Finding growth in uncomfortable places
The growth models of the past will not serve the future
Growth is simple, but it isn’t easy. It’s simple because the complete answer to the question of growth is to follow the money, or to paraphrase management guru Peter Drucker, keep connected with demand. It isn’t easy because going forward, following the money means doing business in uncomfortable places. Growth comes from demand, and demand has shifted to places that require different kinds of knowledge, processes and skills.
The growth models of the past will not serve the future. Growth requires bolder bets about everything, especially the fundamentals of scale, value and influence. Companies must remake themselves from top to bottom, transforming the work they are doing, not just tweaking it. Traditional silos, structures, mindsets and ways of working no longer suffice.
Shifts in demand are not new. Companies have dealt with them successfully before. But this time around, shifts in demand are part of a historic pivot in the marketplace. Digital has flooded the commercial ecosystem with a tsunami of zeroes and ones.
Today’s marketplace necessitates more agility, more data savvy and more functional alignment than most established companies feel comfortable with.
Change needs to be put into proper perspective. That begins with a whole picture of the market landscape, which reveals not a loss of potential but a pivot of potential.
But who will successfully make this pivot?
Winning companies will embrace agility, build atop data and break down silos. To be ready to grow where demand has shifted, there are three questions that every company must be able to answer with a yes. These are the fundamental requirements for finding growth in uncomfortable places.
Is my company designed for agility?
Companies that are growing have a lightness of competing that enables them to innovate and adapt at speed. They eschew layers, approval loops, fixed job descriptions, locked-up silos and any diversion of focus. They encourage experimentation, trial and error, anticipatory thinking, cross-functionality, flexible resources and infrastructure, and new ways of working, both internally and externally. They recruit and reward talent outside the typical corporate mould. Their central organisational value is continuous improvement in real time based on putting the customer experience first.
Is my business deeply grounded in a sophisticated data spine?
Data is the key to optimisation and learning. Data-centricity is the only way to be humancentric. Data unlocks the future and enriches the customer experience. Digital operates on a platform of data. Technology is fuelled by data, and technology is transforming everything. Rob Norman, the former Chief Digital Officer at GroupM, put it this way: “The understanding of customers you know and the scaling of that population are central to the creation of data sets that can be activated in market at every stage in the customer journey.” Data is at the core, and to win with it companies must become, in Norman’s words, “agile integrators of systems.”
Is my organisation resolutely breaking down silos?
When sales and marketing are aligned rather than in separate silos, 70% of sales and marketing professionals surveyed worldwide by LinkedIn agreed that customers have a better buying experience. Alignment is about organising around one view of demand. It means joint strategy, shared goals, clean handoffs, clearly defined workflows, ongoing customer feedback, constant collaboration, and a common understanding of the decision journey. Digital and ecommerce entail a buying process in which traditional functional divides are completely irrelevant, so the alignment that best fits the future is the integration of sales and marketing.
Growth comes from demand, and demand has shifted to uncomfortable places. This is the choice companies face: adapt to find growth in uncomfortable places, or fail. It begins with the simplest of ideas: follow the money.