Navigating Treacherous Waters in Business

Business.com / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

The right tools can help you navigate tough business situations

I recently had the opportunity to go fly-fishing on the McCloud River in Northern California. In order to reach the best fishing holes, I had to wade through some treacherous places where the water was flowing so fast, it was impossible for me to see where I was stepping.  The river was lined with mossy boulders that were uneven and slippery.  I often found myself not knowing which way to go in order to avoid being swept away by the current.

Cisco’s Global Center for Business Transformation recently released a research study, in which they surveyed 941 business leaders around the world in 12 industries. According to the results, four of today’s top 10 market share leaders in their category will be displaced by the digital disruption in the next five years. 

The threat extends not only to big companies but also to entire industries. We are officially operating in an environment of disruption, and what sufficed as best business practices 10 years  ago -- or even 5 years ago -- no longer applies. 

The threat extends not only to big companies but also to entire industries.  We are officially operating in an environment of disruption, and what sufficed as best business practices 10 years  ago -- or even 5 years ago -- no longer applies. 

The concept of Disruptive Innovation has become very popular in recent years, and lots of theorists and business leaders have adopted the term to describe their approach to management.  But, as explained by Clayton Christenson “Different types of innovation require different strategic approaches.” 

In a recent article in Harvard Business Review, Christenson cautioned against getting too sloppy with labels or failing to integrate insights because managers may end up using the wrong tools for their context, greatly reducing their chances of success.

Have the right tools

In this volatile climate, business leaders need the right tools to navigate successfully.  In my fly-fishing experience, I relied on an ash walking stick, which gave me an extra point of connection to the ground and enabled me to discover new and harder-to-reach fishing holes. Before taking each step, I used the stick to probe what was in front me, both to validate what I was taking in through my senses and to help provide additional information about what lay under the surface.

Just as the ash walking stick helped me to navigate treacherous waters, the right tool for navigating a disruptive business environment is rapid and continuous feedback from employees.  By constantly listening to people, surfacing actionable insights, and taking action on those insights, leaders can create alignment and translate that into effective action.  This can help an organization build trust and accommodate tremendous change.

According to the Center for Creative Leadership, rapid organizational change is one of the biggest leadership development challenges facing businesses in coming years. But great leaders understand that times of change offer an unparalleled opportunity to grow and thrive.  The best way to do that is to tap into the organization’s most valuable asset – its people.  

By harvesting the collective wisdom of the people who understand the dynamics of the business best, the organization can become stronger and more effective than ever before. When you have the right tools and mindset, you can thrive, even in the face of whitewater and change.

 

Photo credit: Parafox/Shutterstock

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