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How to lead a more adaptive business

Written 02 September, 2019, 4 minutes to read

In our ever-changing digital landscape, being able to adapt and evolve quickly is crucial. Disruption naturally involves flux: to adopt smart new technologies, to relinquish those which no longer produce value, to access the right skills and people, to adjust priorities. Companies that fail to move with the times will get left behind. But it goes being agile – to lead the competition, companies need to continually rethink and adapt themselves to truly maximize new opportunities.

Why “adaptive enterprises” win

According to research by Forrester, the ability to adapt is the best business strategy a company can follow if they want to succeed. Agility is also a popular buzzword, but agility on its own it isn’t enough to outperform competitiors; it must also be paired with adaptability. And when it is, businesses can reasonably hope to enjoy 3.2 times greater revenue growth.

Adaptive philosophies don’t just deal with change – they embrace it. They focus on getting results in constantly evolving environments, making sure they’ve done their research and have the right insights. These companies know where they’re headed, and if plans change along the way – as they so often do – they keep up with them. Because adaptive enterprises are always trying to identify future opportunities, they’re better at figuring out the right approaches for different situations.

Adaptive enterprises are made up of employees who work collectively towards one common goal. They also have to be led by adaptive leaders. Think of some of the most successful leaders or bosses: chances are they’ll all have adaptability in common. Adaptive leaders aren’t reactive; they’re self-aware and they lead with empathy – and because they focus on building self-motivated teams that welcome change and convert uncertainty into positive results, they’re able to outperform their competitors.

How to be a more adaptive business

Of course, adopting an adaptive leadership style isn’t something you can always do instantly. Like adaptiveness itself, it’s all about being able to evolve along the way – and luckily, there are several steps you can take to lead a more adaptive business.

1. Build a strong digital culture

Digital transformations have revolutionized the way we work, possibly more than any other business change. But digitalization is almost always doomed to fail if you don’t have a strong digital culture – and in fact, research shows that 90% of digital transformations end in failure. If you want to become an adaptive business, you have to have an adaptive culture. No matter how eager you are to evolve, if your team is unsure it just won’t work.

So before you rush out to change the way you work, first make sure your team not only understands these changes but accepts them. Prioritize communication. If your team isn’t embracing new changes, find out why – and once you know, figure out how you can help people become interested and invested. Include employees in company decisions whenever you can and think of ways you can get them excited about embracing these new strategies and innovative tech. Consider incentives – what’s in it for employees? What can make them actually want to be part of this exciting revolution?

How to leverage empathy during organizational change

2. Be insights-driven

If you want to be an adaptive business then you need to understand how to keep up with demand – and to do this, you need to act on insights. Since the rise of digitalization, the companies who’ve done the best are the ones who preempted what people want. They did their research and made the necessary changes, whether that was making things quicker and easier for their customers or giving them more power and choice. Be insights-driven and be proactive: what changes are happening today that will shape what people want tomorrow?

There are obviously a ton of ways to go about this, but they all start and end with having access to the right data and the right technology to explore it. Customer behaviors, changing market trends and product engagement are all useful places to start, but insights should also spread to the way your business is run itself. You can learn how to work together more intelligently without knowing how your teams operate in the first place.

Get insights on how you actually run your business

3. Focus on value

Adaptive businesses try to focus all their efforts on meaningful work that actively pushes them forward. It requires you to become aware of your inefficiencies, managing your distractions and cut out as many low-value, unproductive tasks as possible. By limiting daily interruptions and routine tasks, employees can pour their full attention into the cognitively demanding work that actually creates value.

Again, technology can lend a helping hand here. Tracking all your business time can help you unearth all the workflow inefficiences that hold your business back. Managing notifications and setting boundaries for your tools can help you build a more productive relationship with your tech. And automating all your repetitive, shallow tasks – like creating timesheets, scheduling meetings and managing email – can free you up for productive deep work.

10 unproductive tasks everyone should automate

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