Jumping the Chasm

History is replete with businesses that could not adapt or change to stay relevant and make money, such as Sears, K-mart, Blockbuster Video, Service Merchandise, Pier 1 Imports, Toys R Us, Payless Shoes, and the list goes on. So, what happened? There are varying degrees of issues: too much debt, not making critical investments, or losing sight of customers.

All of the above businesses had intelligent people running them, but there comes a moment when things change. I call the moment “jumping the chasm” when a dramatic change or risks has to occur, or failure and demise is the end game. Human nature allows us to get comfortable with the status quo. Things are working fine, money is being made, customers are walking in the door, and good things are happening. Then slowly, or sometimes instantly, change starts.

Change is hard. If we do not build change into our DNA and mindset, we will find ourselves in the same situations as the businesses mentioned above – no longer relevant and in decline. Here are five key characteristics that successful organizations and businesses that are “jumping the chasm” have in common:

  1. Never Satisfied. Dynamic businesses or organizations are never satisfied. They understand success is never final. These successful organizations constantly look and listen to what is going on in their industry and the market. They have developed a great feedback loop, and it is part of their decision-making process.
  2. Curious. “Jumping the chasm” requires a business to be curious about things going on in the market and the world. Businesses that remain relevant have people who are curious and life-long learners. They have a deep interest in their industry, are not afraid to ask questions, and are not worried about how they will look asking questions.
  3. Calculated Risk-Takers. When the status quo is not working, moving to the unknown is frightening and unnerving. There is no clear path forward, and understanding the value of calculated risk-taking is essential to “jumping the chasm.” Taking calculated risks is a mindset that allows small changes and pivots as markets and business models change. Calculated risk-taking needs to be a part of the DNA of an organization and its leadership.
  4. Investment. There comes that moment to “jump the chasm.” The business will have to make critical investments that will position the organization for future opportunities. The investment can be in people, equipment, or technology. Any decision that doesn’t involve money on any scale is easier to make, but the challenge comes when there is a large amount of dollars involved in the investment and there is no clear outcome. Being willing to invest is critical.
  5. Active. Taking action is the final cornerstone for “jumping the chasm.” A business and its leadership can look, think about, discuss, and explore an issue or challenge, but action has to be taken at some point in time. Whether that decision is too late or is timely will depend on the leadership’s ability to see beyond the horizon.

Staying relevant is complex and a challenge for each business and organization. It is easy to get in our comfort zone, but then everything changes. How you “jump the chasm” will determine the success or failure of your business.