It’s a fact of evolution that the organisms who are best adapted to their environment are those most likely to survive. And it’s no different in business – except companies have the advantage that they can see changes in the world coming and can make decisions about how to best adapt to deal with those changes. It goes without saying that those least able or willing to do so are most likely to go the way of the dodo; even the largest enterprise corporations have to be willing to reinvent themselves where necessary.
Change Over Time
What kinds of adaptations are we talking about? Well, the magnitudes of these changes can range from small, almost imperceptible tweaks to foundational, sweeping alterations that may require changes to all aspects of corporate culture. The nuts and bolts of these changes can include moving locations (for example, many businesses have moved from traffic-congested downtown offices to buildings in clean industrial park city sectors, located in free-flowing suburbia), or be changing product offerings or target markets. The scope of the changes, of course, depends on the amount of change in the world that must be adapted to.
The Journey of IBM
Hardware and software companies are prime examples of businesses that have to change rapidly to keep up with trends in technology and patterns of consumption. IBM is a company name that is rarely heard anymore compared with 30 years ago, and the average person could be forgiven for thinking that they’ve closed their doors – but the company is very much alive and well. The manufacturer of commonly used business machines has transformed itself over the last few decades into a research and development tech giant, and now provides the benefits of scientific breakthroughs they have made to other enterprise-sized corporations.
Examples of these discoveries include plastics that are stronger than bone, yet endlessly recyclable; a lab on a chip that can help physicians to detect diseases like cancer in patients before they even know they are sick; and a room that can hear, talk to and see its occupants, and can be communicated with to conduct research and make strategic decisions.
Microsoft’s business model these days is not too different from that of IBM. When originally formed by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in 1975, the company focused on developing computer operating systems such as MS-DOS and the ubiquitous Microsoft Windows. Licensing its Windows operating system to IBM’s PC hardware allowed Microsoft to rapidly grow and become the household name it is today. However, while the company still makes operating systems and business software, it has also expanded its research division.
For example, its Project Torino has created a ‘physical’ programming language to allow visually-impaired children to physically create code based on connecting blocks. Other research areas include computer vision, economics, and cryptography, all of which both have the potential to help society and improve the company’s bottom line.
Many changes that benefit businesses can be made closer to home, rather than involving a wholesale restructuring of your core business model. For example, one recent corporate culture change sweeping the world involves reducing worker fatigue and mortality using ergonomic, exercise-inducing office furniture. Most of us are familiar with the standing desk or adjustable height workstation, but there are other options too, from treadmill desks to balance ball chairs. Such innovative pieces of furniture can help employees to stay healthy and deliver results by ensuring that they can get the exercise they need while remaining productive.
Of course, nobody wants to run on a treadmill all day, so the core of versatile work spaces is that you can change it up when you need to. Having a workplace that allows a flexible approach to where employees need to be all day can improve both focused work (me time) and collaborative work (we time) – and a thriving, forward-thinking business needs plenty of both. Teaming stations, open-concept desks, and modular desk solutions can all be used to create a workspace in which a balance can be struck between employee privacy and optimal teamwork. The bottom line is that being able to adapt your company to changing trends will help to keep it profitable and allow you to succeed in your vision for the future.