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The why & how of radical business transformation

May 6, 2013

bright future ahead signThe world is changing (economically, socially and environmental) and many business leaders now realise the imperative for transformational change.

No longer is incremental change of the current business model fit-for-purpose. The change required by businesses to adapt and evolve in these volatile times is radical, dynamic and transformational – fundamentally different business strategy and operations.

First, let us explore the WHY – why do organisations need to radically transform?

Second, we can explore the HOW – how do organisations go about successful radical transformation while meeting the increasingly pressing needs of today (quarterly cost and revenue demands in a challenging business climate).

Why is radical transformation required?

change ahead

A “perfect storm” of economic, social and environmental factors is making the business landscape increasingly volatile. The pace of change is faster and only set to increase. To succeed, business needs to become more agile, creative, responsive and resilient. Put simply, the command-and-control business management approaches that served us well in more predictable climes are no longer fit for purpose. Dynamic change is the new norm and so strategic and operational approaches must adapt accordingly. Organizations that are able to let go of old mentalities while having the courage to embrace new ways of operating will be the ones able to seek out opportunities in these challenging times. Other organizations, fearfully clinging to practices that are no longer fit for purpose will struggle to cope. Adapt or die.

As Dawn Vance, Global Head of Logistics at NIKE succinctly puts it:

‘Organisations have 3 options:

1) Hit the wall

2) Optimise and delay hitting the wall

3) Redesign for resilience’

It is this redesigning for resilience which is rooted in radical business transformation. No longer is ‘optimizing’ existing business models ‘good enough’ – it is just delaying the inevitable car-crash. Now is the time to be future-proofing our organizations by transforming their business models, their process-flows, their cultural mind-set and their operations from conventional thinking to new ways of thinking is the future for successful businesses.

1 RIP business

Already we witness business leaders transforming their business strategies from incremental optimization of existing models (aimed at maximising the short-term return of shareholders) to wisely shifting to new strategies (aimed at benefiting a diverse business ecosystem of stakeholders). This in itself is a great step forward for the evolution of business, with positive repercussions for the economy, society, the individual and the wider environment. The transformation is already upon us and has already started, here are some well-publicised examples:

Nike-Logo NIKE transforming towards having 100% of products and services ‘considered’ (in terms of social and environmental factors) by 2020.



Kingfisher_logoKingfisher Group transforming towards net positive economic, social and environmental value.

Interface-LogoInterface transforming towards having zero-waste (of any emissions – gas, liquid, solid) by 2020 across their global operations.

unilever-logoUnilever transforming towards halving the environmental footprint of their products, to help more than 1 billion people take action to improve their health and well-being, and source 100% of agricultural raw materials sustainably.




Hence, we shift our mind-set from incremental tweaking of our existing business model to fundamentally re-thinking, challenging and innovating our ways of creating value for our stakeholders.

And so to the HOW – what are these new ways of thinking and operating?

The good news is that the answers to the challenges of operating in a volatile world can be found all around us. The HOW to our redesigning for resilience is inspired by nature. Nature has been dealing with dynamic change for over 3.8billion years and the more we look the more we find inspiration for new ways of operating.

feedback nature 3

Those businesses best able to survive and thrive the volatile times ahead will be businesses inspired by nature: organizations that use ecological thinking for radical transformation to develop new ways of operating across all levels of their business – places (intelligent building), products (biomimicry), processes (cradle-to-cradle), people (authentic, emergent leadership), purpose (in harmony with life). For some immediate inspiration on this see here

The future is bright with creative opportunities for wise business women and men. The challenge is not seeing the future clearly, more it is having the courage, conviction and determination to make the transformative change – individually and organizationally. Many are already making transformative change stick and witnessing the positive virtuous cycles of good business sense prevail.

To explore ‘business inspired by nature’ further, join the Face Book community here

Giles blogs on ‘business inspired by nature’ at

Buy The Nature of Business hot off the press by pre-ordering it here


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