Change your Mind and Change the World

I see it all the time. But now that some of the biggest names in retail are in trouble, the headlines are full of high street brands closing stores, laying off staff, losing revenues and seeing share prices tumble. Another, one of the biggest retailers who own their own supply chain, is worried about its future too. It has stopped building stores because, for the first time ever, it can see itself going into the red.

Why is this happening on such a large scale, and so apparently suddenly?

Well, for a start, it’s not been as sudden as it looks. What all of these retailers have in common is that they failed to recognise in time that the world is changing – and has been changing before their very eyes for the last 20 years or more. Yes, they have added online shopping to their services, yes, they’ve moved vast swathes of technology to the cloud, and yes, they’re even dabbling in the Internet of Things. But it’s been too little too late.

Business transformation doesn’t happen just because you’ve bought some new technology. Even if it’s the latest technology. True change only truly happens when you think differently.

These big retail brands will disappear from the high street because, despite modernising stores and processes, the people at the top haven’t really changed their mindset since they first opened their doors. So neither has the collective mindset of the entire organisation.

On one level it’s understandable. When your company has been beating the competition for 30 years, doing things in a certain way, it’s hard not to think you’re invincible, and difficult to see why you would change a winning formula.

But we’re in the 21st century. Now, perhaps for the first time, the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” does not apply. It may possibly never apply again. We just don’t know.

And that’s the point. Because we don’t know what the future – even the very near future – holds, we have to be ready for anything. The successful companies will be the ones who can react to change the fastest. The most successful will be those who aren’t just ready to react – they will be making change happen. Today’s competition is not like the competition of 30 years ago. A new breed of retailer has seen the opportunities presented by technology, and seized them while the establishment was still napping. This is the mindset you need to run a successful business today.

Organisations who are in the same mindset that they’ve been in for years need to start paying attention to individuals with a different one – whether those individuals are already in the organisation or whether they need to be brought in. And I’m not just talking about people who know technology, I mean people whose entire way of thinking and whole attitude is different. Traditional retailers need young, fresh blood, unfettered by legacy and the way things have always been done. They need people who look forward, not back, who think outwards, not inwards, and who are always looking for the next best way to help their customers, not simply the next new trend.

For too many, new technology has been a bit of a distraction, which is why many organisations think they are already on their transformation journey because they are adopting cloud technologies, building applications and implementing IoT strategies. They’re figuring out what the technology can do, but while they’re doing it, they’re still thinking inside the same box as they always did, looking at process improvements, or cost savings.

All of this is still good practice of course, but it’s not enough. If I have one piece of advice that I want organisations to heed more than any other, it’s think beyond your box. Stop thinking about what your organisation has been delivering and think about what your customers need next. And if you can’t, then employ someone who can. With a fresh new approach, you can change the mind of a whole organisation. And you really can change the world.

Email me here if you would like to discuss anything in more detail:

Bo Gyldenvang
Vice President – UK, Ireland & Nordics

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