“Change is the only constant.”— Heraclitus, Greek philosopher
As we get ready to step into the third decade of the new millennium, Heraclitus’ words ring ever true. With the near seismic political, economic and cultural upheavals going on around the world, change seems to be an ever-present character in the story of nearly every country, people and organization. Whether character is the hero or the villain in our tale usually depends on how we choose to deal with her.
The need of the hour is a paradigm shift in how entrepreneurs think about interruptions as a whole. Navigating, overcoming and outlasting interruptions is an art that requires disruptive thinking on the part of business leaders.
Entrepreneurs who welcome interruptions in their environment and use them as opportunities to grow will always outlast the ones that hold steadfast to tried and tested ways.
Family businesses are especially vulnerable to the effects of disruptions. This vulnerability is a major reason why only one-third of family businesses survive into the second generation and only 10 percent to 15 percent into the third. On the other hand, family businesses are also best placed to deal with interruptions. Their clear hierarchy and agility in governance make it easier for them to change paths and implement new technologies.
The greatest disruption in my own life occurred with the passing of my father. He was the patriarch and entrepreneurial force of our multigenerational family business.
We were able to survive this seismic interruption in our family’s journey with some help from the farsighted vision, structure and lessons he had laid out for us before his passing. It allowed us to rise up to meet the disruption head-on. It was this, and other experiences with interruptions, that got me thinking and led me to explore the many different interruptions that family businesses face and how they can overcome them.
Technology is by far the most common form of disruption among businesses across industries. As new systems and technologies are invented and adopted by the market, businesses need to adapt their processes and infrastructure to deal with these changes. A philosophy of continuous learning helps them to not only stay relevant in an evolving market but also to open themselves up to the new opportunities that these new technologies bring with them.
With the advent of artificial intelligence, a lot of systems and processes are moving out of human hands and getting automated. Companies must make changes in their own infrastructure if they want to match up to the increasing capabilities of their competitors. This usually means making fundamental changes in the structuring of their workforce and processes. This brings up the question of what to do with employees whose positions become redundant as businesses move toward automation. While letting them go is the usual direction, I believe that it is always better to re-skill employees with a proven record with the company. That way you are able to keep your best employees, use them more productively and reinforce their commitment to the organization.
Businesses would do well to seek out disruptions.
As industries evolve and change, so do the standards that govern them. In some cases, these new standards can be highly disruptive in the life of a business. Businesses, even those that might have successfully managed to resist modern technologies, will have to adapt to new standards, lest they leave themselves open to the risk of litigation and government sanctions. Instead of looking at them as an impediment, businesses can use changing standards as an opportunity to improve the quality of their products and deliver more value to customers.
Workplaces are transforming from established institutions to constantly evolving ecosystems. This transformation is usually synchronized with the changes in the larger industry or global environment. The increasing number of women in leadership roles within organizations and the growing migration of knowledge workers are examples of such changes. There is also a move toward a more casual business setting that is more output-focused than process-focused. Cultural shifts, while scary, can be great opportunities for businesses. They can help ignite creativity and collaboration and foster new perspectives within the organization.
At the end of the day, disruptions are not something to be feared. They could herald in a new stage of your business. In fact, businesses would do well to seek out disruptions. And when you find them, make sure you look closely. You might just see an incredible opportunity to embrace more disruptive and innovative thinking.
YPO can play a major role in helping businesses deal with interruptions. As change agents themselves, their role in shaping global business processes is unprecedented. With 26,000 members in more than 130 countries, they are an incredible forum for entrepreneurs to turn to when dealing with disruptions in their business. YPO can help them explore new technologies like M2M and the internet of things (IoT) and adopt them for their businesses and processes.
For me personally, YPO has had a profound effect on shaping my understanding of the various intricacies and intangibles that go into building a good business. A lot of how I have navigated interruptions in my business is a result of the invaluable insights that I’ve gained through my many interactions with the various members of my YPO forum and the larger YPO network. The wisdom and knowledge I’ve gained have not only made me a better entrepreneur, but also a better person.