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Ready to reinvent? Challenge accepted.

Ben Bush

As part of their recent 26th Annual Global CEO Survey, PwC found that around 40% of business leaders thought they’d be out of business within ten years if they continued on their current path. That’s 40% willing to admit they must create real organisational change. 

But knowing you need to change is not the same as knowing how.               

Get in line

As brand and marketing consultants, we have an up-close view of how different teams respond to the need for change. And what’s often most striking is the lack of internal alignment.

Marketing needs to drive customer acquisition. The product team needs to evolve the offer rapidly to stay ahead of the competition. IT tries to support by delivering more with less – or, more generally, to continue to deliver against the ongoing digital transformation journey. The C-suite, meanwhile, often looks outside the business for clues to future direction. 

Everyone’s looking for an answer. But nobody’s talking to each other.

Bringing in big-name specialist business consultants certainly provides access to fine and well-trained brains. But there are three key problems with outsourcing this need for strategic alignment.

First, much of their considerable fee is devoted to getting up to speed. We sometimes hear grumbles from our own clients about discovery on a brand project, though it passes quickly when we draw threads together in ways our clients simply couldn’t do – or, at any rate, haven’t done – by themselves.

Second, and more tellingly, most consultants love making recommendations based on data. Anyone who follows sport in any meaningful way will understand the importance of the results, statistics and “form”. But focusing on this kind of essentially historical data alone may not be enough if what you really want to do is take control of the future.

(For an example of the power of thinking creatively about strategy, consider the contrasting fortunes of two of England’s international cricket teams. The Test team has adopted a strategy built on eliminating the fear of losing. The swashbuckling result – known as Bazball – has seen a dramatic upturn in results in the past couple of years, culminating in an exciting summer where only the weather prevented us reclaiming the Ashes from Australia. The 50-over team, meanwhile, seems wedded to a stats-driven approach that comes across as timid, old-fashioned and lacking in either flexibility or imagination. And we’ve just crashed ignominiously out of the World Cup.)

Third – and this comes back to alignment – can you expect a strategic change recommended by a consultant who’s known you for six months to be embraced by sales teams who know better than anyone how to engage businesses facing their own pressures? Or by your customer services team fielding questions about a sudden change in direction that they don’t understand? Change driven from the top can be challenging at the best of times; when it seems to have come from outside the business, it can be harder still.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Closer to home

Our response to the need for alignment and creativity in strategic thinking is to pioneer the idea of B2B Reinvention. Inspired by the framework outlined by AG Lafley and Roger Martin in their 2013 business bestseller Playing to Win, our B2B Reinvention process creates a safe space for teams to collaborate and contend with the reality of their business.

We support our clients with human-centred creative and design-thinking principles so that they can harness their own experience and knowledge to address their challenges and opportunities in a thoughtful and productive way. And we offer supporting research to help systematically identify and choose the strategic route that will stand the best chance of success.

Creativity before calculation

B2B Reinvention differs from other business strategy offers in two essential ways. First, the core activities are based on channelling people’s creativity, not crunching numbers. The latter stages of the process may require some financial analysis but we lead with creativity and imagination. 

Second, the people whose creativity is being channelled are those closest to the business itself: those who will have to live and breathe the decisions being made. It’s about your people fostering strategy, not foisting strategy upon your people.

Levelling up

We saw this process come to life last summer when we conducted a series of workshops with the key stakeholders from Level, a new global brand established by the founders of Carbon Tanzania. The passion, imagination and honesty of the people in the room – the beauty of this process is that the answer is always in the room – threw up possibilities that none of us had predicted before we kicked off. Two exciting and competitive offers are set to take centre stage as Level presses forward on the world stage.

Depending on where you’re sitting, today’s dynamic business environment might be described as turbulent, scary, dynamic, interesting, unprecedented or just plain bonkers*. With a new way to help businesses capitalise on this climate of reinvention, though, I’m mainly leaning towards excitement: I can’t wait to get into more rooms to help uncover the answer that’s already there.

* See also: Bazball.