Being innovative is part of a business and if a company is just undergoing transformation after transformation, that is a sign that they are not being innovative enough, warns Navin Kunde.
Every now and then something will happen that will force everyone to transform. The pandemic has compelled some companies to be transformative about their relationships with employees. Many companies already went remote before COVID, adopting digital technologies for online meetings and even a hybrid working environment. “These companies didn’t need to take a huge action at the beginning of the pandemic”, says Kunde. As it turns out, the concept of digital transformation is just the result of a neglected innovation process that had to be enforced.
The world keeps changing and what matters most is not the size of the company, but how they position themselves for success. Given all the changes happening outside, any size business needs to be aware of external factors happening outside the organization. To be innovative, it takes consistency and discipline. Some external factors such as competitive intelligence, consumer behavior and the possible impact of emerging technologies should always be on the radar, according to Kunde. If everyone is talking about the metaverse, companies can update their strategy to be innovative about this new trend instead of waiting until they are forced to do something. This will prevent the company from transforming “in a massively disruptive kind of way”.
If people believe that disruption leads to change, for Kunde this is the exact opposite. “Change is constant, but disruption, similar to transformation, happens when you ignore change for a long time”. He believes that changing and being innovative is even more difficult when the business strategy is working well, because it goes against human behavior. At Clorox, Kunde’s team supports the innovation process by building a scientific advisory board based on external input to open the eyes of the business leaders to what is happening, but it is the leadership’s choice to choose whether they need to adjust their strategy or not. In this innovative process, he also highlighted the importance of good leadership, specially the general manager, who needs to balance short term and long term mindset in response to changes.
To “pivot “or “not to pivot,” the word is just overrated in this industry, says Kunde. The real question is how businesses are updating their strategies according to the inputs they receive. To Kunde, to pivot is the process of adjusting the strategy according to the learnings along the execution process. In other words, if the learnings go along with the strategy, there is no need to shift direction, if the inputs diverge to the strategy, then it is time to pivot, advises the Head of Innovation. “You don’t pivot for the sake of pivoting. You are pivoting based on the learnings you are getting, based on the strategy you are trying to win in the market given external conditions”. At the end of the day, pivot is just a tool to be applied according to the inputs collected. It is true that some industries are less predictable than others, and therefore will need to pivot more. Regardless of the industry sector, a clear strategy and goal needs to be sustained even if it is necessary to pivot on the execution front.
Success relies on the ability to balance incorporating changes into the business strategy without changing its essence, but at the same time knowing when it is time to move on and to shift in a different direction.