Can Big Businesses Ever Really Be The ‘Fast Fish’?

Can Big Businesses Ever Really Be The ‘Fast Fish’?
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In this guest post, Carat strategy director Andrew Hardeman (pictured below) explores the fundamental need for businesses to plan for the future and how agencies could be missing a golden opportunity to be part of this process…

After attending last week’s B&T Daze of Disruption conference  I found one unanimous sentiment existed – ‘disrupt or be disrupted’.

But why?

Andrew Hardeman

Aaron Lepoidevin from PwC said it well by suggesting, “The big fish used to eat the small fish. Now, the fast fish eats the slow fish”.

Essentially, big brands are at risk of becoming less relevant as the inherently slow systems and processes required to deliver day-to-day functions and activities are just too cumbersome to allow for the innovative thinking consumers demand and want.

Cue the chorus for big brands to ‘behave like start-ups’ and ‘learn fast, fail fast’.

But, to be the voice of reason and reality, big brands require these rigid processes to make sure the operations run smoothly at scale. Behaving completely like a start-up is just not possible.

So, how can big brands be agile and prepare for the future without disrupting the day-to-day?

Some forward-thinking brands are implementing a ‘bi-modal approach’. A way of managing two separate, coherent modes of business change that includes:

1. Focusing on stability and the day-to-day.
2. Focusing on agility and tackling the problems of tomorrow.

To provide an analogy, it’s like fixing a plane in the air.

As an example, NAB Labs – an ideas and innovations incubator – was formed to position the brand to be agile and adaptive in developing the bank of the future.

Franki Chimaki at Daze of Disruption spoke about his involvement in the Coca Cola founders program – a co-creation platform that tackles some of the biggest Coke challenges and co-creates start-ups that develop the solutions.

Unfortunately, the appetite for innovation is governed by a company’s readiness. And many are not willing to channel internal resources away from projects that deliver on key KPI’s they are beholden to.

So, how can these brands – which are the vast majority – adapt for the future? Well, an opportunity exists for smart agencies to pivot their offering to show clients the radically different support they can provide them.

Like Dean McEvoy – CEO and founder of TechSydney – suggested at Daze of Disruption that “we need to create an epicenter for the industry like Silicon Valley”.

But what would this look like?

Essentially, a think-tank agency with a ‘start up’ mindset dedicated to providing business outcomes rather than specific service outputs.

It would require the development and provision of an interdisciplinary agency team – not traditional agency departments – that is created based on specific business problems they have been tasked to solve that the client themselves don’t have the time or resources to.

A client’s own think-tank, but sourced, owned and managed by an agency.

The managing director from Intel Kate Burleigh aptly said, “Only the paranoid survive”. Jon Kaehne from Amazon echoed this sentiment, showing how the company actively decided to risk cannibalizing its core business by creating the Kindle.

Brands can’t hedge their bets entirely on heritage, size, or current success because things change quickly. It’s a tried and true example, but Kodak epitomizes this sentiment.

In an age where ‘outputs’ from agencies are becoming accessible at a cheaper rater or simply being automated, agencies – like big consumer facing brands – need to keep an equal focus on the future of their business and what they need to do to remain indispensable to their clients.

Providing them with their own ‘think-tank’ agency with a startup mindset dedicated to solving problems may just be it.

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