By: Oscar Carlsson
In my recent experience, while talking to potential partners in multiple regions and industries, it strikes me that the biggest hindrance to innovation is the fear of change. Introducing new ideas in a company and getting them prioritized internally seems like the hardest thing in the world. We all know that change is essential for breaking new boundaries, finding new opportunities and making sure your business will still be there tomorrow. Despite all that it is so hard for a mature business to be adaptable and manage this transformation.
We all look with envy to start-ups who can change direction in a second and jump on every opportunity. The same start-ups that look estranged when looking back at big corporations, often paralyzed in making the decision to change. Something that might result in the loss of existing business in exchange of building new business. A big bet. Even small and medium sized businesses suffer from the same “syndrome”, where keeping what you already have is more valuable than betting to grow 10 times bigger in near future even if what you have is shrinking by the year.
I might not be the right person to promote change as I have been a veteran at Cint for the past 15 years, but in my defense not one year has been the same as the previous one. This is the joy working at a tech company that strives to break new ground in several industries at once. Here we service research firms, start-ups, media agencies, traditional and online publishers.
Changing in the head before changing in the flesh
Especially in the traditional media sector there is a huge gap between the mindset of new technology/media companies like VOX (rocking all aspects of online news with the likes of The Verge, Polygon, Racked and more) and others that still stick to traditional publishing, like Axel Springer, The New York Times and others. Not to say all traditional media companies are the same. Some are very good at using their existing position to develop new business areas, some are breaking ground too early which is costly and some are way too late and missed the opportunity as they see newer younger competitors developing new business and taking market share on their behalf.
We often witness how change is forced from declining profits in the traditional business, and even when the will to change is finally present it can take several years of internal adjustments before you can get the board, investors and management teams in sync; where they realize that there is nothing left to lose and investing in change is the only way forward. But then it might already be too late…
Keeping one eye on the present and one on the future
Now, I’m not saying that Cint does not suffer from the same thing. Aligning the business to common strategic long term goals that ensure that we still have a business years from now and taking the right bets is a common challenge for technology companies. Existing revenues are always comfortable but you also need to see where revenues will be coming from in the future. You need to be capable of taking a step back and a serious look at where your cost base is today and where your business will be in 5-10 years.
In these times of technology and disruptive companies with one foot in Silicon Valley there is always someone out there that thinks they can do what you do at a fraction of the cost.
You will have to keep your eyes on the long term vision and allow to pass on some short term wins that can be costly if you lose track of the end goal. You need to stay lean and scalable to be competitive and have a future proof business model.
If we make this comparison again in the Media industry, it is hard for a traditional publisher with huge overhead costs and a large head count, prime real estate locations and fixed costs in printing presses to compete with a lean technology based publisher with user generated content while fighting for the same ad dollars and staying profitable.
It’s not all negative. I see prime examples of companies advocating change and that are capable of taking control of the situation while introducing change into their organizations. It’s important that this is done from the bottom up so that everyone understands the challenge and the purpose of the changes that are being introduced. Companies that have been successful at this have been able to centralize their technology investments in terms of big data and digital platforms resulting in digital revenue growth. Whilst others are starting innovation hubs that reinvent the entire business and acts like a startup. Some things will never take off but other things can be the next Snapchat. Especially Media brands have the luxury of amazing distribution and a strong brand to back up a new business. This is a great incubator for start-ups and is one of many things that need to happen when media consumption moves from offline to online.
Let us now see which companies will embrace change and who will still be a major competitor in the industry 5 – 10 years from now. I believe change is exciting and I happy to work in a company that embraces this mindset!