This article was inspired by a great piece I just read from Dr Viki where he shared on how businesses can sustain innovation while re-counting the fate of Kodak. What got me thinking is how are our local businesses hedging against the vagaries of technology, new competition coming from startups with lean and agile business models. I want to share a few thoughts on how businesses can begin to infuse strategic thinking, design thinking into their 2019 plans and better prepare their entities to navigate the technological waves.
The beginning of a new year naturally offers companies and business leaders the opportunity to press the reset button. Evaluations and assessments inevitably become the norm and days are spent in strategic retreats as plans are made on how to navigate the coming year. I have always been a fan of strategic retreats but seldom lately have found value in them primarily because the actors in the retreats carry the same mindset and approach. This forms the crux of my argument that strategic thinking is the most valuable tool that business leaders need to carry to a retreat. Strategic thinking is the ability to elevate one’s thinking and mental disposition to see the “big picture”, to see further and have a mental picture of how the future will obtain. It follows that without strategic thinking, a change of mindset, approach and perspective, businesses are stuck in systematic routines and become lethargic in their approach.
If there’s any variable which your organization can change in 2019 is the thinking. Strategic thinking entails asking ourselves the right questions and even odd ones;
• Do we still this product?
• Which new products can we introduce and new markets to enter?
• Do our previous strengths (core and distinctive competencies) still hold?
The probe should seek to unearth; are we doing the right things and not are we doing things right, effectiveness over efficiency and substance over form. In 2019 business leaders need to take a hard look at their business models if they are sustainable, improve agility and relevant to the future needs of customers. It is no secret that consumer tastes and preferences are evolving, we are more globalized and hence competitive forces have transcended geo limitations. The future prosperity of any business therefore lies in its ability to continuously innovate, reengineer and adapt to market forces. It is thus incumbent upon business leaders to improve their strategic thinking skills and develop their individual capacity to add better value to the entities they preside over. Nina Bowman highlights 4 Ways to Improve Strategic Thinking Skills and these are;
1. Know: Observe and Seek Trends
Need a solid understanding of the industry context, trends, and business drivers couple by an ability to synthesize these.
2. Think: Ask the Tough Questions
By becoming more curious, and looking at information from different points of view, you are able to reduce myopia and see different possibilities, different approaches, and different potential outcomes.
3. Speak: Sound Strategic
Strategic thinkers also know how to speak the language. They prioritize and sequence their thoughts. They challenge the status quo and get people talking about underlying assumptions.
4. Act: Make Time for Thinking and Embrace Conflict
Practice other key skills; learn to embrace debate and to invite challenge, without letting it get personal. To do this, focus on issues, not people, and used neutral peers to challenge your thinking. To manage the inevitable ambiguity that arises when you ask more questions, learn to clarify your decision-making criteria and thus allow yourself to better act in the face of imperfect information.
What is evident is that as business leaders if we do not elevate our thinking and become design thinkers, our entities will forever be stuck in systematic routines and inevitably suffer the consequences of being overtaken by leaner and agile competition. Strategic thinkers have the spatial awareness to understand both cognitively and strategically the pertinent organizational issues and provide for the present and the future. Below are some industries and sectors in Zimbabwe which in my view need to relook their business models;
Telecoms – NetOne and TelOne – massive potential exists for these companies to synergize and grow their market positions. Tried and tested business models exists even locally for these companies to replicate and start turning over profits.
Manufacturing – companies like Dairibord, Lyons have a great opportunity to ask themselves hard questions about the current business model if it supports innovation and future growth. Some of their brands are now outdated and need regeneration, potential for new products, innovative distribution strategies.
Retail – OK Zimbabwe – massive opportunity exists to leverage digital technologies to grow sales revenues. The company has a strong brand heritage but not maximizing the opportunities for growth through smart partnerships and strategic acquisitions.
An afterthought, we have not seen any business buying out local startups which has become a trend in developed markets. This is a topic for another day!