“The one constant in life is change”
Versions of this quote go all the way back to Heraclitus (ancient Greek philosopher), and that truth shines vibrantly today. Those unwilling or unable to embrace change will be passed by those who do. Interestingly, this truth is at odds another familiar adage:
“Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”
This implies we should replicate past successes — and avoid past failures — to assure a secure and profitable tomorrow. But if the only constant is change, how do we smartly leverage the past when tomorrow’s rules are different and constantly changing?
It’s potentially a paralyzing conundrum. “Old school” leaders rely heavily on experience and past success to guide their path forward, which works great when category fundamentals have not dramatically changed (e.g., construction, trucking, hospitality). Granted, each of these categories has added new products and technologies into their business models, but you still go to hospitality – it does not come to you. Distribution and delivery of construction materials has not changed, though online ordering is common. Since end-user purchase patterns are not significantly different, these business evolutions simply add speed and convenience to an existing model.
That’s not the case with the ‘At Work’ space. This has suffered through seismic change because end-users have dramatically changed how, what, and where they purchase. No longer do they all show up at the same location, at the same time, to fulfill a day’s work. At Work is now a melting pot of the gig-economy, outsourcing, work-from-homers, computers/laptops/smartphones, which has led to massive consolidation. Add-in high-speed Internet, e-commerce and social media, and it’s an entirely new paradigm that mandates a new business model.
So, what can we learn from our past?
First and foremost, make sure you’re going forward from a sound base. Just like your predecessors, you must fully understand the basics – clarity of purpose, customer first, what are the drivers, where do margins exist, etc.
Going forward, which technological advances and business models best serve today’s new workforce realities? I firmly believe the future is an extension of what we used to do – but with dramatically different strategies and tactics. If we imagine it more complex than that, moving forward becomes paralyzing. We simply leverage valuable expertise and experience AND embrace the discomfort of new.
My next blog will discuss some future-forward suggestions we’ve found helpful in today’s dramatically evolved market. It’s not as daunting as you might think.