Special edition–ACMP annual conference: Is it time to kill the company?

As the world evolves more and more quickly, the companies that survive are those that can rapidly adapt to the multiple changes that transform their industry, and to the increasingly higher expectations of their clients.

Nothing new under the sun, you say? You’re absolutely right. We’ve been repeating this message for years – so why talk about it again? Why are we seeing news items about supposedly immortal giants falling flat on their faces – like Kodak, for example, which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012?

Industries, markets and consumer habits are changing at warp speed – and organizations, big and small, have to keep up the pace, and even outdo it. As HEC Montréal Marketing Professor Jacques Nantel recently mentioned to a group of CEOs: “Your company, as you’ve know it for the past 30 years, will no longer be the same in 10 years. It will either have improved, or disappeared.”

Perhaps you think that’s an exaggeration. Personally, I think it’s dead on. Look at how Facebook has progressed in only 10 years (see chart). Impressive, isn’t it? Who would have thought such a thing was possible back in 2004?

Bolgue Kill the company - Juin 2015

Rerence: FutureThink

So here’s the question: how do you change an organization at warp speed? How do you ensure its survival? If everything’s always transforming, should we go so far as transforming the way we transform?

Lisa Bodell is a futurist (I admit, I’m jealous of that title!) and CEO of FutureThink. She offers very interesting insights to help organizations rethink their transformations.

She thinks we should move away from traditional SWOT analysis (Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats), noting that it conditions us to look at things in a subjective way, through our own eyes. What she proposes instead is to analyze things through our competitors’ eyes, an exercise that can be done on a global, organizational, business unit or departmental scale.

To achieve this, she recommends varied approaches and workshops, three of which seem particularly noteworthy to me.

1) The “Kill the Company” Exercise: It’s about identifying potential dangers, in an original way. For example, participants are sometimes grouped by affinity or function, and asked to identify their biggest competitor. The workshop leader then asks: “If you were in that competitor’s shoes, what would you do to destroy us?” The results often reveal fascinating truths.

2) The “Kill a Stupid Rule” Exercise: This is designed to identify quick and accessible gains by asking participants to name some company rules that they think are stupid or bring no added value – the kind of rules we enforce without even remembering why. Participants are then invited to plot their recommended improvements on a 4-quadrant graph, according to the expected level of impact and the degree of difficulty in implementing the change. Surprise: almost every time, most high-impact suggestions are also the easiest to implement.

3) The “Reverse Hypothesis” Exercise: This is meant to foster creativity. Participants are asked to think of a problematic situation, for example long line-ups at the supermarket cash. To solve the problem, they must work from a hypothesis that’s contrary to what’s considered the norm (e.g.: if the problem is at the cash register, then let’s eliminate cash registers). Although disorienting at first, this exercise allows people to look at things in totally new – and creative – ways.

So don’t just sit there and wait for the competition to crush you: go ahead on KILL YOUR COMPANY – all the better to reinvent it!

Bibliography: KILL THE COMPANY. End the Status Quo, Start an Innovation Revolution. Lisa Bodell, Bibliomotion books + media