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Milestone Group Quarterly Q12009, 20 February 2009
For most people it seems that the word experimenting (or experiment) conjures a laboratory scene with people in white coats surrounded by scientific equipment and apparatus. For sure, it doesn't imply an image of your average company manager or executive! The big question is; why not?
Here we are in an ever-complex world, driven by technology and accelerating change, with those at the head of the game hanging on by their fingernails. Our electronically interconnected world is not only faster than 20 years ago; it is manifestly chaotic and non-linear. So the sudden collapses of entire sectors can now be triggered by seemingly insignificant events. Yes; we are now governed by butterfly wings just like the weather system of our planet!
So how can we be expected to survive in business under such conditions? Experiment - we have to experiment to see what works and what doesn't. Hanging on to our old ways and methodologies is tantamount to passively waiting for the grim reaper, it is essential that we subsume the latest ideas and technologies, try and test them, adapt them to our environment, and adopt them ahead of the competition.
My business is one continual experiment! It is about pushing the limits of technology and people to see where the opportunities lie and what their real impact is or might be. It is not sufficient to read reports and monitor the press and media we have to be hands on and up with the curve. How do we approach this? How do we do it? By eating our own dog food! When we advise people or engineer solutions and systems for them, it is on the basis of tried and tested experiences - our own experiences and those of our customers.
Individual members of staff and associates are allocated a specific and challenging technology or operational mode to champion. If they can live with it, or adapt it, and see some business value add or advantage, we then adopt it universally. So what has our experimenting returned in recent years, and what realizations have we come to? Here is a short list:
And so to a word of warning! Driving hard to become ever more efficient inevitably leads to brittleness and failure. More than ever companies need to be resilient, they need to be able to weather the (continual) storm and bounce back, which implies some slack, some inefficiency and a reduction in earnings. In short the long term has to be number one over short termism, which implies more investment in experimentation and the R&D budget.
Finally some closing thoughts: The reason family cars are more resilient than F1 racing cars is the same reason that democracy always outlives dictatorships. Inefficiency! And the biggest realization and business/political change now coming over the horizon? Continual business and GDP growth is a fundamental impossibility across this planet of limited physical resources, but it may well be possible in the world of bits. I think we are going to have to spend more time thinking, modeling, war gaming and experimenting than ever before!