leadership tips for business ownersSome consumers are heatedly averse to change. So goes the mantra: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” right? I count myself in this boat, and this aversion didn’t gel well with my affinity for Apple products. With each new iPhone release, I grew agitated with Apple’s intrusive and unyielding efforts to change their products, which, to me, were perfectly fine as is. Every prompt to “update my iOS” was denied with a dismissive eye roll.

“Again?” I’d groan. “I have neither the time nor desire for another infernal update. My phone already works!”

It seemed every time I blinked, there was a huge fuss over the latest iPhone model, with the last round of fuss only having just died down. Thank goodness a curmudgeon like me wasn’t Apple’s Chief of Strategy—because in actuality, this is an incredibly smart model.

To help curb the threat of getting outclassed by competitors with shiny new models and cutting-edge software, Apple is in the business of constantly, deliberately outclassing itself. You, like Apple, would do well to outclass your own former model, and not let a competitor do it for you. That is innovation done right. It’s measured and focused adaptation.

Take a note from Apple’s playbook: create constant, renewed fervor for your product by rhythmically releasing a new and improved version of it. You then make your last release— however recent—feel totally irrelevant.

Apple’s perfection of their offering is an endeavor with no finish line. No matter how “perfectly functional” it may seem to users and developers, Apple is devoted to the relentless betterment of their product. And that is one of the most important things you can learn from this tech giant. When they saw competitor Nokia/BlackBerry sweeping up a lofty 41% market share for smartphones, they quickly changed course and added a smartphone to the repertoire of hardware that Steve Jobs formerly swore would never include smartphones. They haven’t looked back since.

Apple supplies a valuable lesson in what it means to update, adapt, and remain at the top of your game. In the realm of business, you hear a lot about the concept of a “competitive edge,” but what is it, really? Besides nebulous and subjective. Apple has furnished “competitive edge” with real, tangible meaning: having a competitive edge means you ceaselessly tweak your product or service. Rather than keeping things stagnant, you constantly release newer, better “updates” of what you offer, and you do so methodically and habitually.

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WordPress offers a similar lesson. Years ago, during one of my turns as a bright-eyed job candidate in a limp economy, I began to notice an odd requirement, one that recurred with striking frequency in posting after posting. “Knowledge of WordPress” or some iteration thereof. Having been a passionate proponent of the blogosphere since the mid-aughts, I was aware of WordPress. To my knowledge, it was a blog hosting platform (e.g. www.yourblog.WordPress.com). But I didn’t see the relevance to the jobs I pursued, or understand the job poster’s adamancy that candidates be literate in it. Why did every reputable company want me to know how to use this very simple platform for online diarists? Little did I know, WordPress was not the mere blogging platform I remembered from 2005. It was now an all-encompassing website host.

WordPress had, unbeknownst to me, seriously grown its prominence in the content management space. As of February 2017, 58.7% of all websites (whose content management systems are known) run on WordPress. Approximately 30% of the top 10 million websites use their platform. They dwarf the market share of their next closest competitor, with 10x that share. Stamped at the bottom of millions of sites, the WordPress ‘W’ serves as an emblem of their accidental economic victory in the content management market. The second component of WordPress’ success was the unrelenting product updates they would roll out(each new update named after a famous Jazz singer). What you can learn from them is to systemize a process and create a rhythm by which you update, correct, and rework your product. To guide these updates, look to customer requests, the advancements of your competitors, and changes in technology and the market at large. You too can expand upon the purpose and function of your product if needed, as well as the scope of your ideal customer profile, when appropriate.

Businesses evolve, that much is certain. Just look at any timeline showing the evolution of a company’s logo. Look at their website when they first started, compared with the one they have live today. But, in many ways, this amounts more to maturation than evolution. The trick is to not rely on the gradual, passive maturation of your company. Instead, you should methodically, aggressively look at your product or service offering and pick it apart. Find every “bug” in the system. Use customer and employee feedback. What’s going wrong? What could be going better? And when you’ve cobbled together the best possible product, service, or system, put it in action. Then, in 6 months, sit down and do the whole process over again. Remember, perfection has no finish line!

To read more about how you can hone the adaptability of your company, download our free report on the Adaptability Quotient.

adapt or die

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