Adapt, Be Agile or Be Left Behind
Broader access, deeper context, faster pace characterize innovation, entrepreneurism
By Cynthia Lescalleet
Once the domain of the few, innovation and entrepreneurism have become more accessible to the many. “’Democratization’ of the change continuum has enriched the context and accelerated the pace of discovery, transformation and invention that add value to a product, service or strategy,” says serial entrepreneur, corporate advisor, transformation strategist and YPO member Neville Fielke, with a portfolio including board roles and director at GSG Ventures. His 30-year management career has encompassed agribusiness, leisure, and the food and beverage sectors.
Fielke’s self-described role as “an entrepreneur’s view in a corporate environment” brings him strategic freedom to observe, anticipate and advise as companies transform their business models. He considers himself “a prophet of executing ‘the idea’, consistent with strategy,” meaning a bit evangelical on the benefits of change and re-alignment: “Hence now the need to co-create and belong to a larger, more accessible ecosystem.”
Bottom line? Adapt and connect, he says. Fielke shares some ideas to do so:
Adjust the lens
Successful, agile participation in the continuum of innovation relies on more than a mindset or personality trait. Curiosity, courage and the willingness to challenge the known “must be a lens. An ethos. Part of your DNA,” he says.
To hone that lens, practice habitual learning and pursue continuous improvement. Mine (and mind) the rich context netted by the continuum’s more open pipeline.
Determine where to embed to participate and then connect. Doing so is a day-in, day-out exercise. Be relentless. (Optimism also helps.)
At its best, this broader, more accessible participation “feeds on itself and can be brilliant,” he says. It influences discussion, expands outcomes and deepens the context for all to share, whether they are blazing a trail or (quickly) following where it leads.
“The brilliance comes from the overlaps and intersections,” he says. “Be open to these, and know how to plug them in.” A brilliant strategy poorly executed is useless.
Put the ‘co’ in conduct
Broader accessibility tends to rattle more traditional business structures. Yesterday’s kingmakers are having to give way to co-creators who possess a mix of strengthens — and an awareness they need to be receptive to other players.
Effective chief executives are finding they need to be “conductors who can synchronize across resources, mobilize them, set the right cultural tone and interpret the ever-deepening context.”
Acknowledge what is — not what was
“The traditional attitude of ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’ has shifted to one of ‘if it’s not broken, break it’ because someone else will do so,” Fielke says.
Acceptance of this shift in viewpoint is critical, he says, as is applying it more widely than to just goods and services. Consider, for example, how a company’s traditional competitors were once known and in sight. Now, they must be anticipated everywhere.
Adopt a market-centric mentality
With change, one size does not fit all. Take apart each market segment and business model. “Consider such things as the value chain and vertical sectors, which channels, what partners, which business model, and who else is in the ecosystem,” he says.
Consider how the future is now
In bringing companies forward, “futurists” who looked ahead five to 10 years have been supplanted by “disruptors” who take a more immediate approach. A blurring of meaning between these terms, compounded by their overuse and application, has taken root, Fielke says, particularly at the granular level.
“This is important because lead times are diminished, leaving limited time to prepare and adjust and limited time to think through implications for business models and resourcing,” he says. “Unfortunately, urgency and importance are being confused as everyone is stretched to the limit keeping up with information overload and accessibility to enormous choice — time is the enemy”.
Think “and” not “or”
Innovation and entrepreneurship are peas in the same pod, he says. As such, they’re related, but not identical. And now, they’re deeply intertwined.
Thus innovators and entrepreneurs are also intertwined. “Entrepreneurism no longer is the individual sport that relied on someone’s vision or singular qualities of courage to stand alone,” Fielke says. “Nor are innovators strictly focused on fixing any cogs in the visionary’s landscape. The roles have become more interdependent, both still requiring passion and persistence.
“You can’t be just one or the other anymore,” he says. “Zoom in. Zoom out.”