Shifts in consumer appetite, societal values, fiscal policy, and regulatory controls, as well as climate change, economic slowdown, technology advances, and hashtag politics – all have the power to capsize business strategy and executive careers.
And then COVID-19 comes along.
Everywhere and unending
Industry disruption is relentless, and comes from all quarters.
Shifts in community and national values affect what people buy, as well as how companies are expected to behave. Hashtag politics is another unpredictable (and often unjust) force in many industries.
Fiscal policy and regulatory controls aggravate the burden, as do twists and turns of the economy. Geopolitical tensions spread mistrust and doubt. Technology remains unstoppable.
As world temperatures rise, fires and storms play havoc with business operations. Over time, more regions, peoples, and markets will suffer from extreme weather.
Society echoes this uproar. Calls for a low-carbon future (not least the demands of activists), emissions targets, and economic uncertainty all add to the disruptive impact of Earth’s natural environment.
As if this were not enough, a freak virus can upturn the life of everyone, and promise turmoil for years.
The complex and far-reaching nature of disruption threatens industry and company fortunes.
Disruptive forces flock together. A heatwave upsets the supply chain. Earnings fall short; investor confidence dips. Citizens protest against fossil fuels (whilst refusing themselves to take a cold shower).
An anxious government advocates sustainable consumption just when environmental worries drive up the cost of capital. Employees clamour for more security amid fears of a bear market.
Company stakeholders are affected by disruption. Operations are disturbed. Finances are unsettled. Reputation is exposed.
To survive, business practice must adapt to the latest demands of customers, employees, shareholders, wider society – and the physical environment.
Leadership in a disrupted economy taxes senior teams. Executives also have to be vigilant if they are to triumph in the fickle court of public opinion.
Finally, the meticulous plans of a business are readily unseated. Crisis management is only the first step in conquering disruption: before long, a company has to overhaul its strategy.
Such change is not easy. Even the most successful companies often fight a rearguard action as their teams scramble to align with new possibilities.
This is clear with freak events such as COVID-19 or September 11th. Less discernible is how the relentless, grinding disruption of our social and natural worlds keeps many firms on the back foot.
With a rigorous, imaginative approach, a business can turn disruption to its advantage.
Executives who understand events outside the company will enjoy forewarning of industry shifts.
Senior teams that respond to threats with speed and confidence will contain many risks.
High levels of leadership resilience will create the breathing space required to master disruption.
Business will flourish when strategy accounts for reality beyond the company’s walls.
To take command of disruption requires a deliberate investment in strategy, leadership, practice, and dialogue. We help companies overcome near-term risks and then discover new ways to create value.