Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell was born on 22 February, 1857 at Paddington in London. He enjoyed a long military career. After his return to London from South Africa after the Second Boer War in 1903 he rewrote his military training manual Aids to Scouting. Scouting for Boys has since sold more than 100 million copies.
Famously, the Scout motto is ‘Be Prepared’. Of this, Baden-Powell explained the meaning of the phrase, in part to mean:
Be Prepared: by having disciplined yourself…..by having thought out beforehand any situation that might occur, so you know the right thing to do at the right moment, and are willing to do it.
The last five years have been characterised by continued change across all sectors. Disruption in world financial markets, economic and political instability, geo-political, demographic, technological and environmental shifts reminds us that change is the norm.
Because the world is in transition it means that companies, institutions and people have to change to adapt to the new order, they have to change to survive.
Now that’s bad news for many people, because most people do not like to change. But it’s good news for others though because where there is change there is sure to be opportunity lurking about someplace!
In business and in life, being prepared is an essential ingredient for capitalising on new opportunities and establishing a strategic advantage. Innovation and strategic advantage hinge on your ability to anticipate trends and identify ‘the next big thing’. It is important to be across all of the key trends, to be informed and able to respond accordingly.
To illustrate this, in this article we’re going to take a quick recap on the experiences of three global brands from the 20th century: Smith-Corona, Kodak and Encyclopaedia Brittanica.
In 1989 the Smith Corona Company proudly advertised themselves as being ‘the best typewriter company in the world’. This was a company with a proud history of innovation. 100 years earlier they had invented the first typewriter with upper and lower case. In 1906, they had invented the first portable typewriter and in 1957, the first portable electric typewriter. More recently, they had invented the first personal word processor. Smith Corona knew how to identify new trends and opportunities. Sales were a record $500 million dollars and business, it seemed was booming.
Smith Corona did not miss the emerging trend of personal computing. In 1990 they even observed that the industry was “in a period of transition between typewriters and word processors” and in 1991 formed a partnership with the Acer computer company. The partnership was a good strategy and the CEO even remarked of computers: “They are a logical extension of our line”.
In 1992, however, the computer partnership was a distraction to their main focus of relocating their typewriter production to a lower cost base in Mexico. Their late entry to the market meant they faced stiff price competition, and the partnership with Acer was ended. A former executive of the company has since noted that at the time they could not imagine their company going out of business, that it was “hard to imagine that the typewriter would be annihilated…”(!)
The lesson is clear. Before a company can position, adapt and profit from change they first must prepare for change.
Prepare for change. Position for change. Adapt to change. Profit from change.