Mindful Leaders see Alternatives. Often when disruption comes, we are blindsided because it comes from industries, sectors or competitors that are outside our experience. If we don’t look far and wide for possible alternatives to our products and services we get disrupted, replaced or at least commoditised. If we are mindful of alternatives, then we can recognise new opportunities, lower our risk, embrace changes we need to make early and adapt.
Alternatives like car-sharing rather than ownership, or Airbnb as an alternative to hotels can sideswipe an entire industry. The choices then become very difficult to make, especially if you see it early. These pivots are extremely challenging for the established players because as Kenneth Eade points out, “Most people, faced with two difficult choices, prefer not to choose at all.” This probably explains why incumbents loose to new disruptors especially if it is due to an alternative.
Edward de Bono, in Six Thinking Hats, said “Real life, however, is very different from school sums. There is usually more than one answer. Some answers are much better than others: they cost less, are more reliable or are easier to implement. There is no reason at all for supposing that the first answer has to be the best one.” A powerful observation in my view. We need to consistently look to disrupt ourselves by creating alternatives. Whilst that may look like cannibalising our own market, as sure as eggs are eggs, if we don’t someone else will.
The last couple of decades have seen the transition to the true Digital Age. Impacting enormously how we live, work and play. Wide ranging technology adoption has to be front and centre for any sustainable enterprise. It remains a steep and ongoing learning curve that is only accelerating as we speak. It’s inevitable impact will see the vast majority of todays successful companies become tomorrows failed businesses. Unless there is a continual growth in adoption and adaption companies, even with large market power will fall victim to alternatives and their own corporate egos. Staying humble and flexible mindful of alternatives will go a long way to ensuring we thrive.
If our core activities move from maintenance to creation, we are more likely to be successful and avoid being challenged by alternatives. Embracing what will kill you is counterintuitive, and it takes a determined effort to recognise a fight you won’t win and take in the adversary, even if it’s just an idea.
But if we stay informed, continue to innovate, recognise, respect and be mindful alternatives, we can be proactive and successful.