By nature, disruptors are not popular.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win, then they copy you.”
We have all heard some version of this quote, and we have all seen it play out in real life. We’ve seen it with building ships out of wood, we’ve seen it with bleeding people to cure disease, we’ve seen it with DVDs. They were all popular until they were disrupted, and we started building ships out of metal, using antibiotics to cure infections, and streaming movies.
Today, these innovators are celebrated for their genius, but at the time of origination, they were heretics, lunatics or at best, dreamers.
I don’t specialize in any of the products mentioned above, but what I do specialize in is process. I LOVE talking about process, creating new structures, and bringing clarity where there wasn’t any. From my vantage point, most — if not all — of the greatest visionaries we talk about today have one thing in common: they revitalized an outdated process.
Which brings me to my hypothesis:
Organizations — of all sizes — must prioritize process in order to survive (let alone thrive).
Let me explain.
Just like humans all enter the world as infants, all new companies form as startups. They are quick, nimble, focused, and usually develop from a need the marketplace hasn’t adequately filled.
At first, they wing it. No one wants to admit this, but they must at first. Startups that succeed in winging it essentially stumble upon an operating model that works and voila! A process is born!
Now let’s talk about scaling and profitability. To some, this comes from high demand and strong leadership, but to me, growth happens when a company finds a proven process wave that they can ride over and over again until they start to reach their growth goals.
Now, here’s where things get tricky…
In just a few years from that beautiful moment of true cash flow positivity, the proven process wave will become obsolete. Why? Because today, change is happening at the fastest pace in human history.
Look at any large company that was around 50 years ago that’s still around today. Most likely, they changed, upgraded, reinvented, OR transformed their processes to keep up with, you guessed it, all the new startups looking to do things better.
Meanwhile, companies that refuse to see this fact will have declining revenue, reduced profitability, and a lack of customer retention.
Luckily, there’s a lesson here for small companies looking to scale, and large companies looking to transform, and it starts by avoiding these three primary traps:
“What have you done for me lately?” is a question your customers, users, clients, and employees will begin asking more and more. Train your organization to lean into the discomfort of process improvement and change management that comes along with it.
2. Ignoring what the market is telling you
Like the saying “the customer is always right,” the market usually doesn’t lie. Pay attention to your advisors, customers, partners, and perhaps most importantly, your future customers and leaders.
At Thought Ensemble you will often hear us say that “Change is inevitable, but transformation is intentional.” If the last couple of years have shown us anything, it’s that change is the only constant in business, and you can use this to your advantage if you’re willing to leverage it.
My recommendation? Don’t be afraid of being unpopular; be afraid of stagnation. Listen to the dreamers on your team and find the right collection of trusted partners to help you along the way.
Remember, the successful companies still with us today took the process leap at some point and will have to continue to do so if they intend to stick around!