Sustainable competitive advantage, once the lifeblood of business success, isn’t what it used to be. Blame the cloud, DevOps, and the new digital channels that let companies start small and then scale dramatically, often bypassing distributors and other go-betweens. Today, technology-powered creative destruction is the new normal.
Most any advantage a company achieves can be matched or even leapfrogged by the competition—and quickly. Instead, what most enterprises need now is continuous innovation. Companies don’t necessarily need to re-invent themselves; instead, they need to incrementally build on what they already have, continually finding new ways to attract, satisfy and retain customers.
Continuous innovation can come in many forms, including new product features, new forms of customer interaction, and new ways of understanding and working with customers.
Unfortunately, for most large organizations, this kind of agility doesn’t come naturally. They have developed and carefully honed methodical mindsets over many years, allowing them to produce high-quality new products and services with a regular, longterm cadence. While quality and steady innovation still matter, merely creating new products and services is no longer sufficient.
Advantages lie in continuously refreshing rather than in building a single sustainable advantage. That’s the new way to stay ahead of the competition while keeping pace with new customer demands. Some innovations may be small, while others are large. Either way, agility delivers the new competitive edge.
For this new agile era, business leaders need to adopt an equally agile mindset. As Albert Einstein famously pointed out, we can’t solve a problem using the same kind of thinking that created it in the first place. Here are three ways of thinking your way into greater organizational agility.
Companies don’t necessarily need to re-invent themselves; instead, they need to incrementally build on what they already have, continually finding new ways to attract, satisfy and retain customers.
Enterprise Strategist, AWS
Phil Le-Brun is an Enterprise Strategist and Evangelist at Amazon Web Services. In this role, Phil works with enterprise executives to share experiences and strategies for how the cloud can help them increase speed and agility while devoting more of their resources to their customers. Prior to joining AWS, Phil held multiple senior technology leadership roles at McDonald’s Corporation. Phil has a BEng in Electronic and Electrical Engineering, a Masters in Business Administration, and an MSc in Systems Thinking in Practice.
Enterprise Strategist, AWS
Mark Schwartz is an Enterprise Strategist and Evangelist at Amazon Web Services and the author of The Delicate Art of Bureaucracy, War and Peace and IT, The Art of Business Value and A Seat at the Table. Before joining AWS he was the CIO of US Citizenship and Immigration Service (part of the Department of Homeland Security), CIO of Intrax, and CEO of Auctiva. He has an MBA from Wharton, a BS in Computer Science from Yale, and an MA in Philosophy from Yale.