Today’s guest post is authored by Eric Fletcher. He’s a 25-year veteran of professional services business development & marketing. He spend the past 14 years in legal industry architecting key client development programs and new business pursuits. He’s a speaker (TedxSanAntonio), writer and blogger since 2002. His blog is Marketing Brain Fodder.

Change

A Kodak Moment and The Consequence of Organic Change

If you are of a certain age, you remember a time when a Kodak moment  was synonymous with the magic of capturing a memory on film.

So ubiquitous was Eastman Kodak when it came to photography and film that Paul Simon commemorated the bright colors of Kodachrome in song.

And then along came Digital.

Film purists scoffed at the idea that this technical upstart might precipitate a revolution in imaging. Even as marketshare dwindled, industry voices proclaimed this newcomer was inferior. Ones and zeros would never match the quality delivered by film.

But protests did not slow the inevitable. The revolution penetrated the market. And Kodachrome vanished. Today, chances are good you carry scores of photos on your phone.

“Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change.” — Tom Peters

You know the saying — Change is inevitable.

But when the status quo is comfortable, change meets with significant resistance. Spotting the problems and challenges inherent in new ideas comes easy. The danger, of course, is that even as articulate protests rise, we may find ourselves swept up in a market makeover.
The trick is recognizing the high-consequence change that foreshadows a permanent shift in the market.
Two Brands Of Change

Certainly, not every disruption is indicative of a productive shift. And not all change is equal.

Some change is orchestrated — or contrived. The fashion industry does a great job of imposing this brand of change with each new season. Modified widths, cuts, colors and fabrics announce whether a wardrobe is out of date. While these modifications may be important to the fashionista and essential to industry revenue, this is change by design.

Then there is change that is organic in nature. This brand of change is born of the evolution of a marketplace or community. Unlike its contrived cousin, organic change represents a permanent shift.

Organic change is highly consequential. It gains traction in the grassroots of fringe early adopters. And it eventually seeps into the fabric of every day practice and process.

The Case of Silly Sounding Tweets and Viral Connectivity

Eric Fletcher headshotIt was the fall of 2007. I was visiting with friend and colleague Petri Darby, and he was asking if I was on Twitter.

I’d been blogging for years, and considered myself an early-adopter when it came to innovations in connectivity. But Twitter sounded silly. Tweets, retweets, tweet-ups. Really?

The newer the vocabulary, process, tools and technology, the more disruptive the change. And for some, social media brings it all.

But organic change is insidious. Once it begins we have two choices: adapt; or join Kodachrome as a signpost of a bygone era. And seven years after that conversation with Petri, “tweet” is mainstream.

This is the way organic change works. Whether the topic is social media, or foundational aspects of the way we do business, organic change is almost always the market’s relentless quest for evolved solutions.

So, whether the subject is networking, an invoicing system, or the delivery of services, no single tactic, process or methodology is sacred. The evolution will almost certainly continue. Beware of becoming enamored of a single way of interacting with the market.

Leadership’s Response To Change

The ability to identify organic change is enviable. Those who spotted the move to digital early had the opportunity to reinvent their approach to the market.

On the other hand, chasing every hint at change is far from strategic, and the path to inconsistency.

Focus still wins.

Is it possible to spot organic change versus contrived movement within a market? Here are three tests:

  1. Organic change addresses one or more of the market’s value-oriented drivers — cost, timing or efficiency;
  2. Impetus for adoption — the energy driving the change — is more outside-in than inside-out in nature; and,
  3. Organic change has broad application across the market.

Without respect to industry or legacy, and In shifts barely detectable at first, tomorrow’s marketplace is being shaped by organic change. Understanding that this is the nature of a dynamic marketplace, extraordinary leadership pursues and nurtures a market awareness that feeds strategic thinking and planning.

Organizations that resist invariably miss or ignore the voice of the marketplace. And do so at great peril. Witness the fate of Kodachrome.