As disruptions become a norm, Asian organisations are forced to evolve or risk becoming obsolete and suffer a similar fate to Kodak and Borders.
"The mighty companies fell because they lost relevance. Change has now shifted from being incremental to fundamental," said social researcher and best-selling author Michael McQueen at the recent ACCA Singapore Annual Conference.
To help Asian organisations future-proof their business, McQueen listed three characteristics of companies that have managed to stay relevant despite being hit with changes.
The first is to remain true to the core business. Using Kodak as an example, McQueen said that the company became redundant because it lost sight of its initial core business. Even though Kodak's business focused on memory preservation when it first started, it gradually became a successful film provider. It thus persistently focused on selling films instead of helping customers preserve memories without films, even after developing filmless/digital cameras in the 1970s. This was because Kodak perceived digital photography as a threat to its film business instead of a new business opportunity, and this led to its downfall, explained McQueen.
"If you're not wiling to cannibalise your own business, someone else would. So, organisations should always be clear on the business it is in, and change accordingly to create capacity for the future," he advised.
This leads to the second characteristic, which is to constantly reengineer to keep up with the changes brought about by external factors. To reengineer, McQueen encouraged organisations to deconstruct an everyday task or business process by listing all the steps involved in it. The steps should then be evaluated to see what could be done more efficiently before applying the necessary changes to them.
Cultivating innovation in an organisation is the final characteristic of companies that have managed to remain relevant over the years. To do so, Asian businesses should:
- Embrace diversity and dissent to prevent a groupthink culture;
- Destigmatise risk and failure, but ensuring that the risks taken are strategic and informed;
- Remove structural roadblocks;
- Stay alert to serendipity; and
- Encourage fresh eyes
Summing up his presentation, McQueen cited a quote from Charles Darwin: "It's not the strongest that survive, not the most intelligent; but those most responsive to change."
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