Adapt or Fail: How to Thrive Through Change!

By Lorie Rosenberg

Adapt-or-Fail-Chameleon-smIn today’s highly evolving and competitive business environment, you need to continually change or adapt in order to be successful. When you fail to change, there’s a good chance you will begin to lose your competitive edge, and your customers will look to others to fill the gap in what you have to offer.

The word “adapt” means to change or adjust for a purpose. Just like the chameleon changes its colors to adapt in its environment, you too need to be able to change your colors - in essence your approach to life or work - to keep relevant in the marketplace.

Animals continually adapt so they can survive in their environment. Their adaptations have sometimes taken thousands of years to evolve and develop. But that's what survival is all about. Those animals that didn’t evolve perished when their environments changed and they weren’t able to change fast enough to survive.

Technology, trends, and industry as a whole are all moving rapidly forward. In most cases, you can’t wait to change. You need to constantly be assessing the environment and determining if what you’re doing is moving you in the right direction. Are you seeing progress, or are you losing out to those who can adapt faster than you can?

In his 1859 book, The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin had an amazing observation: “It is not the strongest species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.” This is truer now than ever before, especially in the business environment.

So how can you more effectively adapt in today’s business world?

Understand That Being Static is a Sure Recipe for Failure

There have been so many cases in the business environment where companies or organizations have folded because they weren’t able to adapt to the changing environment and therefore became irrelevant.

An example of this is Kodak, a company that was a major innovator and leader in the analog film industry. The company never capitalized on the digital-camera technology which it helped to create. It also didn’t understand the new ways consumers were taking pictures and using their cameras.

Because it failed to evolve, Kodak - a company founded by George Eastman in 1892 - had to file Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 2012. It failed to deliver based on consumer trends and buying choices, and as a result, essentially became extinct after over 120 years in business.

Routinely Assess the Current Business Environment and Determine Trends for Future Change

It’s important to routinely assess the environment in which you’re doing business. How are innovation and technology changing the face of your industry?

Take the television broadcasting industry. At one time, people were exclusively plugged in with cable or satellite service. Now customers are cutting the cord with cable and utilizing other internet services that allow them to access television programming at a fraction of the cost of cable. This trend is siphoning a lot of business from companies like Spectrum, Comcast, and other providers. How will these companies adapt to this move by customers to reduce their monthly outlay for television programming? Will these companies survive and adapt their businesses to meet the needs of their industry?

You, too, need to routinely determine how you fit in the current marketplace and what you need to do to adapt to trends in your industry.

Recognize How You Fit on the Playing Field

Staying relevant is crucial to your future success. That’s why you need to determine how your business fits in your particular industry.

You can try to be all things to all people, but that’s like using a shotgun for target practice. You’ll end up scattering your bullets in all directions without really hitting your mark. It’s the same in business. You may end up scattering your efforts in all directions without really fully penetrating any particular market.

That doesn’t mean that you throw all of your eggs in one basket, but you need to determine who your specific customers are and exactly what you can do to meet their particular needs. Assess how this compares with what your competitors have to offer and how you can overcome any objections your customers may have? This will help you become the solution that your customers go to every time because it’s the right fit for their needs.

Define Areas Where You’re Falling Behind

Once you’ve assessed how you fit in your marketplace, you can determine areas where you’re falling behind in terms of your competition. This may be in a service you’re offering that is slowing becoming irrelevant because of changing technology. It may be that your product needs to be upgraded or fine-tuned so that you are satisfying the changing needs of your customers.

We listen to an internet radio service called Pandora. It currently has over 250 million registered users and enables people to stream music  to their computer or smart device based on their artist or song preferences. It’s pretty much all we listen to.

Recently we heard of a new service called Spotify, which has about 15 million users, and is now pulling more and more customers away from Pandora because of its massive song collection. Pandora has around 1 million songs in its collection while Spotify has over 20 million songs and continues to add them daily. That’s a huge difference and allows consumers to listen to so many more songs, and its social sharing feature is much better than Pandora’s.

The question now is how Pandora will hold up against Spotify. While people can listen to a wider range of music with Spotify, Pandora’s ability to play music based on a consumer’s preferences far surpasses that of Spotify. The key here is determining what is most important in the consumer’s mindset and providing a service uniquely designed to meet those needs.

Escalate the Speed at Which You Change

Another important aspect in your ability to adapt is the speed with which you can change gears to accommodate your customers’ needs. Those companies that are slow to react can sometimes fall behind the curve and will begin to lose customers more rapidly than they can react to the changing environment.

On the other hand, you may not want to change too rapidly and disgruntle your current customers that are satisfied with your products and services. It's a fine balance to be able to add new customers based on your new offering, yet keep the customers you already have.

Understand that Denial Is a Choice in Itself

Many companies have seen the writing on the wall that times were changing, but failed to do anything about it…essentially sticking their heads in the sand hoping the situation will resolve itself.

The problem is that inaction is actually making a choice to do nothing, and this has essentially has ruined many companies. When it’s time for a change, you need to be able to take decisive action to move in a particular direction rather than hope that everything will be okay. Hope is a strategy that rarely achieves success!

Manage the Risk Versus Reward of Change

There is risk involved in change, and you need to be clear that you’re evolving your business to adapt to new trends and consumer preferences, rather than jumping at every bright and shiny object you think will be the next best innovation. When you venture off into new directions, it can tend to distract you from your core business. This can often be detrimental because you're not focusing on the business that sustains you and ensures your viability. You have to weight the risk of change versus the reward of adding another revenue stream to your business.

In addition, your current customers, who are are accustomed to what they’ve always had, may decide to go elsewhere because they're unsure of the new direction you're taking. That's why it is a good idea to institute some gradual change so they're less likely to go somewhere else.

Adapting Is an Important Tool in Your Personal Arsenal

Business and life in general are all about adapting to change. Those who can adapt to meet the needs of their environment will survive and those who refuse to change will tend to fail. Are you willing to break the barriers that are holding you back and keeping you from creating a business and a life that evolves successfully to the winds of change?