The Time for Ideas and Major Growth has Come!
We have spent the last few decades looking at ways to improve quotidian tasks and lauding the benefits of continuous improvement. The celebrated Japanese management philosophies and the thrust on quality through the Deming’s principles have helped give concepts like ‘Kaizen’ pride of place. Gradual growth and the need to move from ‘A’ to ‘D’ through the ‘ladder path’ by touching ‘B’ and ‘C’ have been the constant guiding principles of management practitioners as well as theorists. We also justified the single-digit growth of our businesses and coined a very appropriate phrase ‘organic growth’ which justified such a trend as ‘natural’. Moreover, we also attributed higher growth to ‘avarice’ or reckless ambition of the business heads. Well, this is about to change!
The time has come for substantial changes and disruptive ideas. But, have we understood the underlying dynamics of all of these, asks Rajesh Nair
I get reminded of the conversation between Alice and the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking-glass’, a classic novel written many decades ago:
"Well, in our country," said Alice, still panting a little, "you'd generally get to somewhere else – if you run very fast for a long time, as we've been doing."
"A slow sort of country!" said the Queen. "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"
Nothing can be closer to defining what organisations need to do today – run doubly fast even to maintain status quo and speed is the essence. Growth requires a well-thought-out action plan and its assiduous implementation.
It is also the time for ideas. Disruptive ideas like Amazon, Facebook, Uber and Airbnb have rewritten the concept of wealth creation in ways that will change the business landscape forever. It is also time for the ‘Cambrian’ explosion of ideas. The phenomenon refers to a period millions of years ago when the Earth witnessed a sudden emergence of new species and organisms. This period came after several millenniums of relative ‘inaction’ in our universe.
In essence, time has come for quantum changes around us. Have we understood the underlying dynamics of all of these? I think we didn’t! Kenneth Clarke, the eminent art historian who dedicated a lifetime to the study of civilization, would say that he still did not know what it was but thought he could recognize it when he saw it! We are perhaps witness to these changes like never before but are waiting on the fringes to figure out the meaning.
A classic example of immense growth potential is the Ayurveda industry in Kerala. While we have lauded our heritage and patted our back for centuries for our treasure trove of medicinal knowledge, we have never really bothered to grow the industry to its fullest potential. Today, the indigenous Chinese medicine has moved forward in leaps and bounds while we are still sitting on the sidelines. The time has come for a quantum growth like never before. Unless we make use of the next five years to embrace technology, integrate disruptive ideas and seek quantum growth, we will be relegating it from the prime position of a centuries-old valuable medicinal stream to just another concept in ‘alternate medicine’.
We have reached a phase wherein we cannot anymore find excuses for our inaction. Ideas are coming to the execution drawing boards quicker than ever before. The new generation has also shown the audacity to rewrite rules. With the increasing acceptance of entrepreneurship as a viable career option, we get to see more and more youngsters beginning to flirt with their novel ideas and working to transform them into reality. Speed and experimentation have become the new flavour, and businesses are increasingly rushing forward to implement their ideas rather than fine-tuning them eternally before putting the right plan in place. In the process, we may witness the emergence of new management philosophies in the next five years. Perhaps, we will even see more changes in these few years than all the changes we had witnessed as a civilization in the last several hundred years.
No industry or sector will be immune to these changes. While introspection will always help, days of the armchair thinker are over. It is the time for the ‘roll up your sleeves’ manager to try and see what will work. It is season of disruptive ideas as well. Good solid ideas will rule the roost and we will get to see more of them. But that does not mean that an apocalyptic scenario like the ‘machines taking over’. Scientists and academia are almost evenly split on whether robots and artificial intelligence will displace a significant number of jobs over the next decade. Futurist Tim O’Reilley says, “If you look at this idea that it’s a combination of man and machine, and you look at some of them like Uber, the Apple store – they are actually cases where humans are made more powerful by this background. And that creates a better customer experience, which creates new demand.”
The questions business champions need to ask themselves today are:
How can I grow five times in the next two years? What is the constraint that is keeping me from achieving it? Has it got anything to do with finance, resources, leadership pipeline or just the will to grow?
What we do not realise is that ideas are disrupting our industry. Your five-year business plan has no meaning unless you factor in the tectonic changes happening in your industry. You will also realise that a detailed study of the evolution of any industry will give you no indication of its future and the death curves. While the study of history is no less important, it is also high time we added a new subject to the curriculum of schools and colleges alike, Future Studies!
As management guru Peter Drucker put it: ‘’The best way to understand the future is to create it.’’ Transform your ideas into action – the right time is now!