As a CIO, you are keenly aware that rapid change in business and technology is the “new normal.” However, in the 21st Century, “change” is actually too weak a descriptor.
Today, it’s all about transformation. This means you can’t go backward, and you can’t stand still. You can’t rest on your laurels and you can’t keep doing what you’ve always done — even if you do your best to keep doing it better.
The only way for your company to survive, let alone thrive, is to continuously reinvent and redefine.
Reinvent and redefine what? Everything .
Today’s transformation is an accelerated, magnified force of change. Redefining and reinventing is a way of harnessing that wild horse and hooking it to a product, a service, an industry, or a career.
In a sense, transformation is a hard trend (a Definite), while reinvention is a soft trend (a Maybe). Transformation is going to happen, all around us and to us, whether we want it to or not. Reinvention, on the other hand, will happen only if we make the decision to do it. If we don’t, someone else will.
In the coming years, dramatic new developments are going to be flying at you so fast, from so many places and so many competitors, that it will be easier than ever to become overwhelmed. In a transformational time, disruption multiplies. The only solution to this increasing dilemma is to become experts at reinventing our companies, our products, our services … essentially everything we do.
Lee Iacocca and Hal Sperlich reinvented an entire marketplace in 1983 when they redefined the family station wagon. At the time, station wagon sales were not growing, even though baby boomers were in their prime childbearing years and the nation was bursting with new families.
A puzzle. Why, if they needed the product, weren’t they buying it? Because purchases are more emotional than logical, and are often statements of identity as much as (or more than) a rational act of fulfilling a practical need. Baby boomers may have needed a set of wheels with substantial family room, but they did not want to look and act just like their parents; even if that’s exactly what they were doing most of the time. Baby boomers did not want to identify themselves as a generation of people who drove station wagons.
But vans? They were kind of cool and, more important, their parents never drove vans. Chrysler introduced the Dodge Caravan in November 1983, creating an entire automotive category — the minivan — that they would continue to dominate for the next quarter century. It was a stroke of flash foresight, based on the hard trend of baby boomers and their needs (along with the eternal insight that people don’t want to look or act like their parents).
The good ol’ days
It used to be that corporate and product reinvention was an option; today it is an imperative. We live today in a unique context, an environment we’ve never seen or experienced before. We have never had this kind of processing power and bandwidth, this kind of runaway acceleration in technological capacity, and it has completely transformed our relationship to the concept of stability.
In the past, stability and change were two contrasting states. When you achieved stability, you did so despite change. Today, change itself has become an integral part of stability. Today, you can achieve stability only by embracing change as a continuous and permanent state.
In the past, great companies and great figures like Iacocca might innovate and then go for another decade before doing anything innovative again. In those days, that worked. It doesn’t work anymore. The world has changed and, more important, change itself has changed. Information and new knowledge now travel around the world at the speed of light, and technological innovation proceeds at close to the speed of thought.
Today, you cannot just reinvent now and then. To survive and thrive in a time of vertical change, you have to be redefining and reinventing yourself continuously.