Can you compete with “Changes”?
Everyone is interested in Changes. Everyday executives and leaders keep their eyes on change, consultants build their advice on change, disruptors bet their businesses on change, research agencies study and report change, newspapers make headlines on change, suppliers increase or adjust their prices following change, governments modify their policies around change, your competition sees change as their lever to challenge your business. Still, not everyone has the courage to face the question “Should we change?” Because the real question is, “Could we win if we change?”
Among many risky decisions that a business leader has to make in his/her entire working life, “Let's Change” could be considered as the toughest because of what it means when that decision is made.
To change or not to change is not really a choice. Unlike any other opportunity which you can just take or leave, you can’t stand against the flow of Change. It is only a matter of time when you will become part of it. Therefore, you should decide whether you want to lead it or follow it.
Even a giant could fall in front of Change. In 1992, Nokia launched the world’s first GSM phone, Nokia 1011. This invention made it the best-selling mobile phone company in the world, and at its peak, Nokia’s worldwide market share stood at 49.4%, the highest in the world in 2007. Until this day, no company has been able to achieve such heights of success (Apple 21%, Samsung 16% Q4 2020). As a market leader for over a decade, Nokia chose to focus on what it was best at - feature phones - by putting hardware at its heart instead of software, overlooking the future which was in transitioning into “smart” phones with the aggressive presence of the new Iphones (2007). By the time Nokia had noticed and released the Nokia N9 (MeeGo) in 2011, hoping for it to become the next generation of operating system, it was far too late to compete with the dominance of iOS and Android. Today, after being close to bankrupt, the Nokia mobile brand is struggling with less than 1% market share globally in the smartphone race. Who would have thought that 4 years of delay could be that destructive?
What made Nokia lose their time? Maybe they were afraid of trading off their current success for Change? Or maybe they had been waiting for the Change to be more conclusive?
Even a non-believer could not deny Change. In October 2014 Tesla Motors announced its first version of AutoPilot. Model S cars equipped with this system are capable of lane control with autonomous steering, braking and speed limit adjustment based on signals/ image recognition. The system also provided autonomous parking was able to receive software updates to improve its skills over time. In 2015, Wolfgang Epple, Jaguar Land Rover Head of R&D, told the press, “We don’t consider customers as cargo. We don’t want to build a robot that delivers the cargo from A to B...People want to use the emotional side of the brain, and autonomous driving does not generate that experience”. However, surprisingly after their first electric car launch in 2018, Jaguar I-Pace, Jaguar Land Rover has joined the race to build autonomous vehicles in full force. In 2018, they released a prototype of Jaguar I-Pace with built-in eyes that makes eye contact with pedestrians. In 2019, they introduced their research on new artificial intelligence (AI) technology for a car that can respond to the drivers’ mood. In 2020, they developed a software to teach every driverless car how to reduce motion sickness while maintaining the individual characteristics of each model. Hence, Jaguar Land Rover announced that it would complete its "smart city hub" in Sep 2021 for real-world testing of technology related to its self-driving cars.
What changed in their choices about Change? Do they fear missing the Change? Or do they want to start the Change at their convenient timeline (following the launch of their own electric cars)?
Even a change-maker continues to Change. E-commerce has disrupted the physical retail business. But in the last few years, Amazon, the world largest e-commerce player, has begun making its next revolution in retail by marrying both worlds together. This aggressive movement to blend the digital world into physical retail started with Amazon Go Grocery - the first grocery store to offer Just Walk Out Shopping—come in, take what you want, and just walk out, which then moved on to Amazon Go Cashierless – the first convenience store to offer Scan and Go, Amazon Books – a curated store of customer-favorite books which are rated 4-star above, Amazon Fresh – a new grocery store designed from the ground up to offer a seamless grocery shopping experience, Amazon Pop-up – introducing Amazon’s hot tech items, Amazon 4-star – a physical store that carries a highly curated selection of products from the top categories across Amazon.com including devices, consumer electronics, toys, games, books, kitchen, home, and more. In 2017, Amazon acquired Whole Foods in a $13.4 billion deal, allowing Amazon to own 460 stores across U.S., Canada and Britain almost overnight.
Why has Amazon chosen this time to start the next revolution of retail? Why not sooner or later?
Competing with Changes is competing on Time.
Being too early is equal as being wrong.
Being too late is equal as being failed.
But who could know what is the right time to win through Change?
Facebook took 5 years from its founding year to the first year when it made Profit.
Amazon took 7 years, before making it to its first profitable year in 2001.
Netflix took 6 years, before making it to its first profitable year in 2003.
Airbnb took 9 years, before making it to its first profitable year in 2016.
Tesla took 16 years, before making it to its first profitable year in 2019.
And despite the hype of ride-hailing platform during the last few years, Uber has not made even its first profitable year in the last 11 years.