27 Sep Adapt to Survive, Innovate to Evolve
“Business is constantly changing, constantly evolving.” – James Dyson
Earlier this year, the British inventor, Sir James Dyson announced plans to build an electric car that will be “radically different” from current models and go on sale in 2020. He said that 400 engineers in Wiltshire have been working since 2015 on the £2.5bn project.
Initially, it may appear to be a huge leap from revolutionising the vacuum cleaner to producing electric cars. However, as Dyson explained, his team has developed a more efficient battery, the process of innovation, experimenting and developing is not so different.
Dyson is a company which innovates to survive and essentially regenerate. It could have remained producing its highly successful new models of its vacuum cleaners. Instead, the company has moved forward where Dyson perceived issues in current technology and could be more effective – such as the bladeless fan and the heatless hairdryer. Therefore, it is not surprising that Dyson’s expert team has focused on improving the efficiency of the car battery for an electric car, and Dyson anticipated the thirty years ago:
“It’s been my ambition since 1998 when I was rejected by the industry that has happily been creating dirty vehicles, and governments have kept on allowing it.”
As a leader, James Dyson seeks to solve problems encountered by consumers – but not necessarily the consumers of the company’s products. He leads a culture of innovation, developing ideas, and trial and error. People learn from their failures, by evaluating, and improving a process, and even accepting some products should be abandoned such as the Contrarotator washing machine. In a business world of constantly changing technology, the rise of e-commerce and social media, business leaders need to be working on products ahead of the consumers’ desires – like Dyson, Elon Musk, and Steve Jobs.
Adapting to change in business, and changing our thoughts and behaviour are key themes on our Advance courses. We focus on changing our thinking to achieve sustainable behavioural change, and how to overcome limiting beliefs in ourselves, our team, and as a company.
In contrast with the announcement about Dyson’s team moving their technology forward, and changing behaviour and thinking within their company to the motor industry, Toys R Us announced they were filing for bankruptcy in the USA. Their financial problems are a result of several contributing factors over many years including a long term failure to adapt to change to online retail.
In 2000, Amazon.com and Toys R Us signed a 10-year agreement that Amazon would be the sole vendor online for Toys R Us – so a click on the Toys R Us website sent you straight to Amazon. Instead of benefitting both vendors, it gave Amazon the competitive advantage. Although Toys R Us sued for the right to terminate the contract and set up their own website in 2006, the company continued to depend on their bricks and mortar establishments – as Amazon’s toy sales have soared.
Toys R Us has had a culture that has remained in its comfort zone of familiarity in the toy store from a previous generation, not adapting the ideas of online retail and seeking solutions to be different – as exemplified by Dyson. The toy company has struggled in its online sector with basic issues of management in a manufacturing industry such as running out of on-line products in 2015.
The culture of adapting to change within a company starts from the effective leadership down throughout management and different sectors. On our Advance courses, we explore the ways to develop our own thinking and behavioural habits as leaders to be role models and inspire changed thinking and behaviour in others.
James Dyson has been a leading innovative figure since he started the company, and maintained a strong ethos even during diversional strategies of innovation within the past ten years. He is not the expert, but he has been the team director to create the new electric car battery. In comparison, during the past ten years Toys R Us has had 4 different CEOs – crucially during the same period the company has not adapted to new technology, on-line commerce or social media phenomena.
To survive and maintain the competitive advantage in business we need to be like James Dyson:
Anticipate, Innovate, Change and Evolve.