The extremely high pace of change in the world of business has inflated the ‘micro-bino-teles’ metaphor. You may well ask, what’s this esoteric gibberish? Actually, it’s the most practical instrument to apply if you want to sustain your business.
In the past, time would buffer whatever business leadership you may have achieved, allowing you to savour the top rung for a while before somebody else finally caught up.
Not any longer. You are a leader today, and just tomorrow you can be nudged out to become a follower. The luxury of having processes, brand, money, machines and people do not bring stability enough to sustain profitable business. The dictat used to be that the West ideates and that developed countries ride its ferris wheel. Domineering business power houses were never questioned. But suddenly, developing countries are upping the temperature — including the Asian dragons — bellowing fire from their nostrils by excelling in manufacturing and services. The furnace of digital heat has never been so intense. So if you try to accomplish your short-term objective with truncated processes, you’ll produce a skeleton. Devoid of living substance, skeletons become fossils. Micro is your answer here.
The microscope magnifies details for you to manage short-term businesses exceptionally well. Happenings of the world do not take place in your boardroom or operational area, but outside. Don’t point the microscope to your internal lab to find short-term happiness over performance that’s not benchmarked. Rather, aim it at the marketplace. You’ll find umpteen things to dissect or identify under the microscope lens. The magnified view may so surprise you and encourage you to fill your short-term with succulent flesh, thereby avoiding being fossilised.
Simultaneously, to evade sinking in the mid-term, you have to carry the binoculars in your pocket to view competitor activities. Wait! You have another pocket, but the other instrument is too long. It’s a telescope. Hang it to your back. As a business leader, your business driving instruments are not PowerPoint, a tablet, Excel sheet or video conference reviews. You have to be equipped with the microscope, binoculars and telescope. A telescope brings the unreachable distance closer so you can practise the new idea you’ve envisioned much ahead of time. In today’s business domain, a leader cannot separate the three instruments made for discovery. Can you become a leader who discovers something beyond the obvious?
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Penetrate the market distinctly, with feet firmly on the ground microscope-like, or viewing the immediate distance with binoculars, or telescopically bridging the expanse with your head pointing skywards. That will respectively tell you what to do today, tomorrow and in future. Trouble follows the absence of these three vital business instruments. The pioneer of the celluloid photographic imaging industry experienced this, and has since buckled under. In microscopically fine-tuning products internally, the company failed to address the changing mindset of customers. That’s the reason for its collapse.
India’s habit of always taking a shortcut to address business requirements is just as dangerous. People in industry consider a low-cost business approach as the easy way to capture markets. I’ve often heard industry people take credit for copying a German machine while adapting it to Indian conditions, and in the process drastically reducing capital expenditure by six times.
Managements pamper such engineers, give them great credit. But nobody analyses how in the global competitive scenario, they end up delivering low-value products of inferior quality with poor return on investment. The “jugaad” mentality of cut-and-paste improvisation can be hazardous for mainstream business. Jugaad application is certainly not compatible for the industrialisation of the country.
However, for livelihood generation of the low-income population, jugaad cannot be disrespected. Their jugaad experience of frugality and flexibility in the face of resource and money crunch is vital for survival. I honour their jugaad skills of crafting new solutions. At the same time, the government cannot shirk its responsibility of encouraging job creation in the country.
There’s disruptive change in how business was run even 10-20 years ago. Let me illustrate with the photography industry. In the celluloid film era, you needed to have film in stock and a camera at hand. Just imagine if at your daughter’s birthday party you forget to procure film, you’ve lost capturing that moment forever. To even click a photograph, you have to know about ISO speed, lens aperture, follow the rituals of film processing, printing, print quality — all of which comes after a certain lapse of time. The next day you rush off leaving the film roll on the table for your wife to give to the studio for processing. Suddenly the three-year-old protagonist of that film roll wanders in and simply pulls open the celluloid with stretched hands. There! Everything’s gone for a toss!
Just imagine how disruptively this industry has changed people’s mind, attitude and experience. They get instantaneous pictures today. Nobody below the age 15 can appreciate waiting for a photograph. This change mirrors today’s radical digital nature of society. Among 800 million people carrying a mobile phone, each is carrying a camera — a totally unprecedented situation. Word messaging has given way to image messaging. It takes only a few seconds to publicise worldwide the adultery that any country’s president is getting entangled in!
Photography mania is just a symbol of how instantaneous visual memory is driving the world. At every stage, short-term, mid-term or long-term, you have to ideate beyond the obvious. You can never tell how your long-term objective may be matching your direct or indirect competitor’s short-term execution. In a jiffy, that will certainly make you obsolete. As a business leader, you have no choice but to carry a microscope, binoculars and telescope to understand the market and act to take your business forward.
Shombit Sengupta is an international consultant to top management on differentiating business strategy with execution excellence (www.shiningconsulting .com) http://www.shiningconsulting.com