Last week I published a blog on the Great British Bake Off, and it got me thinking about other top BBC TV shows. The one that stuck out in my mind was The Apprentice and, I have to start by saying that, I have never been a huge fan. It’s just too improbable that anybody with an ounce of business sense would pick the candidates that Alan Sugar starts with. It’s a bit like selecting an English Rugby team to play at their Home World Cup, and then discovering they don’t make it out of the first round… Or maybe it’s because the producers know what their Customers – us viewers – find entertaining. It’s certainly not business.
This knowledge of customers is critical today and it’s the reason why I think it’s about time that Lord Sugar should be a candidate on his own show. After all, judging by the tasks he sets his ‘contestants’ he rarely assesses them on the challenge most businesses face today: remaining relevant.
In the industry, we talk about the ‘Hyperconnected World’. For most of us this manifests itself as always being able to message our loved-ones goodnight, or tweet which supermarket we are shopping in. However when you dive deeper, this concept is actually all about creating new ways of doing things by being better connected which are invariably lower-cost, more immediate, and more personal and in many cases just completely new. We are only at the beginning of this fast-moving revolution and the impact on traditional business models is already huge.
So what should Lord Sugar be teaching his ego-laden sharp-dressed wanabees? Quite simply, always be relevant to your Customers. The ‘Hyperconnected World’ means that you – and your down-stream Customers – will be confronted every day with new competition, and new opportunities. The most successful businesses will be those that stay focused on exploiting new opportunities for the benefit of their Customers, and if part of a value chain, their Customer’s Customers.
In past times, it used to be enough to manage your business well, to deliver profitable competitive products and provide excellent Customer service. Every decade – or possibly more – the market you were selling into would face a major shift, which you would need to predict, and respond to with a major business shift. Many businesses either did really well or really badly at these points, the choice being when and how much change (‘The Innovators Dilemma’).
This model just doesn’t cut it in the ‘Hyperconnected World’. You need to assume that disruptive change is the norm, and ruthlessly exploit new opportunities bought about by it. You need to break free of the constraints of long-term investments that don’t allow you to be agile, replacing r them with specialist ‘as-a-Service’ alternatives, or you need to constantly find new ways of exploiting long-term investments for competitive advantage.
If you are a supplier in a value-chain (like my employer), you need to understand not just what your Customers are trying to achieve, you need to really understand their business, and you need to proactively take ideas to them that will enhance it and help them to exploit new opportunities so that they can remain competitive. Simply supplying your products or services competitively is not enough to remain relevant to them.
Despite being in its 11th season, I haven’t heard Lord Sugar test his candidates on ‘remaining relevant’ or mention the ‘Hyperconnected World’ once. That’s why I think for season 12 he should be a contestant on his own show. And why not replace Sugar for Musk, with the Tesla CEO a prime example of remaining relevant in today’s ‘Hyperconnected World’. You heard it here first; “Lord Sugar…you’ve had a good run…but you’re fired”.
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