Is your company fast, creative, and adaptable enough to survive in today's volatile world?
In our age of disruption, your company must be agile and courageousyet it's easy to react to today's business climate with fear and indecision. Don't make that mistake. To move quickly and intelligently to the changes unfolding around us, you must be sure all levels and functions in your businesses are creative and responsive.
Packed with practical examples, tools, and guidance, Fearless Growth provides new rules to enable your company to adapt faster, move faster, and grow faster. You will learn how to:
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About the Author
Amanda Setili is president of strategy consulting firm Setili & Associates, whose clients include Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, The Home Depot, and Walmart. She previously held positions with McKinsey & Company and Kimberly-Clark and served as an executive with two successful disruptive technology startups in the United States and Malaysia. Setili is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and Harvard Business School and has taught at Emory's Goizueta Business School. She is also the author of The Agility Advantage: How to Identify and Act on Opportunities in a Fast-Changing World.
Read an Excerpt
In February 2017, news agency Reuters revealed GM's plans to test thousands of self-driving electric Bolt vehicles in 2018. GM's ultimate goal, which most of us would have had trouble imagining 15 years ago, is to develop a fleet of self-driving vehicles that can be summoned on demand via ride-sharing services.
For GM, the tests are about more than just building customer acceptance. GM will also improve its technology by having the cars collect driving and traffic data from traffic lights, cameras, road sensors, and parking meters.
GM is not the only company racing toward an autonomous- vehicle future. In February 2017, Ford announced that it would invest $1 billion dollars throughout a five-year period in Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based company with top leadership from Carnegie Mellon, Google, and Uber. Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, is teaming up with Uber. Tesla is equipping every car it sells with equipment capable of being remotely upgraded as self-driving capabilities evolve, and other auto companies have their own plans underway.
The GM example demonstrates how big companies can move fast and fearlessly when they want to. Although it may be several more years before government regulators allow fleets of truly driverless vehicles to ply American roads and byways, GM decided that to stay relevant and build a foundation for its future growth, it needed to act now.
Why Fearless Growth Is Imperative
When you are in the midst of a fast-changing business environment, as automakers now are, it's easy to let the risks and uncertainty slow you to a crawl. Customer behaviors and preferences are shifting quickly. Technology is accelerating. Competitors are moving fast. The regulatory environment is highly uncertain. The future is difficult to predict or plan for.
Taking the auto sector as an example, we see that consumer values and habits concerning transportation have changed more in the last five years than in the last 50 years. When I was growing up, teens wanted their driver's licenses the day they turned 16. Having a car meant independence, freedom, friends, adventure, privacy, and power. Surprisingly, only about 27 percent of 16-year-olds in the United States today have their license. And all around the world, the trend is similar: People begin driving later, or not at all. What's driving this change in driving habits? When asked why they had not yet gotten a driver's license, 57 percent of non-driving 18- and 19-year-olds said they were "too busy," and 22 percent said they did not intend to get a license — ever.
What?! A teenager who does not intend to get a driver's license? Ever? This would have been unthinkable a generation ago. Needless to say, this trend has the automotive industry worried — very worried. Americans currently spend more than $2 trillion each year on products and services related to car ownership, everything from purchasing the vehicles themselves, to spare tires, oil changes, insurance, auto finance, repairs, and so on. Fewer drivers translates into lower profits for these companies.
Ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, and car-sharing services like Zipcar, car2go, Turo, and BMW's ReachNow service, have made car ownership an option, not a necessity. Daniel Ammann, president of GM, summarized the shift he sees: "There are large groups of customers out there that want to have the convenience and access to a car when they need it, but don't want to have the hassle of ownership."
When the ground is shifting beneath your feet, with rapid changes in customer needs, technology, regulations, and the like, you need to act fast. You need to be adaptable, ready for anything. You need to innovate and invest in new lines of business that will fuel future growth.
It's not always easy to act quickly. Your board and investors expect steady revenue growth and consistent profitability. Your employees are accustomed to doing things the way they've always been done. Even your customers may balk at rapid change, rejecting opportunities to try new products, or to do things in new ways. The core business, which you may have built over many decades, still needs to be run in an efficient and reliable manner. There is little time and limited money to invest in new avenues for revenue growth.
The tension between doing what you are good at — what you know how to do well — and charting new territory is profound. We avoid admitting fear in a corporate setting, but it's reasonable, rational, and natural to be fearful when your core business is under threat of disruption, when customer attitudes are changing at an extraordinary pace, or when you cannot predict or control the changes in your business environment.
Although it is natural to be fearful, it is not necessary. In fact, by following the new rules that I share in the chapters that follow, you can grow boldly and fearlessly.
Five Strategic Dilemmas That Have Become More Acute
GM's moves into autonomous vehicles illustrate how one company, GM, addressed five strategic dilemmas that I've observed countless companies wrestle with. Each of them can result in worry, stress, tension, or even fear.
Strategic Dilemma #1: Should we disrupt our own business before someone else does, or focus on protecting and preserving it? GM's investment in autonomous vehicles is clearly at odds with its historic goal of selling more cars. The company is effectively investing to reduce the number of cars on the road. But by getting out in front of the autonomous vehicle trend, and learning as fast as possible, company leaders know that they will be more likely to succeed in the long term, no matter what the future brings.
Strategic Dilemma #2: How much of our scarce attention and resources should we invest in long-term bets, as opposed to meeting the short-term demands of running our business? Though GM has been researching autonomous vehicles for years, the company accelerated its strategy in 2016, investing $500 million in ride-sharing company Lyft in January, and acquiring three-year-old, 40-employee (at the time of acquisition) Cruise Automation later that year for $581 million. GM's strategy is to move first and fast in bringing autonomous vehicles into the ride-sharing arena, targeting urban areas with young populations likely to be comfortable with the idea of autonomous ride-sharing. The $1 billion dollars is a significant investment for GM, but investing in Lyft and Cruise Automation is not a bet-the-company move. The investment, which amounts to only about 2 percent of its total market capitalization, allows GM to test the waters, and enables the company to be on the learning frontier of car-sharing and self-driving cars. Meanwhile, GM has a range of other programs to support incremental growth in its core business.
Strategic Dilemma #3: To what extent should we develop a carefully thought-out plan, versus plunging in and trying something new? The partnership with Lyft and the acquisition of Cruise Automation enable GM to take relatively low-risk, incremental steps toward autonomous driving, such as experimenting with semi- autonomous cars with Lyft drivers behind the wheel who can intervene if things go awry. GM leaders know that changes in insurance norms, liability law, customer acceptance, technology, and the competitive landscape will happen quickly. They know that they cannot plan everything, but if they jump in to begin learning, they will be prepared to adapt as events unfold.
Strategic Dilemma #4: When new capabilities are needed, should we build them internally, acquire, or partner? Lyft is expert at software and ride-sharing. Cruise Automation is expert at autonomous vehicle technology. GM knows manufacturing, and can quickly tap into long-established networks of suppliers to source tens of thousands of car parts. These complementary capabilities will allow GM to move much faster than if it pursued a go-it-alone strategy. GM probably sensed that if it acquired Lyft outright, it would kill the smaller company's ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit. GM wisely invested enough to have a voice in Lyft's strategic decisions, but not so much that it squelched Lyft's culture and drove off its best talent. Similarly, GM will protect the three-year-old, 40-person culture of Cruise Automation by allowing it to operate as an independent unit within GM, based in Silicon Valley.
Strategic Dilemma #5: Can we afford to shed parts of our business in order to focus on future growth? Chief Executive Mary Barra hasboldly cast off unprofitable parts of GM's business to allow greater focus on attractive growth opportunities, and to better prepare for an unpredictable future. In March 2017, the company announced the sale of its Opel business to Peugeot, which means GM is exiting the European market. The Wall Street Journal reported that Barra's move "produced considerable hand-wringing in the U.S.," where industry analysts and others accused GM of "short-sightedly abandoning a key global market." The sale of Opel will make GM the only major automaker without a substantial presence in Europe. It will reduce GM's sales volume by 10 percent and knock the company out of the running to be the top global automaker. However, Barra's decision is not only courageous, but smart. Shedding Opel will free up money and management attention to invest in more-profitable markets (such as North America and China) and in future technologies, such as self-driving cars. The choice to shrink the business is a difficult one, but one that will undoubtedly better position GM for the future.
Although these five strategic dilemmas have existed since the beginning of time, they have become more acute and problematic in recent years for two key reasons: First, markets are changing faster, and companies in every sector have become more agile and faster moving. If you can't keep up, you get left behind. Take the example of the fashion industry. Until recent years, manufacturers traditionally introduced new products in two big clothing retail seasons, spring and fall.
This paradigm has been upended by fast-fashion retailers such as H&M, Zara, and Forever 21, which introduce a continuous stream of new products not tied to any particular season. Zara introduces 40,000 new products every year — shipping them to stores twice a week. It gets fast, continuous feedback on what's selling and what's not, then adjusts the next week's shipments based on minute-to-minute trends. Facing these fast-adapting competitors, formerly popular brands such as Aeropostale, American Apparel, and PacSun have fallen out of favor with shoppers, and have filed for bankruptcy protection. When markets are changing fast, it's crucial to learn constantly and adapt continuously to avoid obsolescence.
Second, the historical sources of competitive advantage, such as capital equipment, brand equity, and proprietary expertise and technology, are both less valuable and more perishable in today's fast-changing world. Why? Companies can outsource nearly any function, so new competitors can pop up quickly, seemingly out of nowhere. Patents, expertise, and knowledge are difficult to protect, and become outdated quickly. Consumers are less brand-loyal and their behaviors change fast. (Who would have imagined, five or 10 years ago, that in one-third of marriages, spouses would have met online?) Technology can be replicated easily. For all these reasons, we need to move faster and more fearlessly to capture new opportunities when they arise, or we may quickly become irrelevant.
In this climate, many of the strategic rules we formerly lived by have become obsolete. Rules such as "Stick to your knitting," "Plan, then do," "Ask your customers what they want," and "Release a major upgrade every year or two" didn't anticipate a time when flexibility and speed would be so crucial for success.
Should We Be Worried?
The history of business throughout the past couple of decades is replete with stories of companies that failed to move fast enough as their markets changed around them. Blockbuster failed to respond quickly enough to the disruptive presence of Netflix in the DVD rental, and then the video-streaming markets. Kodak was famously slow to adopt the technology it had itself invented — digital photography — until other companies had staked out unassailable claims to the market. BlackBerry Ltd. and Nokia failed to respond quickly enough as the Apple iPhone and other innovative smartphones left the companies in the dust.
These companies are not anomalies. The average lifespan of an S&P 500 company was 61 years in 1958, and is only 20 years today. An S&P 500 company is replaced every two weeks.
On the other hand, companies that start from scratch, including the more than 100 "unicorn" startups (those with valuations of more than $1 billion), such as Uber, Snapchat, Airbnb, Palantir, and others, start out with none of established companies' advantages of size, assets, and employee base, yet they seem to have another advantage. Because these startups have little or nothing to lose if they fail, they can fearlessly innovate. And if a startup does fail, which many do, the founders, executives, and employees can simply either start up a new venture, or move on to another company.
Large, long-established companies, and the executives who run them, don't have that luxury. They have plenty to lose, both organizationally and personally, if they fail.
Despite the success of some of these start-from-scratch companies, it's my belief that the more exciting stories are being created today by giant, long-established companies — companies that have tremendous capacity to create new value for the world, provided they learn to grow fearlessly.
What Does Fearless Growth Look Like?
To be able to respond quickly and intelligently to the fast pace of change in the world, we need all levels and functions in our businesses to be creative and responsive. We need speed. Said Ginni Rometty — chairwoman, president, and CEO of IBM — in an interview with the New York Times, "People ask, 'Is there a silver bullet?' The silver bullet, you might say is speed, this idea of speed."
Do you think your own business is quick enough and agile enough to survive and thrive in today's fast-moving business markets? One way to get some idea of whether or not that is the case is to take a simple diagnostic that will provide you with a yardstick for just how fast and fearless your business really is.
To what extent would you say each of the following are true about your business? (Give your company a "5" for each statement that is always or to a great extent true, a "3" for statements that are sometimes or partly true, and a "1" for statements that are false.)
We are ambitious, setting out to do something truly new and groundbreaking that creates enormous new value for the world.
We anticipate what is likely to change in our business environment, and the new opportunities that these changes may create.
When we see an opportunity, we develop a smart and differentiated way of addressing it, and we take action immediately to begin to learn.
We focus appropriate parts of our business on efficiency, consistency, and predictability, and other parts on exploration and innovation.
We have the courage to displace our existing offerings with new solutions. We would rather disrupt ourselves than be disrupted by others, and would rather create the future than have it forced upon us.
We don't restrict our strategic options to only those we can accomplish with our current capabilities. If new capabilities are required to reach our strategic goals, we build or acquire these over time.
When something unexpected happens — a data breach, a new competitor, a new customer need — we communicate rapidly to make a decision, and take action quickly.
When we make a strategic decision, we ask, "What action can we take tomorrow to put this in action, and to begin to learn?" We constantly experiment, finding low-risk, immediate ways to test strategic alternatives. What works, we keep. What doesn't, we fix or discard.
We're attuned to the damper that incentives can put on growth. We have flexible budgeting and performance management systems. We hold people accountable, but also allow for changes in strategy.
Our strategies are fluid and designed for learning. We continuously adjust and evolve our plans as we encounter new information, and when the business environment changes.
This list gives you a glimpse of what it feels like to be fast and fearless. If you gave your company 1s, 2s, or 3s on more than half of these statements, you are probably struggling to move as fast or as fearlessly as you would like. In that case, how can you get from where you are now to where you would like to be? Using the examples of highly successful companies that have grown fearlessly, this book is here to tell you how.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Fearless Growth"
Copyright © 2018 Amanda Setili.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword Marshall Goldsmith 9
Chapter 1 Fearless Growth 13
Chapter 2 Rule #1: Embrace Uncertainty 37
Chapter 3 Rule #2: Get in Sync With Customers 65
Chapter 4 Rule #3: Partner, Borrow, and Share 91
Chapter 5 Rule #4: Connect and Strengthen Your Ecosystem 115
Chapter 6 Rule #5: Open the Floodgates of Employee Creativity 139
Chapter 7 Rule #6: Achieve Fast and Fearless Learning 167
Chapter 8 Rule #7: Build Trust Into All You Do 195
Chapter 9 Implementing Fearless Growth 217