2020 was always considered to be a game changer, companies across the globe kept working on the 2020 plan. I couldn’t figure out exactly, why 2020 and why not any other year, whatever be the reason 2020 has actually turned out to be the game changer and has made its place in history for right and wrong reasons. People around the world have been taken aback with absolutely no preparation for a situation like this, while the majority are facing adversity some are privileged to have found opportunity in adversity. However least impacted are the one who had the agility to act fast and flexibility to accept the change and respond with positivity. Interestingly, There were books written about how habits are formed and how many days it takes to form a new habit, all of a sudden you realize how big a lie it has been and people have made millions selling these books and conducting workshops. We’ve seen it for ourselves, when it comes to our survival habits can change almost instantly, instead of efforts to change reason to change is more relevant and fear is a very powerful reason.
The sudden change in ecosystem and new rules to survive leads me to a very interesting topic of “Skill set required” to sail through turbulent times, Before I get into that I want to share my own encounter with change. Two decades back I had attended a 5 day workshop on change management and I was so fascinated by the program that I retained the training book and as-and when I had the opportunity I started conducting the workshop in my own little way, having repeated the same learnings and stories so many times it became integral part of who I am today. I realize, during these 2 decades while the world around us might have changed but some learnings are universal, what is interesting is the fact that it is not about the principles or learnings but always about application and this is where the majority gets disillusioned. Even today I come across a bunch of people who will propagate change but will not live the change when it comes to them. For people of my generation any big change in technology was a very slow and gradual phenomenon as compared to today when not only the technology but the entire ecosystem keeps changing at a rapid pace and hence the need to change has become relevant like never before.
When it comes to the skill set required in current times, Let us consider every single individual as a “Brand” and every brand as a customer. Idea is to understand what our customer wants and if we have it within us or there are any gaps. For a brand to be successful you need to have the ability to stand out of the crowd in terms of value proposition you offer, be relevant in terms of what customer wants, be visible to your customer, communicate with the right message and last but not the least you need to be on the continuous journey of re-invention to stay competitive in this dynamic environment.
To me, below mentioned skills are required to win in the current situation;
1) Anticipate (Business acumen skill )– The current times need proactive and not reactive measures, In order to be successful one need to anticipate change, competition moves, new skill sets required to be relevant with the changing dynamics. To anticipate is not an emotional thing which has to happen on the basis of how one feels but has to be supported by strong logic which means that anticipation should be based on analysis of past trends, future indicators, facts and figures. One needs to have a clear balance between quantitative and qualitative analysis of the given situation.
2) Adapt – Adaptability in the given situation is no more a matter of choice but a compulsion to acquire skill and behavior conducive to changing circumstances. Either you can anticipate the change and prepare yourselves for what lies ahead or adapt when it is really required to stay on course. Easier said than done, people are victims of their own past and it takes hell lot of energy to change your way of working, values and beliefs which you always thought were the match winner. Physical presence was always an integral part of meetings, classrooms were the best place for teaching and all of a sudden you realize that virtual meeting and learning is the only option. Now, you can only be effective by adapting to the new normal or keep waiting for the world to change around you!!
3) Plan – Planning has always been important and remains so, It is just that there are changes in the elements and level of planning. Let us take example of Indian retail market, unorganized market is fast converting to organized market, for brands it is no more about box selling but the experience customer wants, India ranks 2nd highest in terms of digital adoption, high internet penetration, Average age of 28 years and huge focus on digital content creation and consumption. Customers awareness level is high like never before and customer journey is neither entirely Physical nor Digital but Phygital. These changes in the ecosystem makes the planning very complex, you’ve lobby’s within the organization which still believes that traditional channel and media is still relevant and on the other side new age marketer who are claiming huge shifts in consumer preference towards digital. To plan and find a right balance is really important to ensure right spends with desired results and high ROI. Planning is no more a high-level framework for execution but requires micro detailing for every single aspect of business, in current times your execution can only be as good as your plan.
4) Re-invent – Reinvention is the life skill and most relevant one to make a mark in the given times. beauty lies in understanding what customers want and finding the best way out to meet customer requirements. Social distancing and fear of the unknown being the new normal digital has gained significance like never before, starting from digital communication, web-traffic, customer engagement, lead generation to closure and advocacy all touch points in customer journey demand reinvention. Partners in physical retail are trying to evolve, offer video demo, home delivery, digital payment and on the other side online players are equally trying to collaborate with physical retail expediting the development of Omni channel. Synergy in customer experience is the key, people and the brands who had reinvention as part of their inherent DNA have taken the lead to navigate their way, on the contrary brands or people who are averse to reinvent are the one who are struggling to survive. Current times have only reinforced the importance to reinvent, if you consider yourselves to be a brand then your customers appetite to avail your services depend on your ability to reinvent and stay relevant as per the changing times. Demonetization reinvented the way we financially transact however Covid 19 situation led to disproportionate growth in digital payments beyond everyone’s imagination.
5) Decisiveness to Act – Strength of your decisiveness determines your ability to act, turbulent times demands quick decision. One needs to have the ability to act fast basis the current visibility instead of waiting for the visibility to improve. Decisions can keep changing with the change in external conditions however it is better to take some risk and move ahead. Indecision in such times can do more harm than any good.
The customers of past, present and future and their buying behaviors are different and so is the skill set to meet their requirement, current times require every single individual to be the best versions of themselves continuously keeping pace with the changing times. The choice is to either fall in line or out, there is nothing in between. Organizations have the bigger responsibility of keeping pace with the rapid change to meet customer requirements and in order to make it happen they need a workforce which is equally agile. For ages skill development has been integral part of every organization for improved productivity and to develop leaders for tomorrow but with the recent changes every individual will have to take responsibility of their own skill development and I am confident that world will witness huge change in people’s attitude when it comes to self-learning and gaining new skill sets as fear will do to them what traditional organizational drive and discipline has failed to do.
About Umesh Chawla
Umesh Chawla, an out of the box thinker on the journey of reinvention with 24+ years of in-depth experience in sales and marketing, product planning, strategy and P&L management.
Graduated in commerce followed by professional qualification in marketing management, re-ignited the journey of learning and did multiple professional courses on International trade, Digital marketing, Leadership & change management, Strategic innovation & business analytics from Institutes of repute like London School of Economics, Narsee Monjee, XLRI and DMS IIT Delhi.
Started career from Akai and worked for leading brands like Electrolux, Videocon, LG & Samsung, currently employed with HP as Country manager – Strategic initiatives (Personal systems & Printing solutions)