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About the Author
JOEL STECKEL is professor of marketing and vice dean of doctoral education at NYU Stern School of Business.
Read an Excerpt
Why This Book?
It's a good question. And a good part of the answer resides in the word relevant. To say something is "relevant" is to say that it matters. Being relevant has always been a critical factor for success in all walks of life. Writers and artists want their work to be relevant. Musicians want their music to be relevant. Filmmakers want their movies to be relevant to viewers. Scientists and researchers want their discoveries to be relevant. Teachers want their lessons to be relevant. We all want to believe we are relevant to our employers and to our partners. But, more germane to this book, businesses must continually ensure that they are relevant to their customers if they want to continue to stay in business. A central premise of this book is that to remain relevant, businesses must indisputably know why they matter to their customers.
That said, maintaining relevance in a world that is changing so very, very fast is very, very challenging. (Lest you doubt that the world is changing fast, when was the last time you got late-breaking news from an actual newspaper versus a media app or Twitter feed, took a picture with a camera instead of a phone, thought there was no possibility for a self-driving car, sent your resume through the mail rather than posting it on the cloud, or watched a television show at the time it actually aired?)
The ability to stay relevant is being significantly challenged by the accelerating pace of changeand new ways of doing thingsthat are emerging with every passing day.
As Thomas L. Friedman, award-winning author and columnist for the New York Times told us, the planet's three largest forcesMoore's Law (technology), the Market (globalization), and Mother Nature (climate change and biodiversity loss)are accelerating all at once, transforming five key realms: the workplace, politics, geopolitics, ethics, and community.
"When change is happening at five miles per hour, if you get off track it's not that big a deal, because how far off track can you get? But when change is happening at 500 miles per hour, a small error in navigation can have a huge effect. If you don't start every day by asking, What world am I living in? What are the biggest drivers in the world? What are the biggest drivers shaping more things and places?, you won't get the proper diagnoses. This really matters more than ever," Friedman told us when we spoke. "These three forces aren't just changing the world; they're fundamentally reshaping everything. And I would say that, as such, they require massive innovation in both business and society. Change is happening at a compound rate and innovation has to happen at a compound rate in these other realms. That's the main argument in my book [Thank You for Being Late]. Either we align ourselves with these drivers to shape the world to get the most out of them or not. That said, I would also say you need to build off that solid foundation."
Breakthroughs in science, data analysis, healthcare, media, and education are occurring at compounded rates of speed. The way we bank, secure our homes, get our entertainment, measure the effect of our exercise regimens, acquire information, share information, buy our food, use energy to run our households, and perform almost every other daily activity is changing literally before our eyes and during our lifetimes. The ongoing transformations in the way technology works, businesses work, and almost everything else in the world works is having a major impact on how we work, plan, decide, think, and live.
It was with this idea in mind that we set out to write Shift Ahead. It is based on our hands-on experience, our academic research, and most significant, our more than 100 interviews with senior management and category experts from a wide spectrum of applicable fields. We wrote Shift Ahead to document how the smartest companies and organizations shift their strategies in order to stay relevant in the face of the swift and exponential changes in everything from technology to the forces of globalization, from politics to culture, from consumer tastes to human behavior. We wanted to find out how they shift aheadhow they stayed ahead of the curve, the competition, and the evolving requirements of their customersgiven the barrage of evolving challenges.
We also wanted to clarify how businesses and organizations shifted the focus of their endeavors without losing focus on what they stand for in the minds of consumers. As marketing professionals, we know that in a world as trans-parent and skeptical as this one, authenticity has taken on far greater significance. We found in case after case that staying connected to your organizational DNA, staying true to your "true north" as you shift ahead is critical for credibility. Firms that shift ahead, but without maintaining a focus on who they are, do so at their own peril.
One goal of this book is to distill the experiences of over 100 companies through the lenses of our diverse practical and academic backgrounds to provide usable and, yes, relevant lessons learned on how to stay relevant in this frenetic world. We want these lessons to be as applicable to small start-ups and nonprofits as they are to multinational organizations. We want them to be as beneficial for brick-and-mortar establishments as they are for online enterprises. With a minimal amount of buzzwords and jargon, and with a wealth of, again, relevant examples, Shift Ahead demonstrates how organizations across a wide range of categories effectively and efficiently shift gears, shift direction, but always with the intention of shifting ahead, so as to continue to matter in a meaningfully different way to those they serve.
Excerpted from SHIFT AHEAD: How the Best Companies Stay Relevant in a Fast-Changing World by Allen Adamson and Joel Steckel. Copyright © 2018 Allen Adamson and Joel Steckel. Published by AMACOM Books, a division of American Management Association, New York, NY. Used with permission.
All rights reserved.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Why This Book? 1
Chapter 2: Heed the Red Flags 19
Red Flag One: Basic Math 21
Red Flag Two: Competing on Price, Not Differentiation 22
Red Flag Three: Big on Data, Short on Analysis 23
Red Flag Four: Neglecting Table Stakes 25
Red Flag Five: Pride Often Does Go Before a Fall 26
Red Flag Six: Being Too Deep in Your Comfort Zone 28
Red Flag Seven: Yertle the Turtle Is Left Behind 31
Chapter 3: The Road Barriers 33
Kodak Read the Writing on the Wall (but Wasn't Willing to Pay the Price) 34
Xerox: Sunk Cost Bias and Golden Handcuffs Deterrents to Both Business and Brand 42
Toys "R" Us: Playing Catch-up Is Hard When You're Competing on the Wrong Metrics 47
Procter & Gamble: Not Too Big to Fail (or Stumble) 50
BlackBerry: Invincibility Is a Myth 54
National Geographic: A Well-Documented Case of Cultural Myopia 58
Playboy: A Yesterday Brand, with a Lesson Relevant for Today 62
American Cancer Society: Leadership on Autopilot Is Fatal in Fast-Changing Conditions 66
Teach for America: The Challenge to Get Back to the Founder's Mentality 69
Chapter 4: Ready the Organization for a Shift 81
American Express: Still Shifting After All Those Years 82
Hertz: Research as Waze 85
Facebook: Shifting Gears Comes Naturally 88
New York Life: Mutuality Does Mean a Lot 91
Delta: Climbing in Employee Satisfaction, and Otherwise 93
Sony: Going Back to Where It Plays Best 97
Chapter 5: Making Sense of the Road Ahead 109
Chapter 6: Which Shift to Make? It Depends on What's Ahead 123
Barnes & Noble: Understand Your DNA 126
Katz's Delicatessen: Sometimes Staying in Park Is the Right Gear 128
Cheerios: "Small Shifts" to Meet Shifting Attitudes 131
Hasbro: Game on . . . Shifting by "Zooming Out" 133
CNN: An Important Message for Media Companies 138
Conservation International: A Shift to Link Environmental Conservation to Economic Growth 143
IBM: A Legacy of Continued Shifting 148
Lindblad: Shifting to Deliver Deeper Expertise to a Core Focus 152
Comcast: Two Shifts, Two Roads, One Purpose 154
BP: A Lesson Learned 160
Chapter 7: Leadership 171
John Sexton: New York University (NYU) 175
Shelly Lazarus: Ogilvy & MatherLeading the People Who Build Leading Brands 181
Central Park: Holding People Accountableand Getting Your Own Hands Dirty 185
Forbes Media: Adversity Was the Mother of Reinvention 190
Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School: Guiding Kids and Parentswith Honesty and Determination 197
Chapter 8: Success Stories: What it Takes for the Long Haul 207
Marriott International: From Root Beer to Resorts 212
FedEx: Keeping the Purple Promise 216
Greenwich Public Library: Successfully Shifting Ahead in the Age of Digital Information 225
Chapter 9: Success Is Never Final 237
IAVA: A Clearly Focused Mission as a Compass for Veterans' Shifting Needs 238
HBO: Always Ahead, It's Never Been Just TV 243
GE: Reinvention at Work for over 125 Years 249
Concluding Remarks 257