"Just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare [and in business] there are no constants."
- Sun Tzu, ancient Chinese military strategist and author of The Art of War
My guess is that 20 years from now, people will still enjoy a glass or wine or cup of coffee, will still hang pictures on their walls, and will still need attorneys when they get in arguments with their spouses.
But I would also suggest that in a few short years, much of what you do, make, fix, sell, and ship, won't mean much to anyone. In fact, there's a pretty good chance that if you continue doing whatever it is your business does right now - you'll be out of business. So if you want to survive, let alone thrive, you must tap new trends and produce new ideas.
Robots, artificial intelligence, and technology will continue to threaten the very fabric of what most business (and jobs) are set up to do today, quite possibly wiping out most businesses and jobs as we know them today.
Thirty years ago, a brand new piece of equipment, called a computer, was delivered to my office. It sat on a table for several months before I ever sat down with it, because I couldn't figure out what in the world we were going to use it for! Ten years ago, no one was a social media manager, app developer, or drone operator, (there are 70,000 of these now.) And ten years from now, there will likely be very few cashiers and social media managers (coming full circle on this one pretty quickly).
This isn't a new idea. Each technological advance has done this for decades, (think cars, TV's and email.) The difference today is that the rate of innovation is accelerating in ways that will catch many people off guard.
Change always brings uneasiness and risk. I would suggest to you that any business that lacks a plan for intentional innovation - even if it means deconstructing your current revenue model - is putting their business in a risky position.
Want proof that this is coming?
Right now, there are multi-million dollar small businesses with no offices, no employees, and no debt that are capable of competing with and beating out Fortune 500 companies. They are doing this, not simply because they offer better pricing, but because they also offer better products and better processes, and deliver results with more capable people.
Consider the impact of well-known examples like Craigslist vs. paid classified ads, Uber vs. taxis, or Airbnb's vs. hotels. It's also happening in obscure fields by companies you've never heard of unless you work in that industry. Some of these disrupters, such as Netflix, have moved into the Fortune 500.
Let's think smaller - down to the level of beating out your closest competitors. Name your industry, consider a job or task vital to that industry, and very likely there are companies working on making that job or task irrelevant.
Here are a few things we know for sure:
People are getting older and living longer - Some of the hottest markets right now are those in the field of medical technology and caring for aging adults. How can your business look for innovation in this trend?
The way people pay for goods and services has forever changed - Many people never carry cash anymore. People expect to be able to pay, send, finance and split transactions using apps and online services. How can your business meet this expectation?
People expect everything to be smart and convenient - Almost everyone has a smartphone these days, and they've gotten very used to being able to do more and more things with that device. Not only are they using apps to communicate and pay bills, but they are also turning to their smartphone to turn on lights and monitor security. My son-in-law, on Christmas weekend, adjusted the thermostat in his home outside D.C. from rural Franklin County, KY.
How can your business tap into the fact that people have this powerful device with them at all times?
Companies no longer need offices or employees - A business is no longer a collection of people huddled in desks at a single location. Even businesses that have a physical location are finding employees using it less and less.
How can your business take advantage of this trend to run more profitably or fill the needs of companies that want and need virtual staff and freelance talent?
Millennials are fast becoming a significant buying force - Much has been written about the significant attitude shift in the generation that now makes up one of the prime buying demographics. Most members of the millennial generation are digital first when it comes to finding and engaging companies they buy from, but there's also a strong need for connection to a brand's story.
How can you make your brand more approachable and human while offering the convenience of digital technology?
Wayne Gretzky was one of professional hockey's greatest all-time players. He consistently anticipated his teammate's and his competitor's actions, and positioned himself to execute the right move at the right time. Gretzky himself stated that the trick was "skating to where the puck's going to be, not where it is." As a business owner, you can use a similar approach, anticipating these changes both in society and within your industry.
For the sake of your business, I would suggest taking a few evenings or a couple days, sit down in front of your computer, (or your smartphone) and do some investigating of these trends. Instead of a threat, look at what opportunities these changes might mean for your business.
While you’re investigating, check out our FREE book that is designed to help you build the business you want. Go to https://www.SWBizCoaching.com and enter your email to get you on your way to heightened success.
- Adapted from John Jansen blog, Duct Tape Marketing. Dec 14, 2016