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Trevor E. S. Smith | Three Ways To Stay Ahead Of Change

Published:Monday | March 26, 2018 | 12:00 AMTrevor E. S. Smith
Google's self-driving Lexus car.
Trevor Smith

Bookstores were blindsided by Amazon. Taxi operators endangered by Uber and Lyft. Is your business or job secure from disruption? What can be done to avoid being swept aside by some new technology or competitor? How can we prepare for disruptive change? These three strategies can keep you ahead of change. You may even become a disruptive change agent yourself!


I. Adopt the Wayne Gretzky philosophy


"A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be." Gretzky

Focus on what is coming. We cannot precisely predict the future, however, we can follow trends and trace the course of events to get a good sense of what to expect and critically, what is possible.

One key is to review the history of industries and occupations that have been replaced or significantly modified by change. Learn from the principles and conditions that made those changes possible.

Are grocery store owners learning from the book store experience? Are banks, their banking halls, waiting lines and fees next in line?


II. Apply the ER principle


When I think of innovation, I examine the important roles 'ER' plays in them.

If you want to create something or implement an innovation, think fastER, smallER, cheapER, fanciER, easiER, mildER, healthiER. You can add 'more this' or 'less that' to the process. You get the idea.

Any existing product or service could be improved or made more marketable with the addition of an 'ER'. There is no shortage of opportunity to get a competitive edge. The smart product owner and service provider can stay ahead of change by looking for ways to 'ER' their products and services.

For example, we see how quickly manufacturers are responding to the health drive by reducing sugar content in their products. They are capitalising on costly public education campaigns being sponsored by the Government.

Public education is a barrier to innovation.

Who would have thought that the average consumer would BUY water instead of a cola or fruit punch?

Who is ready to have self-driving cars traverse their communities?

Will the grocery items delivered to my doorstep by drones be what I would have selected by touch and feel pushing my shopping cart?

An investment has to be made to educate stakeholders about the benefits of the innovation or to allay their concerns.


III. Develop a change inducing environment


One challenge with innovation is that 'ER' tends to err. It might take several attempts and possibly years to get a breakthrough. Innovation can be a costly, frustrating and unforgiving pursuit. There are no guarantees that years of investment and tireless toil will be rewarded at the end.

It is for those reasons that staying ahead of change requires a different mindset among leaders. Organisations that want to stay ahead of change need to adopt a philosophy that encourages innovation. They must create environments in which experimentation is celebrated over error avoidance. Employees should be encouraged to think of ways to adjust how they do their jobs even how to eliminate their jobs instead of being forced to slavishly follow prescribed procedures.

Of course, this is scary. Are we inviting a Nadab or Abihu (Lev 10) among the staff to introduce unauthorised ingredients or processes at the risk of dire consequences?

How do we develop a change inducing culture without negatively impacting who we are?

We have worked hard to establish our brand and public persona, how will they be impacted by internal disruption?


Relationship vs Product or Service


There are ways to effectively ride the bucking bronco of innovation. One key is to shift focus away from products and services to relationships. Getting to know your ideal customers better than they know themselves may be challenging, but provides the bridle for directing and controlling your innovation.

It is suggested that people buy images and relationships rather than products and services. Think about your purchase decisions and see how much of it is actually more than just the product or service. To be honest, we might not even know why we buy A and not B.

That is where the savvy entrepreneur comes in - that is how organisations can stay ahead of change. Unlocking the real reason why people buy, provides the opportunity to supply their needs or desires in unique ways.

Another twist is that we have aspirations. We want to move from where we are to a better place. Getting to really know your ideal customers enables you to offer products and services that take them where they want to go. Sometimes, before they have that vision.




The Breakthrough Boot Camp And Mentoring Program is now open for participation. Find answers to developing future-ready, change inducing environments while accessing a range of practical courses.


Conflict Avoidance And Management Personal Development Public Workshop series continues Sunday, April 29, 6 p.m. at the St Andrew Church of Christ, 77 Red Hills Road. Facilitators: Andre Allen-Casey and Trevor Smith. No charge.

- Trevor E. S. Smith and the Success with People Academy team prepare and certify leadership professionals and coach/mentors and develop high-performing teams. Hire smart with their recruitment solutions. Now enrolling for the next cohort of the ICF/SHRM-Accredited Certified Behavioural Coach programme. Email: info@swpacademy.com.