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How Individuality is Changing Today’s Business Models


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When legacy and brand of a business are at odds, businesses often struggle to keep an even balance. Some brands, like Sears, fail to be hungry to enough to strengthen the legacy—continually reinventing itself to serve the rapidly evolving needs of their market and employees.

With businesses struggling to maintain a legacy after so many brand shifts, the next question is..

What should you do?

The answer is start over. Be beginners and think like cottage businesses again. Stop being complacent and understand what consumers and employees really want and expect from the company and its brand. It’s this complacency and lack of open-mindedness that made those legacies unhealthy. They thought they could compete on volume and lost sight of value to the individual. That’s how Amazon and Uber are winning. They disrupted the marketplace by focusing on the individual and winning at scale. Most mature businesses aren’t entrepreneurial enough to see that, nimble enough to adapt to that, and engaged enough to see the opportunity of focusing on the individuals defining business today.

This is particularly true when it comes to women, millennials, and diverse populations that are redefining the needs of all populations. They are making every industry – and even Washington – aware that the marketplace wants something different. They want their unique differences served.

When you think like a cottage industry and start over again, you realize the existing systems and templates were created for one-size-fits-all. Sears once focused on individual needs. It was ahead of its time with everything from mail order to Craftsman. Then its mindset shifted to a big business mentality: dominate market share and satisfy Wall Street. It lost its cottage industry mindset and thus its ability to be vulnerable enough to honor the entrepreneurial spirit that built its legacy, reinvent the template again, anticipate the unexpected, and look for opportunities in starting over.

How do you start?

Those are the strategies that define an innovation mentality and will make us healthy again. Innovation isn’t just about new products, acquisition, or risky investments in frontier economies. Nowhere is this clearer than the transformations happening in the industry at the center of the American enterprise ecosystem and the one literally responsible for keeping us healthy: healthcare.

“Healthcare that looks like the days of ‘Marcus Welby M.D’ is as inefficient as the original tube televisions sets that show aired on,” says Mike Fernandez, chairman of MBF Healthcare Partners. “Yet most doctors are reluctant to spend $3,000 on an electronic medical records system but don’t think twice about a $3,000 lease on a new Benz. Talk about a depreciating asset. That’s one way to guarantee a business’s failure is to spend money on assets that will be used less over time. Hospital systems spend on new structures meant to look futuristic but their functions have not kept up with what is coming. For example, radiologists have begun to work from home offices using new technology that allows them to read scans on high-resolution terminals. So why the office at the hospital? Artificial intelligence machines crunch unimaginable amounts of data to make medical recommendations with a 97% accuracy rate.”

All that is happening as the healthcare delivery model evolves from a cottage industry to big business mindset. The industry is shifting the decades-old discussions about providing care from volume to value for individuals and learning how to be a consumer-focused industry and greater efficiency should allow more time for a healthy focus on individual patient needs. Sure, the industry had always been patient-centric, but it was never patient-focused. Today’s patient has become a customer with healthcare delivery choices. Yet protocols for engagement, diagnosis, and treatment were not individualized. Physicians were never trained to engage with individual consumer needs. Hospitals never adjusted to changing demographics.

For example, a 24-year-old being treated for breast cancer would, until recently, still in many places be treated like a 50-year-old. Why? Because breast cancer usually strikes women in their 50s and that’s who the protocols were written for. As a result, one breast cancer patient reported that her doctors had no idea what her treatment would mean for her ability to have a baby because few women conceive in their 50s.

The patient reported that this made her feel like the whole treatment “stripped her of her identity,” which is what many legacy companies are doing with their customers and employees.

Today, healthcare leaders and physicians are becoming more mindful of those differences and the needs of their communities – even as their organizations expand and merge. The focus is on saving individual lives to strengthen our communities. That is the ultimate example of a cottage business mentality innovating and growing by serving individuals first, not just the bottom line, in order to grow and evolve.

Do you have the organizational readiness and innovation mentality mindset to reinvent and reclaim your organization’s identity? If not, your organization is at risk, your leadership is losing relevancy, and you lack the courage and vulnerability to see that.

Glenn Llopis

Glenn Llopis

Glenn Llopis is the Chairman of the Glenn Llopis Group – a nationally recognized thought-leadership, human capital, and business strategy consulting firm. As a speaker, consultant, and executive coach to Fortune 500 companies and…

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