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Reflecting On 2020: Why Speed Is The New IP

Frans Johansson

2020 has shown businesses large and small that the world is rapidly changing and that the speed at which they are able to adapt is the most important competency they can build.

The pressure to respond swiftly to changes has enabled companies to make drastic pivots in their products, services, and business models. From smaller-scale moves such as restaurants offering home meal kits to larger ones like Ford and GM producing ventilators and critical equipment in a matter of weeks. Although this has been the year of “the unprecedented,” companies that survive the difficult times ahead will have demonstrated both a willingness to pivot and the ability to quickly align their stakeholders with the changes they enact. As the shelf life of relevancy steadily decreases, embracing change is no longer optional. This trend has been further compounded in 2020 as increased consumer behavior is leading to the demise of brand loyalty. To illustrate, a report on consumer behavior published by McKinsey in October found that “consumers across the globe have responded to the crisis […] by trying different shopping behaviors and expressing a high intent (65 percent or more) to incorporate these behaviors going forward.”

As the shelf life of relevancy steadily decreases, embracing change is no longer optional.

These new circumstances suggest that an organization's ability to create breakthrough products, services, or operating models is no longer the primary winning formula in business.

Success is also predicated on the ability to move quickly enough to adopt new products and models.

In this regard, speed is an organization’s key intellectual property—speed to test, to learn, to adapt, to scale, and to change. Companies that have not embraced this paradigm shift or course-corrected in time have most likely experienced serious difficulties or financial ruin during this merciless year. The fall of Quibi is among one of the most high-profile cases that illustrate this phenomenon. Launched in early April of this year, the streaming platform for mobile content shut down barely six months after launching. Tien Tzuo, CEO of Zuora, told the Wall Street Journal that the platform’s demise can be attributed to “[making] the classic mistake of getting too wrapped up in a product vision — videos on the phone — and forgetting about the customer.” It is unlikely that Quibi executives would agree that they deprioritized their customers. Yet, they’d likely concede that they failed to keep up with the changes in consumer trends that were accelerated during the pandemic.

The classic mistake: getting too wrapped up in a product vision, and forgetting about the customer.

Tien Tzuo, CEO, Zuora

Year-end reflections would be incomplete, however, without discussing companies that have experienced the opposite fate of Quibi. After all, crises often afford companies the opportunity to speed up alignment and embark on necessary transformations. It is no coincidence, then, that Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced in the second week of October that the company intends to, “[tilt] the scale pretty dramatically” to make streaming its primary focus. Although this is a direct response to the dire state of the box office and Disney’s parks and resorts, the speed of this reorganization would have been impossible pre-COVID-19; and perhaps hurt Disney on Wall Street. Instead, hours after Chapek’s announcement the stock rose five percent. The success of Disney+ continues to drive financial value for the company as its shares rose promptly after publishing its fourth-quarter earnings report which showed that the streaming service had amassed more than 73 million paid subscribers.

As a catastrophic year draws to a close, leaders must embrace a [not so] new normal in business whereby the speed at which companies can respond to change is arguably more valuable than their ability to land on the right business model or product.

In setting themselves up to operate in this way, leadership must ask themselves if their organizations have a clear vision and whether stakeholders are in alignment with that vision. There is no perfect formula for achieving organization-wide alignment yet the shared experience people have felt in 2020 does, at the very least, present a window to achieve such alignment. While leaders may anticipate a more merciful year ahead, internalizing that speed is the new IP will be critical in surviving what will be sure to be another challenging year. This article was written by Frans Johansson from Forbes and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

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