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3 Steps to Relentless Adaptation

By: Amber Mac

Every year a new smartphone with better battery life hits the Canadian market. Just recently, Huawei released the P30 that will last a whopping two days on a single charge (based on six or seven hours of screen time a day). Compare this to the first Apple iPhone that launched just back in 2007. If you were lucky, you’d get five hours a day of talking and browsing. In just over a decade, we’ve seen enormous advances in mobile battery technology.

Today, while you still might need a desktop or laptop computer, you can do almost everything you did on those heavy electronics from the palm of your hand. Plus, smartphones have also crushed the need for owning a point-and-shoot camera or camcorder, thanks to improved technology that can shoot impressive high-resolution photos and movie-like video. Within this sector you see relentless adaptation in droves. While consumers might tire of hearing about new launches every single year, the smartphone makers are on a path of constant iteration.

We don’t necessarily need all these fancy bells and whistles, but there is a lot we can learn from businesses that are pushing the boundaries of innovation. In fact, while we may want to call it innovation, even that term is somewhat misleading since it implies that these companies are developing a new method, idea, or product. In the above battery example, what we’re really seeing is relentless adaptation. Relentless in that it is constant and persistent, and adaptation in that it’s in a continuous state of change and improvement to meet today’s demands.

In the hospitality industry, business owners and operators are experiencing this same sense of change. In the technology industry, it’s called hyper adoption. Beyond smartphones, consider smart speakers. Google Home launched in Canada late in 2017. Less than two years later, eMarketer predicts that there will be almost six million of these devices in use. We no longer wait to try new technology, but instead it permeates our lives and we adopt it almost overnight. Moreover, hardware (i.e. electronics) is forced to pursue longer development cycles, but software services (i.e. apps) are quick to change consumer behaviour and disrupt established industries.

This new world feels overwhelming, but there are steps that leaders can take to keep up and benefit during this chaos. To get started, here are three simple steps to practice relentless adaptation.

1. Embrace a Learn-It-All Culture

It is no longer possible for a business, or its leaders, to stand still. The tools to develop disrupting technology are constantly getting cheaper and more accessible. That means learning must take centre stage in today’s organizations. Whether it’s listening to relevant podcasts, reading books, or taking courses, you can’t plan for the future if you don’t know what it holds. Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella says it best when he explains that his team had to shift from experts to students, embracing the reality that it was no longer possible to know it all, so they have to (continuously) learn it all.

2. Experiment with New Technology

As artificial intelligence, and more specifically machine learning, continues to power new solutions in everything from sales to marketing, and beyond, organizations should choose to investigate if this new technology can help them to solve problems in a more efficient way. A simple example of this is Lumen5, a video editor that helps to turn an everyday blog post into an interactive video. The tool automatically matches each scene with relevant videos and photos. Not only can this save time on the marketing front, it’s a cost-effective way to produce content for social media.

3. Learn How to Pursue Moonshots

The term “moonshots” was coined by physicist Safi Bahcall, the bestselling author of the new book Loonshots. Bahcall shares dozens of stories, dating back decades, about how it’s the craziest ideas that win wars, cure diseases, and transform industries. Just take a moment to write down the biggest threat to your business today and you will see that it would have seemed like a “crazy idea” during its initial development, but its founder or leader persisted (despite the inevitable criticism). Uber is one example. Before this company launched, it would have seemed crazy to think that passengers would willingly jump into a vehicle with a stranger. Today, they have 75 million passengers that are served by 3 million drivers.

If you follow these three easy steps, you will be well on your way to relentless adaptation. If you keep doing business as usual, you will enter 2020 with metaphorical blinders that block out what’s actually happening and too often lead to falling behind.