Playing safe seems to be just that, it’s safe. The reality is actually just the opposite. Past success is no guarantee for success in the future; the only guarantee is that playing safe stifles creativity and contributes to a significant loss of momentum. People stop pushing forward and aversion to risk becomes pervasive.
The key to innovation is to question everything, challenge convention, and relentlessly pursue relevance. In any risk-averse culture, this approach is just not acceptable. Why would anyone challenge the status quo? Why would anyone dare to think otherwise? As many executives I’ve talked to point out, “We are profitable today why would we rock the boat?”
Change happens anyway
If companies do not disrupt themselves, disruption will happen anyway. Then profitability, so safely guarded, will evaporate. The difference between competing for now and for the future lies in accepting challenge, supporting creativity, and providing the infrastructure to improve or re-invent the way people work – even at the risk of competing against legacy processes and systems.
Change is happening:
- Customers are more savvy
- Technology is radically changing the customer experience
- Society is moving towards 24/7 living
- The internet has globalised distribution
- Speed of delivery is a universal expectation
What we know isn’t what we need to know. Familiarity and comfort zones can hold us back. Success hinges on being proactive. Don’t wait for change to happen to you, but be “in front of the curve” and show true leadership.
Leadership for change
Leadership, innovation, adaptation and resilience are traits of both success and survival. True leaders empower people in their business and promote new thinking, exploration and experimentation. They have the courage to ‘let go’ and trust the people around them.
Technology and society are evolving faster than most existing infrastructures can cope with and often the first essential step is to change a culture that is stifling movement. It takes courage to challenge the concept that change is too complex or risky. Even more challenging is to break what isn’t yet broken – but survival and success depend on leaders having the courage to do both. The most successful executives don’t worry about rocking their boat – they concentrate on rocking the competition.