"If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough." Although this Mario Andretti quote was intended for the racing world, it is increasingly relevant in today’s fast-paced business world. While a lot of companies focus precious time and
energy on becoming more innovative to keep up with changing times, they should also place an acute emphasis on embracing adaptation.
Let’s consider the two verbs, innovate and adapt. To innovate means to introduce something new, often for the first time. To adapt means to adjust to different conditions. Most businesses, most often, do the latter of these two in order to succeed. Take Twitter, for example. The popular micro-blogging company first started as Odeo, a tool that made it easy to create and share podcasts.
During a team brainstorming competition at Odeo Twitter was born, initially as an internal tool to make it easy for Odeo employees to communicate. As tweeting started to grow in popularity around the company’s office, and Odeo’s growth slowed, 140 characters clearly became the future as Twitter went live to the public in 2006. This move is often to referred to as a pivot, but the team was also adapting to external factors such as an online audience’s hunger for
short spurts of text.
Today, Twitter continues to adapt. Just this spring, the company’s new-ish app acquisition, Vine, rose to the top of the app charts. While tweets still dominate digital conversation, Twitter’s audience is now increasingly comfortable shooting short snippets of video, (and the technology they hold in their hands makes it easy to do so). While it’s fair to say that Twitter is innovative, the company did not invent anything new insofar as Vine; (Vine’s developers did, however). Instead, Twitter made the acquisition and adapted to serve new consumer demands.
While most businesses can’t simply go out and buy what they need in order to adapt to changing times, the key is to recognize the right time to adjust to different market conditions. As the co-founder of a small company that started as a social media consulting agency, last fall we faced our own ‘Odeo’ moment. We recognized that the industry was saturated with businesses (and consultants—ahem—gurus!) offering social media services, so we went through a rebranding exercise to redefine what we do. As we evolved from MGImedia to Konnekt Digital Engagement, we honed in on our team’s expertise to focus on our strengths: digital strategy, video production, capacity
building, and user experience. While the social media aspect of our business still exists, we adapted to meet new client demands.
For many businesses, changing what you do can be a frightening proposition. Innovating can be even less tangible, especially if you understand the true meaning of that term. However, adapting is always within reach. Not only is it within reach, it’s also a requirement in order to survive (think Charles Darwin). So next time you’re at a
team meeting and working to figure out how to get more business, consider routinely tweaking and adjusting how you work and what you have to offer. And remember, if everything seems under control, check your mirrors, put your foot on the gas, and adapt to the road ahead of you—not behind you.
[Roots Image: An Nguyen via Shutterstock]