2018 is not looking good: actually let's be honest with ourselves, it’s looking shit. UK business have effectively been kept in a holding pattern since June 2016, optimism among business leaders is down from 73% to 26% this year, SMEs are more pessimistic about the future than they are optimistic for the first time in 4 years.... It doesn’t read well.
As business leaders, we can pretend this will not affect us, but the reality is, it will. This will touch every one of our lives, no matter who we are. So unless someone has a time machine and can skip forward a couple of years, negotiating a smooth and beneficial Brexit deal for the UK, increasing consumer confidence and ensuring an abundance of skilled labour, then we are ALL going to have to find some solutions that help our businesses and communities cope with the changes to come.
The question is HOW are we going to deal with it? The reflex position seems to be a conservative strategy; hunker down and focus on ‘core’ business (arguably, the same mindset that led us here in the first place). It’s true, there is a great deal of change once again on the horizon and many unknowns. You would be an idiot to underestimate the difficulties coming in 2018 but rather than hiding from change, we need a different approach.
First, we are all in the people business, whether you run a digital language school, clothes retailer or kitchen manufacturer , our businesses exist to serve people and that is not changing anytime soon.
Second, “software is eating the world”. Yep, still. It’s consuming more and more of our lives everyday. Technology enablement is expanding at the biggest rate yet (figure to show this), artificial intelligence and machine learning continue to progress, there’s universal fear about job losses and about change.
So, how are we going to leverage these technologies and capitalise on them?
To do this we need to shift our concern to humans, not technology.
As consumers become exposed to new technologies, their expectations rise, no matter what the economic mood is. The 21st century has taught us to demand innovations in products and services on an almost constant basis.
If business leaders who fear 2018 become introverted and let corporate innovation lag behind, unable to provide the experiences our customers expect then they will look elsewhere. As ever, but more than ever, UK business cannot let the gap between customer expectation and corporate innovation widen.
How can you win in this environment?
The winners will ultimately be the people who can bridge the transformational gap between the two, this is done by leveraging technology specifically to meet customers expectations. So rather than putting our head in the sand, reducing capital expenditure and focussing on ‘core’ operations, business leader should be planning their resources towards bridging this gap, ensuring they stand out so when the economic outlook improves (which it will) it it their business that is ready, and already miles out in front.
The solution is, human-centered creativity. By being human-centered in the way we choose problems to solve, creative in the way we serve our customers, the way we deliver service becomes central to our consumers’ lives. Building loyalty in this world is bound to becoming indispensable. Being indispensable is designed by being so naturally easy to use, the user stops thinking ’there must be a better way’.
So in a time like this let’s not shift our focus to core; let’s not take our eyes off the future. Right now, more than ever, we need to focus on how we transform our businesses to deal with our customers moving expectations.
It is time to be bold, creative and human-centered in everything we do.