As I listened to the presentations at the DHL Global Technology Conference 2013 in Shanghai I was reminded yet again of the power of embracing change. What amazing stories! For example, how one of the largest consumer electronics enterprises in China with a global presence, has been able to maintain 40 percent annual growth for 13 years running, and how they cut the delivery time for TVs to Europe from eleven to four weeks.
Or how the Chinese online grocery store Yihaodian, a company that did not even exist in 2008, now has more than 40 million users. They deliver products to customers in over 1,000 Chinese cities and will soon open a gigantic new 400,000 square meter warehouse.
These were just two of the more than 140 representatives of technology companies present at the conference that have learned how to react to change and to thrive on it. “Keeping Pace with Change” was certainly a very appropriate theme for this year’s conference. Every speaker brought examples of how the rapidly evolving technology market is forcing them to change equally fast.
Now, I don’t know any businessperson who doesn’t want to react to change, especially if it means survival in the dog-eat-dog tech world. But it is not as easy as most people think. You have to be able to recognize and react to change – or master all four parts of what I call “Idea Perception”.
Step one in Idea Perception: see the change.
A surfer who does not see the wave approaching cannot start paddling in time to catch it. Catching the wave of change is no different. You cannot react if you do not see it coming.
Considering the fact that Shanghai is called the “capital of change”, holding this year’s conference there was a good first step. If you want to see change today you have to travel to China to witness what happens here first hand and understand it. Just like the surfer, you have to be where change happens to see it coming. If, for example, you would have been in Manchester, England, at the end of the 18th century, you would have been one of the first to see the Industrial Revolution unfolding.
Step two in Idea Perception: understand what that change will mean.
If you are standing on a beach and see the water suddenly receding from the shore, you obviously see change. But if you understand what this means – that a tsunami is on its way – then you can react accordingly.
In the 1990s, many companies heard about “the Internet” but few truly understood what it meant. Today 3D-printing seems to be the new buzzword on everyone’s lips. Many are saying that 3D-printing will bring about major change, but few are talking about how.
Step three in Idea Perception: realize what you have to do in order to take advantage of that change.
Successful companies not only see change, they implement it. But before you can bring about change you first have to understand what kind of change you should make. Or to quote Alice in Wonderland: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” Many once successful companies have died from making strategic mistakes in understanding what kind of change they needed to make.
Step four in Idea Perception: actually MAKE that needed change.
The last time I looked, Nike’s slogan is “Just do it” – not “Think about doing it.” Change does not mean “to consider to be different.” It means “The act or instance of making or becoming different.” If you want to be inspired to do things instead of just thinking about doing them, watch this short video clip.
Change will only come to the people who do. So build your organization as an organization of doers.
Now, how good is your own Idea Perception? Let’s use a global financial crisis (GFC) as an example.
(1) When did you say to yourself “Hmm, it looks like there is going to be a GFC…?“
(2) When did you come to a conclusion about what the GFC would actually mean for business?
(3) When did you realize how that change was going to influence your industry?
And finally (4), when did you and your company make the needed changes to battle the effects of a GFC?
If your Idea Perception was good, you should have been able to answer all four questions and react to the crisis at such an early stage that you were never effected by it. If your Idea Perception is truly great, then the crisis would have gone by unnoticed by you and your organization. Instead of a GFC, you would have experienced a GFO – a Global Financial Opportunity that opened up as the financial and economical realities of the world quickly changed.
If you get the four parts of Idea Perception right you have it made. And if you attended the DHL Global Technology Conference in Shanghai in June you got a lot of inspiration and knowledge that will help you develop your Idea Perception.
If you missed the conference then you missed out. See the change and be where it is happening – attend next year’s DHL Global Technology Conference!