Embracing the uncomfortable: a key step in driving business success

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The path of least resistance is often the road most organisations look to travel on the way to success. But there are also clear benefits in answering the tougher questions, embracing the uncomfortable and pushing the boundaries.

There is a tendency for some businesses to believe that the way things have always been done is the right way of doing them. But creativity and innovation – opening up to a little discomfort – can in fact present a better way of getting the job done and drive greater success.

It is important to learn from the outcome of a decision and move forward positively – regardless of the outcome itself. One psychologist noted that it is “not our failures that determine our future success, but how we explain them to ourselves.” So, with that in mind, what changes could you make to further embrace the uncomfortable and drive further business success?

Many people have worked for organisations whose legacy processes and systems have prevented progress for far too long. And during such a time of economic and political uncertainty, there are yet more developments set to come. It’s vital that organisations make the most of the opportunity presented by this change and question what has historically been considered the norm.

Love it or hate it, the term “digital transformation” captures the idea that we are living in a different – and ever-changing – world. The organisations that do not keep moving, stay in their comfort zones and fail to “transform” will be those that ultimately lose out.

When it comes to “digital”, the organisations pushing the boundaries of change are those moving away from traditional on-premise software and gaining more cost and efficiency in the cloud. Those that remain in the supposed comfort of legacy systems will be left behind.

Organisations around the world are looking at the best way to approach digital transformation, with IDC reporting that 90 percent of organisations actively involved in some form of digital transformation initiative. Dutch bank ING is one strong example of a business driving real change through digital technology. Since the financial crisis, the company has had to reinvent itself numerous times over from both a cultural and technological perspective. It has done so successfully, embracing the uncertain situations it has encountered, and as a result has outpaced its newer and more agile incumbents.

So what exactly should business leaders be doing to effectively challenge their comfort levels and drive further business success? There are three key pieces of advice that should be considered.

Be curious and approach tricky questions head-on

As a business leader, you should all but ban the phrase “we’ve always done it like this”. It’s important to continually question the processes and systems in place within your organisation. Which parts of the business are not performing to their best potential, and why?

This curiosity and questioning approach should run through the veins of the business. Not only should those at the top be asking questions, but they should encourage others within the organisation to ask them tricky questions too.

Acknowledge that disruption is here to stay

Few businesses can keep up with the current rapid pace of evolution of enterprise and consumer technology. As a result, organisations need to embrace disruption and do their utmost to remain flexible.

This idea of “self-disruption” – changing from within to keep up with the pace of technological change – is becoming the new normal and is imperative if organisations are to survive and thrive in the modern business world.

By making sure to ask the difficult questions as mentioned previously, business leaders can ready themselves for this world of ongoing change.

Understand that it’s OK to fail – but fail fast

Going back to the example of Dutch bank ING, it’s clear that digital transformation is possible with the right approach and a positive outlook. However, business leaders cannot be scared of failure, as being risk averse is evidently not the key to success.

The cost of standing still and moving nowhere will be much higher than failing fast and moving on. So it’s about failing – but failing quickly – and taking the time to consider key learnings before bouncing back.

The pace of change faced by organisations today is here to stay, and is even set to accelerate further. Business leaders who look to alter their approach to the uncomfortable – embracing change, asking the right questions and “self-disrupting” – are those that will see a real business advantage.

And learning quickly from failure is key too. Those that consider these points and welcome some discomfort will find themselves much further ahead of the competition.

To end with the words of digital transformation leader Bernardo Crespo: “The rules of the game are changing, and anyone seeking to lead this area of transformation must know how to manage uncertainty. For decades, professionals have been trained to control and manage risk, to minimise it, and to make good decisions. Today, it is just the opposite: companies need professionals who are able to accept and manage uncertainty.”

About Gonzalo Benedit

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