The time for ideas and quantum growth has come! – Unique Times
We have spent the last few decades looking at improving quotidian tasks and lauding the benefits of continuous improvement. The celebrated Japanese management philosophies and the thrust on quality through the Deming principles have put concepts like ‘Kaizen’ in a ‘pride of place’. Gradual growth and the need to move from ‘A’ to ‘D’ through the ladder path of touching ‘B’ and ‘C’ has been the constant guidance of practitioners and management theorists. We also excused ourselves with the single digit growth of our businesses and coined a very appropriate phrase ‘Organic growth’. This phrase, justified such a trend as ‘natural’ and something that is akin to nature. We also attributed higher growth to ‘avarice’ or reckless ambition of the business heads. Well, this is about to change!
I get reminded of the conversation between Alice and the Red Queen in Lewis Caroll’s‘Through the Looking-glass’ , a classic written many decades ago –
“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”
“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”
Nothing can be closer to defining what organizations need to do today – run doubly fast even to maintain status quo and speed is the essence. Growth requires a concerted effort of thoughtful action and assiduous implementation.
It is also the time for ideas. Disruptive ideas like Amazon, Facebook, UBER, AirBnB have rewritten wealth creation in ways that will change the business landscape for ever. It is also time for the Cambrian explosion of ideas. The phenomenon refers to a period, millions of years ago on earth, when there was a sudden emergence of new species and organisms around the world. This period came after several millenniums of relative inaction in our universe. In essence it is times for quantum changes around us. Have we understood the underlying dynamics of all of this – I think not! Kenneth Clarke, the eminent art historian, who dedicated a lifetime to the study of civilization, would say that he still did not know what it was but thought he could recognize it when he saw it ! We are perhaps cognizant of these changes like never before but are waiting on the fringes to figure out meaning.
A classic example of immense growth potential is the Ayurveda industry in Kerala. While we have lauded our heritage and patted our back for centuries of medicinal knowledge, we have never really grown the industry to its potential. Today, the indigenous Chinese medicine has moved leaps and bounds while we are still sitting on the sidelines. The time has come for a quantum growth like never before. Unless we use the next five years to embrace technology, integrate disruptive ideas and seek quantum growth , we will have relegated a centuries old medicinal area to just another concept of ‘alternate medicine’.
We have reached a phase where there cannot be an excuse for inaction. Ideas are meeting the execution drawing boards quicker than ever before. This has also burgeoned a generation of youngsters who have the audacity to rewrite rules. With the increasing acceptance of entrepreneurship as a viable career and life option, we see more of this generation taking the flirting with their ideas and working to see them into reality. Speed and experimentation has become the new flavour, and businesses are increasing plunging to implement ideas rather than hone and sharpen the axe eternally before getting the right plan in place. In this melee, there is bound to be serious management philosophies that will emerge in the next five years. Perhaps we will even see more changes in these years than what civilization has seen in the last several hundred years.
There is no industry or sector which is immune of change. There is no scientific or management discipline which will not go through quantum or perhaps tumultuous change. While , introspection will always help, days of the armchair thinker is over. It is the time for the ‘roll up your sleeve manager’ to try and see what will work. It is the time for ideas. Good solid ideas will rule roost and we will see more of them. Bu that does not mean an apocalyptic view like – the ‘machines will take over ‘ !Scientists and Academia are almost evenly split on whether robots and artificial intelligence will displace a significant number of jobs over the next decade. Futurist Tim O’Reilley says “If you look at this idea that it’s a combination of man and machine, and you look at some of the like Uber, the Apple store—they are actually cases where humans are made more powerful by this background. And that creates a better customer experience, which creates new demand.”
Some fundamentals may yet never change. It can also be summarized by what William Blake writes in the ‘Auguries of Innocence’
“To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.”
The questions business champions need to ask themselves today are :-
How can I grow five times in the next two years? What is the constraint that is keeping me from doing it? Is it finance, resources, leadership pipeline or just the will to grow? What we do not realise is that ideas are disrupting your industry. Your five year business plan has no meaning unless you have prompted the tectonic changes in your industry. You will also realise that a detailed study of the evolution of any industry will give you no indication of its future and the death curves, it will have to negotiate. While the study of history is no less important, it is also time we add a new subject to the curriculum of schools and colleges alike, called – FUTURE !
As management guru , Peter Drucker avered – ‘The best way to understand the future is to create it !’ Put your ideas into action – the right time is NOW !