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  • Ian McCain

The Importance of Adaptability

an older desk with typewriter compared to a modern desk with computer monitor and cellphone

I recently had a moment of self-realization about how much my expectations as a consumer have evolved.

{Cue mystical flashback music sounds}

There I was, on my cell phone shopping online for a camping chair. After locating it from a retailer with an online store, I happily added it to my cart and proceeded to checkout, only to be halted by the need to enter my credit card information. No Apple Pay, No Amazon Pay, No ability to use stored credit card data from my keychain… The sheer inconvenience of having to locate my wallet and manually input my card details caused me to abandon my cart in frustration. Reflecting on this, I feel a little embarrassed to think that walking less than 30 feet to locate my wallet was “frustrating” to me. It’s a bit absurd that such a minor "inconvenience" could be a dealbreaker, yet in the moment, my gut reaction was to walk away from the transaction. It really highlights how drastically my expectations for convenience have shifted over the years, also it probably says a little about my exhaustion level with having 3 kids.

When I was young, the pinnacle of convenience was ordering an item from a catalog. We would use a pen to complete an order form after having to manually search page by page through a catalogue (that we would have to request by contacting the company in the first place). Once we located our items and completed the order form we would then send in that paper document with a completed handwritten check using a physical envelope (which required a stamp) through the US Postal Service. Then we would wait patiently for 8-12 weeks (for shipping and handling) for it to eventually arrive like a long forgotten surprise. This was the common experience and expectation—buying stuff from someplace you couldn’t physically travel to was a long and cumbersome process. But it was the best option at the time, and so it is simply what all consumers expected.

Now, if I can't order something from my phone while lounging on my sofa and have it delivered same day (or within two days, maximum), it feels like a significant hassle. I'm sure many of you can relate.

Convenience has become the table stakes for operating a business. Customers simply expect the process to utilize your services or purchase your products and goods to be accessible, convenient, and fast. Reflecting on this and how innovation plays a part in the modern business world, I have determined that, in my mind, adaptability is the essence of innovation for a business.

As technology advances and consumer expectations evolve, businesses must continually adapt to stay relevant and meet the ever-changing demands of their customers. We must continue to adjust our offerings and how we present them to meet the customers where they are in their process.

When you think about it, groundbreaking technological advances are happening with such frequency and with such broad-reaching impact that it is almost impossible to take note of them all. From artificial intelligence and machine learning to blockchain and predictive analytics, the pace of innovation is relentless. To remain competitive, businesses must not only keep up with these advancements but also integrate them into their operations. Maintaining a mindset of adaptability allows companies to embrace these new technologies to improve efficiency, enhance customer experiences, and create new business models.

Just as my expectations as a consumer have evolved, so too have those of the broader market. Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, consumers today demand instant gratification, seamless experiences, and personalized services. We expect businesses to anticipate our needs and provide solutions proactively. Companies that can adapt to these shifting expectations by continuously refining their offerings and interactions will thrive, while those that remain stagnant will fall behind.

This not only relates to the purchasing journey of consumers, but the ways in which businesses market to and engage with consumers. Traditional marketing methods are giving way to digital and social media strategies, influencer partnerships, and experiential marketing. Businesses must be flexible in their approach, experimenting with new engagement methods and quickly pivoting when something isn't working. A mindset of adaptability enables organizations to respond to feedback in real-time, iterate on their strategies, and build stronger connections with their audience.

Businesses must be open to change, willing to experiment, and ready to pivot when necessary. They must foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement, where failure is viewed as an opportunity to grow. Businesses that cultivate an agile mindset are better equipped to navigate the uncertainties and complexities of today's market landscape.

Without a mindset of adaptability and a willingness to embrace change, businesses run the risk of being a Blockbuster Video in the world of Netflix.

While adaptability is crucial, it must be balanced with stability. Businesses need a solid foundation upon which to build their adaptive strategies. This includes having robust systems, processes, and a clear vision and values that guide decision-making. Sustainable innovation is about finding the right balance between maintaining core strengths and being flexible enough to embrace change.

In a world of continuous technological advancements and rapidly shifting consumer expectations, businesses that can adapt effectively will not only survive but thrive. As time continues to march forward, I believe that the ability to adapt will be a defining characteristic of successful organizations. Only by embracing change, remaining agile, and balancing innovation with stability will businesses be able to navigate the complexities of the modern market and seize the opportunities that lie ahead.


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