How can executives successfully navigate disruption?

Learning how to operate in an era where business disruption is a constant

Regardless of how competitive your company is, surviving and thriving in today's marketplace requires a willingness to embrace change in an era where change is a constant. For some leaders, adopting the right approach to disruption in business requires changing how the enterprise functions. Instead of shying away from risk, when faced with disruption, the enterprise must embrace experimentation and organizational adaptability. To that end, businesses must use a two-pronged approach: They must optimize their existing operations while simultaneously pursuing innovation in the form of new products, services and markets.

Balancing of risk and reward

The pursuit of new sectors and streams of revenues come with risks. As an executive, you should accept the fact that failure goes hand-in-hand with success. When responding to disruption, organizations must view some degree of failure as the price to pay in order to remain competitive.

For example, developing new products, such as those with medical applications, requires considerable testing and development as well as approval from government regulators. Yet, it often takes years of investment and innovation for a product to reach the marketplace. Given the long tail between the conceptualization of a medical product and its commercialization, the willingness to fail is often the key to success.

Diversity matters

To capture the broadest share of the market, companies shouldn't rely on their executives exclusively for insight. In fact, a diverse workforce provides companies with unique vantage points that the C-suite may lack. For example, millennials can provide valuable insight into how their peers view the company and its offerings as well as ways to secure a larger share of the younger consumer's wallet.

The pace of change within business requires a nimbler, more responsive organization with the ability to gather, analyze and act on changes quickly. Consequently, starting with the C-suite, businesses must rethink their approach to the marketplace. After all, disruption is about changing the status quo. In an era where nothing remains the same for long, businesses must view change as a constant and plan accordingly.

Preparing for tomorrow

Responding to disruption requires paying close attention to emerging trends and opportunities, and possessing the ability to use those developments to your advantage. Thankfully, with digitization taking hold across countless sectors, many businesses possess the ability to observe changes in the marketplace, including how customers interact with their products and services in real time. If your customer's behaviors and expectations start to shift, it could represent the beginning of a change your company should analyze and attempt to capitalize on.

For example, in an era of instant gratification, your customers may start complaining about the length of time it takes to gain access to your products or services. It could stem from the delay in approving online account access, an inability to ship goods quickly or a convoluted process to place an order. Regardless, the end result is a dissatisfied customer.

Nevertheless, such problems could open the door for the investment in an expedited approach to customer fulfillment, designed to meet growing customer expectations and exceed the service levels offered by competitors, or provide justification for the introduction of a premium service that reduces customer wait time drastically. In either event, consumer behavior can help inform how your business performs and allow it to get ahead of a market disruption.

Furthermore, disruption in business comes in many forms. Responding to it requires robust communication between departments, with an emphasis on organizational adaptability. While department-driven silos allow for specialization, they also promote a myopic view of the marketplace, resulting in a flat-footed organization, ill-prepared to adapt to a never-ending stream of changes. Consequently, with clear lines of communication in place, companies stand a much better chance of detecting, communicating and responding to changes in how the market functions.

The views expressed in the article are those of the author and/or person interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the views of Silicon Valley Bank, a division of First-Citizens Bank and First Citizens BancShares, Inc. The materials on this website are for informational purposes only, are subject to change and do not take into account your particular investment objective, financial situation or need. Since each client’s situation is unique, you should consult your financial advisor and/or tax planning professional before acting on any information provided herein.