Adapting to change: surviving in an evolving world

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Jo Knight 18th June 2016 3 minute read

Adapting to change: surviving in an evolving world

Survival of the fittest is a term normally associated with the animal kingdom, but it is a perfect analogy for looking at businesses competing in the evolving world. New technology, changing customer demands and increasing competition are all factors which businesses have to adapt to in order to both survive, and stay leaders within their market. Those that fail to do so will soon find themselves an extinct, long forgotten species driven out by new, more adaptable businesses. There are several qualities a business needs in order to successfully adapt to change.

Understanding the market

In order for a business to be able to make successful decisions, it must be able to fully understand the market and customer needs. It is important for businesses to stay educated on current trends as these are what will turn into the ‘next big thing’. Understanding the market demands allows a business to provide solutions and gain capital. 

Anticipate the future

It is all too easy to get carried away on focusing on what current customer and market demands are, but these demands are dynamic and evolve with exposure to new ideas and technology. Businesses must be able to anticipate the influence of external agents on customer needs, such as new technology.

A perfect example of this is the Blockbuster – Netflix case. Blockbuster failed to acknowledge the influence of the internet on consumer needs, and as a result, refused to change their business plan to incorporate the internet in order to make the rental process easier for customers. When Netflix tapped into this need, by providing a convenient online rental service without rigid return policies and late fees, Blockbuster lost its customer base and left it too late to pick up on the business, resulting in a nationwide closure. By anticipating changing customers’ needs and immediately responding to these demands, Netflix managed to lead the way in the rental market.

Being flexible

Technological advances are too fast for businesses to be able to create a rigid business plan and stick to it indefinitely. In the time it takes to finalise an idea, it might already be outdated. Even ideas that should work may not always fare well in an already over-saturated market. Being flexible means being open to new ideas and concepts, and considering alternate routes to go down. Businesses which aren’t flexible are preparing themselves for failure. 

Take Kodak and Fujifilm. Both businesses faced the imminent launch of digital photography in the 80s, yet Fujifilm managed to manipulate its resources and cope well while Kodak struggled to stay afloat. Kodak failed to properly accept and prepare for digital photography, meaning they failed to capitalise the market, and without any backups the business quickly crashed. Fujifilm, however, moved into digital photography, but also used their knowledge for chemistry, gained from making films, into other avenues, such as cosmetics and producing medicine. Both Kodak and Fujifilm had the material and knowledge to do this, but only Fujifilm found new and flexible ways of using their resources to adapt to the changing market. 

Customer demands are constantly evolving with exposure to new ideas and technology, and businesses that don’t embrace these changes will struggle to gain a share of the market and customers. Adapting to change is essential for businesses to not only survive, but to lead within their market. Nowhere is this more obvious than with Apple. At launch, Apple struggled to keep up with giants like Microsoft as it followed product trends after they had been created. It wasn’t until Apple started leading the way with innovative designs and products that it truly outshone every competitor and became the leader of the mobile market. 

It is essential for businesses to adapt to change in order to survive threats and stress the market faces. To sum up, a business can adapt to change by:

  • Understanding the market
  • Accepting the influence of transforming agents on the changing needs of customers
  • Being flexible 
  • Identifying customer needs and executing solutions immediately

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