(The following blog entry is a re-post of my article from www.successfulworkplace.org)
In the late 1990’s, early 2000’s, the book Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life was a popular motivational book by Spencer Johnson. It addressed the issue of experiencing change in one’s work and life and possible reactions to those changes. The premise of the book is that mice in a maze are rewarded for finding cheese. When the cheese moves, some go in search of it while others keep coming back to the same place, weaker each day.
Boom!! With the explosion of mobile devices, analytics, higher bandwidth and social media, it may be time to re-read a not-so-old classic. The frequency with which business paradigms are shifting is ever more rapid and compressed. We blink and discover the cheese just moved again. We need to be serial cheese-finders.
Corporate cheese finding
Companies are no different. For them, the cheese is found at the intersection of the customer’s preferences and loyalty. When things move rapidly, some companies will double down on finding the same cheese in the same place while others will see the change coming and begin to change tactics. Like the characters in Johnson’s book, businesses today have three paths to choose from…they can ignore change, worry without making a decision, or act and take advantage of the situation.
The biggest challenge to finding the new cheese is tradition, especially traditions (processes, techniques, skills, personalities) that have been most successful in the past. Traditional businesses will find their data in traditional sources, analyze using the same methods and execution will continue through the same channels. Look no further than Borders, who did not adjust when their cheese moved and their customers began buying books online and using tablets and e-readers. Border’s is now extinct and its stores are closed.
The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you find new cheese
Businesses have an opportunity to “own” their customers by focusing on their preferences and making the offers more personalized. Everyone enjoys feeling important and special. There is a restaurant that my family and I frequent that serves a great set of curry dishes. The prices are comparable to a similar restaurant across the street. But at this particular restaurant, the chef/owner knows who I am, knows my voice on the phone for takeaway orders, and uses my name when he sees me. With that kind of personalized service along with the good food, it makes it me loyal to his restaurant.
More importantly, he stays close enough to me to know my changing tastes and preferences.
In contrast is another example of one of my local grocery stores. They have a great idea of providing coupons to you when you are checking out. The intent is to provide us with more incentive to come back. Unfortunately, they are not products that my family has purchased in the past, nor are they products we intend to buy in the future.
They don’t know me and probably never will. Their cheese will move and they’ll never see it coming.
When you move beyond your fear, you feel free
With paradigms shifting so quickly, many are having a difficult time changing. They are following the human tendency of sticking with what they know while their cheese disappears, revenues drop and customer-base deteriorates.
The businesses and marketers that take advantage of the new information sources, data management techniques and intelligence tools available and deeper insights into their markets will have a much greater chance of success. They can be my favorite restaurant, but with scale.
Move with the cheese and enjoy it
With change occurring with increasing frequency, the companies that are nimble, proactive and embrace change are the ones that will thrive with each shift of the market or customer. These will become “anti-fragile” because they are able to adjust and even capitalize on change. These companies are more likely to survive and thrive as the economy and the buying habits of customers change. Those that are reactive will always be behind the competition and the distance between them will grow. Those that do nothing will no longer be in the race.
Did you blink? The cheese just moved again.