develop.

If you would like to learn more about the path to re-inventing your future, check out this slide deck I made last month.
(Insert slideshare re-inventing the future http://www.slideshare.net/stevenvanbelleghem/reinvent-the-future )

Professor Steven Van Belleghem is a digital marketing expert, best-selling author and sought after speaker. Follow him on twitter @StevenVBe