Exactly two years ago I read this very thought-provoking post, “Are You the River or the Rock?” by Dennis Merritt Jones. In it, Dennis made the case that we each have those things we cling to that make us want to resist or manipulate change. Making us a rock. And ensuring that our rock-like selves will eventually be ground down to dust by the river. His recommendation was to let go. Recognize change as a means in and of itself to an end. Even if you’re not entirely sure where that end may be.
I’d like to suggest that in the world of business, many firms cling to strategies, policies, methods, technologies, market segments, or other aspects of their business. These may have gotten them to where they are today. They may be strong players in their market. They may be the rocks of their industry. Successful. Proud. Solid. Reliable. Unwavering.
Who just may be ground to dust by the river of change.
If there is one constant in business as well as life, it is that change is inevitable. Responding to changing circumstances in a thoughtful, forward-thinking, innovative way can be more than beneficial for any business. It can help you grow or prosper. Or even save the business.
For example, just twenty years ago Apple was at rock bottom, trying to negotiate its sale to Sun Microsystems. For a measly $3.9 Billion. Last week Apple announced its fourth quarter 2015 profits of more than $18 Billion.
Change happened. Apple innovated – and brilliantly marketed – its way out of failure. The Apple board bought NEXT computers, bringing Steve Jobs back, signed a multi-year deal with Microsoft to push Office, and Steve and the Apple team began to innovate for consumers like crazy. Back from the brink of total failure, Apple changed to survive. And prospered accordingly. You could argue that today Apple, in some ways and for many businesses and consumers, BECAME the river.
There’s no doubt that your business is facing some kind of challenge every day. Competitors, regulations, consumer fickleness, cash-flow, whatever. But those challenges are not as important as is how you and your business respond to them.
Here’s another example that’s more recent: Look at how Uber is transforming the “I just need a lift” market. Once you called on taxies, friends, co-workers, or family members. Now Uber has made it easy and cheap to get a ride from point A to point B in many urban areas. How have many taxi companies responded? With legislation, pickets, and other tactics to slow the inevitable. GM, on the other hand, has invested in LYFT, a ride-sharing company. Rocks and rivers.
Change happens. Disruption happens. If you and your business are committed to your market – even if that market is changing – then you have to be committed to changing with it. Innovation and marketing are critical to helping you not only anticipate change, but respond successfully and profitably.
So, is your business the river or the rock? Are you ready, willing, even eager to accept change and use it to grow your business? It may mean giving up what may be a comfortable place for uncertainty, and setting out for who-knows-where. But what wonders there may be there.