What the UK storms can teach leaders about gaining advantage from disruptive forces

We are living in unprecedented times. The storms lashing the UK coast are the worst in living memory and the costs to the economy are in the region of £14b and growing as the weatherman reports two additional storms approaching. The calamitous disruption to business, homes and lives is  painful to see. Out of the chaos however, there are several lessons business leaders can benefit from. The tides of change are lashing the shorelines of businesses around the world (excuse the pun). Disruptive forces can now cripple a business overnight and have devastating and lasting effect. The storms hitting the UK this year whilst not predictable in magnitude, were identifiable as a growing trend. A warming planet has resulted in a wetter, warmer climate in the UK for the past decade. I wonder how many businesses that have been disrupted by the flooding of rail and road networks had plans in place before hand of how to not only deal with these disruptions, but to gain advantage over their competitors. We don’t have the figures to this question, but we can’t imagine many.  

But the signs have been there for the past few years. If you were a business observing and reading the weak signals you would’ve known to plan for a disruption of this nature. We work with business leaders around the world helping them to identify, understand and build competitive advantage out of disruptive forces. Using our TIDES of Change model we get companies and leaders to think about the questions they should be asking on disruptive forces  but are not. T-I-D-E-S stands for Technology, Institutional change, Demographics, Environment & Ethics and Shifting social values. There are other disruptive forces but our research from our Strategic Insights and Futures Lab shows that they are the five biggest forces of disruption.

Environment and Ethics are the most powerful of the five disruptive forces we track and their impact has the potential to disrupt businesses immediately. Yet we often find environment and ethics is the area of least focus by leaders. Take the storm, caused by changes in the global environment. The potency is massive and damage is immediate are you prepared and how can you turn the disruption into an advantage? During the devastating Cumbrian floods of 2009 the bridge in Workington over the river Derwent was swept away. The community in the Seaton and Northside areas of Workington faced a detour of up to 40 miles to just buy basic commodities. Tesco,  a leading food retailer, sprung into action. They had an emergency solution at hand. Advanced planning with Yorkon, a manufacturing company, allowed Tesco to spring into action and within  a week of the bridge being washed away a tempory store had been erectet to help ease some of the problems facing the flood-hit community. You can watch a video of this story on Youtube.

Because of advanced planning and quick action Tesco was able to turn the disruption into an advantage and build massive goodwill with the community. Out of every disruption there are opportunities to do good for society, build goodwill and competitive advantage. Are you having the right conversations about disruptive forces in your business?

Are you asking the right questions and developing the strategies to counter and leverage disruption? If you are not take the opportunity to talk to us we’d love to show you what we know and share our insights.

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