Meet the Resilient Corporations

Bamboo

(Read part one, Meet the Empowered People, in this two-part series.)

What’s a Resilient Corporation?

It’s one that minimizes risk, moves quicker, and can grow faster than others.

You may be asking, “How can corporations reduce risk, move quickly, and scale at the same time?”  I’ll be glad to answer that.

With the acceleration of market changes from social media, new technologies, and increased competition, old-school corporations are at risk of becoming brittle and fragile.   Traditionally-operated companies must establish resiliency by adapting to new models emerging in the marketplace.  To find inspiration from a resilient species, we should look at bamboo which is rapidly growing, able to withstand changing weather patterns, and adaptable to many environments.  Like bamboo, corporations must similarly adapt new modus operandi in order to remain in the mainstream of our rapidly changing business ecosystem.

Resilient Companies Do Three Things:
Corporations, in their own essence, are collectives which are designed to reduce the risk of the individual.  The same principles that brought companies together can now be extended to the community, crowd, and marketplace that exist beyond employees and partners.  Corporations that tap into their own crowd – the empowered people – stand to gain in three distinct ways.

1) They connect, embracing ecosystem diversification.    Natural ecosystems that thrive during environmental stress often have characteristics of multiple failover points and have strength in bio-diversity, providing adaptability options for a variety of situations.  These natural systems can also self-mend, just as diversification is a catalyst for trying new solutions at a rapid pace.  Corporations that tap a broad, diverse crowd of customers, prospects, and partners for innovation are able to quickly create new ideas, solutions, and products beyond the scope of the more narrowly defined capabilities of a dedicated product team.  The roots of bamboo trees are interconnected, generating strength as one forest.

What it means:  Corporations that tap their diverse ecosystems have built in fail safes, diversity in innovation, and can self-mend.  

2) They adapt to changing market needs, on-demand.  Crowds can quickly respond both with and to change, as the parts can quickly re-form or maneuver.  Unlike the slow process of hiring through HR, using online communities crowds can quickly be tapped into to meet sudden spikes in needs or quickly dispersed when not needed.  Companies that tap into the crowd are able to quickly change direction, rather than waiting for more formal partnerships and alliances.  This versatility allows for movement in many directions, as long as a community has already been fostered.  Savvy companies can also learn how to tap into new business models beyond ‘selling’ to rent their products, time, or space to the crowd, on demand, like Toyota, Marriott, BMW, and the W hotel have done.  Bamboo wood is flexible, bending to wind patterns, yet offering pliability and rigidity to grow tall.

What it means:  Tapping a crowd means corporations can quickly change direction, as well as activate their own idle resources for returns 

3)  They enable the crowd to carry a greater part of the load to grow in scale.  Crowds are powerful.  They’re a source of renewable energy that can sustain on-demand, if properly nurtured.  The passionate crowd will provide new ideas, resources, and even help to create and produce new products and services.  If done well, a company can empower the crowd to automatically market, sell, and promote without additional investment.  You can read all about how companies can provide a platform for their own customers, leveraging the crowd in effective new manners.  All plants rely on insects, animals, and natural cycles to fertilize, aid reproduction, and protect the ecosystem.

What it means:  Corporations can obtain scalable yield by tapping the crowd to do their jobs.  

Companies That Aren’t Resilient Are Fragile.   Rather than connected, these companies become increasingly more isolated, often without realizing it, like the example of Manganese Bronze as compared to resilient and “connected” Toyota.  They are inflexible, unable to adapt to the rapidly changing economic, social, technology changes that continue to emerge faster than ever.  Fragile corporations are able to scale only linearly, not exponentially as they need to do.  They are limited to the staff they can hire, rather being able to tap into a renewable and ever-burgeoning crowd.

What Resilient Corporations Look Like.  The most apparent examples lie within the software technology field, like IBM, Salesforce, Adobe, Microsoft, Google, and Apple.  They all offer products on-demand, rather than selling boxed software.  They tap into partners to resell and scale.  They provide online communities so that their customers can support each other.  They provide developer platforms to the crowd so that the crowd can build new products, software, and companies on top of their systems.  But this same model shouldn’t be limited to software companies alone.  Companies like Barclays Card are tapping their crowd for innovation.  GE has tapped their crowd for new forms of skill sharing.  A whole host of giant corporations I’m tracking are participating in the Collaborative Economy.  I’ll be investing the rest of my time learning – and sharing – how we can apply these same principles to all companies.

What it means:  Corporations that tap their empowered crowd will benefit from marketplace resiliency by reducing risk through variability, being agile by flexing when needed, and scaling by leveraging others to handle the load. 

 (Photo credits: Foilman, used with creative commons licensing)