In my opinion there is a subtle, but significant difference between innovative companies and agile companies. I consider agile to be a more robust survival strategy than innovation. If you want to be able to adapt to both strategies, either separately or at the same time, you really need to understand that there is a clear distinction. Because of the decision support on these matters, I think the scout is on the rise again. Let me explain. First, what does scouting actually mean? Second, how can it benefit your ecosystem? And third, how are agility and innovation related in this context?
Before answering any of those questions, I want to set something straight about agility in case we argue based on different meanings. Being agile means much more than the ability to innovate. It is the ability to react and change; not only on new circumstances, but also on external threats.
For example, changes in the economic climate can force a company to downscale fast on the one hand and upscale production as needed on the other. Are you a chip manufacturer and you have just won the contract to deliver new chips for the Iphone 8? Hurray! But are you able to cope with a ridiculous increase of workload in your factories? This is the leading condition in order to follow up on a contract that will change your daily business immensely. It seems self-evident, but in practice such situations escalate more often than you think.
Be aware of what happens by scouting
Another point of view I have on agility is the adaptability to change according your awareness of your ecosystem. Why innovate and spend millions in research, whilst buying successful start-ups is also a viable solution? Or maybe you need to do both. Are you able to purchase fast?
A lot of questions. Let me start filling in the answers. This adaptability starts with scouting. What does scouting mean in this scenario?
- To observe in order to obtain information or evaluate.
- To explore in order to obtain information.
- To find by making a search.
For any organisation that wants to take its business to the next level all three definitions are tasks of the needed functionary: the scout. With this approach he or she is able to:
- identify technological trends early,
- enable informed strategic decision-making; and
- stimulate innovation.
Observe, obtain and evaluate
A scout should be on the lookout, gather information in the field and organise this information to make sure that something can be done with the data. A scout might be somebody in big data, a market analyst, a professional networker, any and all miracle worker. In the end it is about the ability to bring the information together and make adequate decisions.
Explore your business ecosystem
Do you know the framework of your ecosystem? Go out to meet your challenges to get greater understanding of the complex and ever changing web of life right outside your door. Know your people network (suppliers, distributors, customers), market developments, trends, competitors and all parties that enable competition as well as cooperation relationships that advance your sales.
Search and prevail over your opportunities
Make sure your business, represented by the scout, is out there, visible for others. Look around and participate actively in the search. Be on the prowl and recognise an opportunity as it comes along. Only this way your scout will find the most promising solutions that meet industry needs.
If you combine the three definitions explained above you will get the ingredients for decision support. A reliable foundation to base your decisions on. This is exactly what investment banks are interested in; a solid line of argument, a forecast. So if you are looking for an investment opportunity, either on agility or on innovation, it starts by scouting the market for decision support.
Here’s your step 1: find your talented scout!