Joe Calloway, CSP
Be Bold. Be Fast. The Risk/Speed Success Factor
In the 1800's ice harvesting was a thriving business. Companies would
huge blocks of ice from frozen lakes in New England and ship them to
locations around the world. Business was booming.
But then someone figured out how to make ice in factories, and that was
the end of the ice harvesting business. And refrigeration, in turn,
pretty much eliminated ice factories.
The amazing thing is that not one ice harvesting business was able to
make the evolution to manufacturing ice in factories and on to
refrigeration. The moral of the story is simple: some species evolve -
some die out.
The great temptation of success is to not change. Too many people in
business think that stability means not changing, especially when
business is good. Years ago that might have been true, but in today's
marketplace not changing - not taking a risk - is the riskiest thing you
Stability today is found in movement, much like a child's top - it's
only stable and upright as long as it's spinning. Jack Welch once said
that "If the rate of change outside your organization is ever greater
than the rate of change inside your organization - it's over."
Success today is a very temporary state of being. Success is redefined
from moment to moment. T.C. Tu of Taiwan's Institute For Information
Technology said that "Success used to depend on making the right choice.
But today success depends on being flexible to move from one right
choice to the next right
choice quickly enough."
"Whenever you see a successful business,
someone made a courageous decision."
- Peter Drucker
The old cliché is true: The riskiest thing you can do is to try and
play it safe.
Risk + speed creates a competitive advantage. And if you take risk, you
do so knowing full well that not everything you try will work. Not every
new product will be a hit in the marketplace. But every successful
company must keep moving forward with new products for one very
important reason: to keep from becoming a commodity.
Product development must be constant and it must be fast. Speed to
market has never been more critical. Relative parity in technology and a
hyper-competitive business environment means that whatever edge you gain
in product will be short lived. Your competition is right behind you
with every move you make.
You don't have to be first to market every single time with every single
product. But you must sustain forward movement with a never-ending
stream of product, ideas, and innovation. He who hesitates truly is lost
in a world in a market that is more demanding every day.
Roger Mowen is the chief information officer at Eastman Chemical Co., a
$4.6 billion manufacturer of plastics, chemicals, and fibers. You might
say that Eastman is a giant in a "slow industry", but it's a giant that
is learning that speed has become a survival skill.
Mowen says "I'm on a mission to change the culture of Eastman. I'm
teaching people to become comfortable with executing 80% of solutions
quickly, rather than waiting until we've answered every question to the
third decimal point."
What Mowen and his colleagues have discovered in terms of customer
satisfaction is that corporate buyers have changed just like consumers.
As Mowen puts it "Once one of our business customers has bought a book
from Amazon.com or entered an auction on eBay, they want to do business
with us in the same way. No matter how fast we go, we have to be one
step ahead of them."
No aspect of the "Rules of Business" has changed like the customers'
expectation in terms of speed. And no business has experienced this
change more than the financial services industry.
Even as far back as 1986, First American Corporation's (Nashville,
Tennessee - now AmSouth) annual report stated that "our competition
isn't just other banks. Our competition is the fast food restaurnt that
serves food in seconds and the gas pump that takes your credit card -
our competition is everyone who delivers their product or service with