During our Christmas vacation, we rented a vehicle, as part of our ritual holiday planning. My husband, who works in the automotive industry, quickly pointed out that our car was supremely inferior to the Ford Motor Company’s equivalent, which was unfortunately unavailable. When I asked him about the difference, he simply stated: “Ford’s technology is intuitive, simple and way ahead of the game.”
Although my enthusiasm for cars will likely never match my husband’s, I was nonetheless intrigued by the conversation that ensued as we navigated the highways of California in our “second rate” rental car. My husband’s comments about the Ford product got me thinking about the three main challenges that many of my clients are facing in their efforts to stay ahead of the curve:
Are we ready to embrace change? How do we own our future? Are we listening to our employees and customers?
Although the Ford Motor Company did not invent the car, they implemented revolutionary technology by becoming the first automobile manufacturer to introduce the assembly line for automobile production in 1913. They were first to offer safety belts, create early innovation with air bags, computerized engine and diagnostics management, anti-lock braking systems, and pioneers in vehicle “infotainment”. The Ford “SYNC” system, which evolved from their initial partnership with Microsoft in 2007 to their latest partnership with Blackberry, provides drivers with hands-free Bluetooth voice recognition as well as the ability to access information, music and more from their smart phones. You can now talk to Siri, get movie listings, ski conditions, sports scores, weather, updates and the location of your nearest ATM (or any POI), all from the comfort of your car.
In addition, drivers can now sit back while their vehicles park themselves. Self-driving will likely be a reality in 2021, although it remains to be seen as to whether Google (in partnership with Apple) will be first, ahead of Ford.
So, what do these examples mean for your business?
The Ford story illustrates a journey of constant innovation and a willingness to push boundaries.
Companies that choose to lead rather than follow are willing to risk, shift, and on occasion, eat humble pie. Many of the world’s most innovative companies weren’t “first”. However, they have demonstrated tenacity and often-unparalleled resilience by reinventing themselves, recognizing untapped opportunity while reveling in changing market conditions.
Consider Proctor and Gamble’s iconic brand, “Old Spice”. The company recognized that its image needed to change while remaining relevant to its core market. Old Spice now owns the deodorant/antiperspirant brand category and boasts 500 million YouTube Subscribers! Or take Lego: a company that’s been around since 1932 and was on the verge of entering “toy heaven”, it has since recalibrated and embraced innovation to survive…and thrive. Then there’s Amazon: constantly creating new business paradigms in terms of products and services, as the world awaits package delivery by drones!
Are you ready to stay ahead of the curve?
We can position ourselves for enduring success by studying and applying lessons learned from enterprises that embarked down the road less traveled and continue to forge ahead. Whether the need to reinvent is evident internally (reshaping employee attraction and retention practices) or externally (re-evaluating customer analysis and feedback channels), ignorance is certainly no longer bliss. Staying ahead of the curve is the new imperative.
And soon, you’ll be able to enjoy the view…from the back seat.