The turn of the year is the time for lists. Mostly, they look back: ten best movies, top news stories, the people of the year. It’s also a good time to look at the landscape ahead and see how you can make things better. With that in mind, here’s a list – not a year ender, but a year starter – of 13 Big Ideas that can positively shape our lives and businesses in 2013:
1. Be quick or be dead – Everything moves faster now, in commerce, entertainment, data, technology, you name it. The pace of change can be breathtaking but there’s really no time to catch your breath. The businesses, leaders, and entrepreneurs that act quickly – not just react – are the ones that will thrive in the year to come. The ones who don’t may not survive.
Consider the case of Nokia, recently the world’s leading vendor of mobile phones. Now, in the span of few years, they’ve lost the market to iPhone and Android. Nokia’s share price has plummeted to $3. In a well-known leaked memo to his company, Nokia’s CEO took himself and his colleagues to task: they failed to react quickly and decisively to changing circumstances. “We haven’t been delivering innovation fast enough,” he said. Now, they’re in a struggle to survive. Speed will continue to rule 2013.
2. Pay attention to big data – Most computers sold today are pocket sized. Smartphones and tablets get smaller and smaller while the data streams they manage get larger and larger. All of that data – our finances, our work, our entertainment, and our social lives – that’s not stored in our pockets, that’s in the Cloud.
For the user of big data, the point isn’t about data but about insights into customer behavior that change how you sell and serve them.
But there are risks, especially in cloudland.
The Cloud might be the hottest real estate in 2013. Control of that real estate will be hotly contested, not just among businesses who rent out space on the Cloud, but also between those businesses and the Cloud’s tenants who stow their stuff there. Your lease on the cloud is commonly called a “Terms of Service” agreement or “TOS.” The Cloud’s owners can alter the TOS at any time – but the tenants don’t always go along. Look at what happened when Instagram changed its TOS: it suffered what may be irreparable brand damage. How much of your life and business will be stored on the Cloud in 2013? And who will control it?
3. Do it for less or charge more or both – Changing pricing strategy can be a game changer for businesses in an era where the price of everything is available at the tap of an app. A lower – or higher – price could bring a business to a new market overnight. I’m reminded of a furniture-store owner who had a simple strategy for selling hard-to-move merchandise. If a chair wasn’t selling at, say, $400, he’d try pricing it at $800. Crazy? Perhaps, but sometimes you just need to appeal to a different demographic.
Of course arbitrarily charging more isn’t really what I’m suggesting. The real art is increasing your value proposition by knowing what your customers and prospects truly value and then creatively and cost-effectively giving it to them. And cutting out the unnecessary and wasteful in your operations is always a prudent way to lower your costs.
4. Micro brand – Reaching mass markets with universal messages is expensive and not always effective. Why not focus on the smaller markets right in front of you? A micro brand can be as small as your own personal reputation and relationship with customers and colleagues. Your own franchise or store can be the basis of your micro brand. Manage and cultivate the market you can control yourself: the one that responds to your personal brand. Or find several different small markets for the same product. Micro brand that product so that it has a distinct appeal to each niche.
5. Simplify with Ockham’s Razor – William of Ockham was a medieval theologian but the concept associated with him, Ockham’s Razor, is timeless. Briefly stated, Ockham’s Razor suggests that the simplest explanation for anything is usually the best one. That still holds true today and it certainly holds true for business. If a management or sales process is complex or complicated, there’s a problem, especially among emerging demographics. The public – whether in the workplace or the marketplace – has become accustomed to solving their problems with a few clicks or taps. Make things simple in 2013: use the Razor.
6. Go beyond social to community – Social media has taken the world’s attention by storm but many – the purveyors of social media included – have lost sight of the fact that the real attraction is community. People use social media to form and enjoy communities. When Facebook or Instagram tries to commercialize them too much, there’s always a backlash. Why? Social media users are not attracted to Facebook or Instagram – they’re attracted to each other. Similarly, the number of consumers who buy for a cause – something that benefits their community or one they care about – is growing rapidly. Is your work or business part of a community? It should be in 2013.
7. Start a movement – Movements are based on ideas. Brands that are based on ideas – think Ikea or Smart Car, for example – can quickly become movements. If the idea is appealing (say, simplicity or energy efficiency), then the brand is appealing. Big ideas attract like-minded people who have the potential to become a movement. And movements have evangelists just as brands have evangelists. Is your brand based on a grand idea? Could it become a movement in 2013?
8. Use better to beat best – The saying, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” warns of missing an opportunity to improve by focusing solely on the optimal outcome. You may not be able to dominate the marketplace or vanquish all of your competitors. Here’s a powerful strategy: find out what the best are doing and then one-up them.
You can also add a little value here and there and differentiate your business. Maybe you can back up your sales with a guarantee or free service or a giveaway. Small improvements or gestures will differentiate your business in 2013 without costing you a lot of effort or money.
9. Make teamwork work – From little league to the shop floor to the boardroom, we’re fond of talking about teamwork. And then we turn around and give an award for the best individual performance. If we want teamwork to really work, we have to incentivize it and reward it. Team awards and rewards, and rewards that teammates can bestow on one another, will show that teamwork is really valued. If you want your team to work together in 2013, teach, encourage, and reward teamwork. Then let them know you expect it.
10. Repair your foundation – With all of the change, conflict, technology, and media swirling around us, it’s easy to lose track of why we’re here. What are your foundational values? From time to time, it helps to remind yourself: “this is why I started this business” or “this is why I got into this line of work.” A reminder of “This is why I do what I do and this is what’s really important” can firm up your foundation so you don’t get lost in the current.
11. Stop being surprised – Whatever happens is normal. The pace of change in our world, whether it be demographic, technological, economic, or what have you, is not letting up. New challenges and opportunities will keep bubbling up unexpectedly. I’ve decided there is no “new normal” other than incessant change. You may take a moment to marvel, but don’t get stuck staring at it. More change will come in 2013. Some will reject it because it’s novel and different. Others will see opportunity and seize it. At the end of the year, we’ll be writing about the latter.
12. Take corporate yoga to be more flexible – Along the same lines, maximum flexibility will be required in 2013. No one can foresee all the challenges, threats, and opportunities that may arise in the coming year. But we can prepare to adapt to them. Too often we get stuck doing things because that’s the way it’s always been done. That won’t be good enough in 2013. Everything about the way we do business should be subject to review: when and where we work, how we sell, how we reward, how we manage, and so on. Hold your practices up to the light of the New Year. Are you sure they will see you through to the next one?
13. Intend to grow – The best way to adapt and thrive through whatever the New Year may bring is to grow your way through it. Growth will require you to meet the waves of change head on as you wade further out. But if you don’t intentionally decide to grow, you almost certainly won’t. Instead, the opposite may happen. Decide on a growth strategy. Set a goal. Start a to-do list. For, in the words of Ben Franklin, “Without continual growth, words like improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” A timeless thought to start your 2013.