How to get ‘change’ front and centre in your business

I have been in Asia meeting with a raft of independent digital, creative, PR, research, design and activation agencies – businesses built by hardcore entrepreneurs. Every one of these conversations proved to me that it is one simple ingredient that ensures success or failure. We need to learn this lesson if we are to survive in our careers.

Actually, I knew the secret before I went traveling with CEO Mike to identify partners right for our Asian growth plans. An outstanding entrepreneur and business leader, David Tudehope, had shared it with me over a hurried lunch in Sydney a week prior. David founded Macquarie Telecom, and with his brother Aidan has built it into a major and resilient force in the Australian telecommunications market.

“David,” I asked, “What has been the secret to your success”. His answer will stay with me always, and has been front of mind as we’ve assessed potential partners in Asia. This is what he said.

It’s the ability to adapt and change that underpins success

I knew he was right. I recalled my days as an advisor to his business, years earlier, when the media and market would attack his bold investments in new revenue streams. It was these investments that have seen the company evolve through the decline of its staple ‘voice’ business into major new revenue streams from data, hosting, and now the cloud. And during our talk it was clear that David is still obsessed with staying ahead of change, and keeping his business one step ahead of the trends.

I hate change. I like predictability, for things to stay the same. But I have learnt that change is inevitable, and a thirst for change can be an inspiring and exciting view on life.

Darwin said it: Doug says it

It’s not the strongest of the species or the fastest that survives, but those most quickly able to adapt and embrace change. Well – Darwin said something like that, and I get it now. Doug Smollan talks about “Change is our friend”.

At the Cannes Creativity Festival last year, one of the speakers talked about: “There has been more change in the past 5 years than the previous 50, oh, and change will never be this slow again.”

The lesson for my industry, and yours

We’ve met with about 50 independent communications businesses in Asia these past 3 months. Each started life with an idea, and with courage. Very quickly CEO Mike and I could see which companies were future ready and fit for the next five years. Sadly, many were on the cusp of a death spiral. They could not see it. We could. They were stuck in the present, and had not embraced the change inevitable to survival in this business.

How to get ‘change’ front and centre in your business

I guess a good place to start is by creating a genuine culture of INNOVATION in your company. Peter Williams, an innovation guru and the most unlikely Deloittes partner you’ll ever meet, told our STW Leaders Conference in February that “innovation is about trying new ideas…”. He described the following as the Foundations of Innovation:

1. Make it part of the strategy
2. Be clear about what you’re trying to create
3. ASK for ideas
4. Make it widespread in your company
5. Support it with a funding model
6. Mandate it and measure it (“what are you doing that’s new”? as a KPI)
7. Communicate, communicate, communicate

And the number one driver of innovation? “Progress: make small bits of progress.”

After all, life without change is a life without development, new challenges and experiences. Not an original thought. I stole it. For a change.


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