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Can ‘Slow and Steady’ Still Win the Race?

January 21, 2011

Innovation and change.  We discuss it all the time.  In the world of commerce, there’s an understanding that innovation is more than just creating new products or offering new services.  It’s also about reinventing or evolving existing processes.   It’s about creating NEW markets to tap into the unmet need/desires of customers… sometimes needs/desires they don’t even know they have.  Obviously, due to technology and access to information, the world is operating at a much more rapid pace.  Globalization, diversity of thought and inclusion of more people into decision making roles allows organizations to develop NEW IDEAS.  And then organizations execute on those new ideas to bring services, products and new ways of operating to their customers in record time.

Surveys of business leaders and CEOs report findings that innovation remains a top priority for their organizations.  In the 2010 McKinsey Global Survey, 84% of executives say ‘innovation is extremely or very important to their companies’ growth strategy.’

So can a philosophy of “slow and steady wins the race” still hold true?

I recently had a conversation with the leader of an organization who informed me that her philosophy of leading her organization was to move slowly, not introduce any change that would be too unsettling or different for customers, and, in general, maintain the status quo.  Doing things the same way without too much innovation had allowed the organization to be ‘successful’ for lo-these-many-years.  Offering the same product, in the same manner, and targeting the exact same customer base was sufficient.  She could identify no urgent need to diversify or champion new ideas that might move that flat-line of growth in another direction.

Cautious and prudent business planning is important; maintaining core customers, holding steady in terms of financial stability.  But refusing to recognize that change must come and change can BURST open the doors to new possibilities by getting one into new markets and redefining what one’s product/service stands for…that, in my estimation, is, well,  foolish.

Once upon a time, no one had even imagined we would have a need for Facebook.  Or iPhones.  Or Snuggies.  But someone defined a need, took a chance, and came to the marketplace.


Is an organization moving at a more sedate pace at risk of losing to out to competitors who are advancing, innovating and offering new products and services?  Certainly.

How long can an organization continue to exist in the age of innovation if they refuse to innovate?  Perhaps they’ll be extinguished in one spectacular meltdown.

Or perhaps they’ll perish….. at a slow and steady pace.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 21, 2011 8:02 am

    The answer is yes. There is little doubt that if your competition is going at a faster pace then you then you are going to fall behind.

    Speed to market with many products and services is a competitive imperative. It is a given that you do all the “right” quality and due diligence things. That though does not deliver business results.

    Delivery of creative ideas and implementation of those ideas at a rapid pace is essential to win market share.

    “If you snooze you lose!”

  2. January 22, 2011 1:32 pm

    I agree completely. Keeping current, embracing change v. running from it, and becoming comfortable with a business world that is now sprinting 24/7 are core competencies for today’s leaders. I find myself shaking my head more and more when others tell me they want to “wait and see how things turn out” before considering any changes. Those are the same folks who can’t understand why their perspectives are no longer respected or considered relevant. We aren’t supposed to feel comfortable with rapid change, we’re supposed to have the courage to set an example as we all go through change together.

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