Designing for change: notes from our latest Innovation Summit

June 24, 2019 James Hayward

Change is the only constant. Sure, it’s a cliché, but like all cliché, there’s some truth to it. Just look at the world around us: governments, trade technology, and the climate are all changing at an unprecedented rate. These changes often lead to unexpected outcomes with profound impacts on business.

At our latest Innovation Summit, held in Copenhagen, we addressed these issues with our customers and partners. We explored what it means to design for change, and how together we can build companies and supply chains that will last.

Here’s what we discovered:

Designing for the adaptive enterprise

When the winds of change are blowing, it’s difficult to predict where businesses and industries are heading. But what’s for sure is that those companies which are adaptive have the best chance of surviving the storm.

Despite this, many companies today aren’t prepared for change. They’re bogged down by static technology, processes, and thinking. As a remedy, enterprises are spending billions of dollars on what they call “digital transformation” projects. But in reality, most are spending this money just to become digital without any real transformation happening. This is an important distinction: transformation doesn’t happen by digitizing your current processes, it happens when you rethink and redesign your processes.


It’s time to break free from the shackles of legacy thinking around functions and start thinking about the outcomes you want for your business. Go back to those first principles around what you’re trying to achieve, and design a future where you can do that. Look closely at your processes and don’t ask how to digitize them—ask if you even need them at all. This is what will make your enterprise adaptive and ensure that you continue to thrive.


How to unlock hidden value in your supply chain


Thinking differently and designing for change will have a profound impact on the supply chain. Those that do it right will elevate their supply chain from something that sits in the back office, to something that drives competitive advantage for their enterprise.


Of course, you can’t just design for change, you need tools to help you achieve your objectives. We’ve seen how Salesforce has inspired the transformation of the sales experience. And we’ve seen how Slack and Workday have inspired the transformation of the employee experience. The next frontier of tools has already arrived to inspire the transformation of the supply chain experience.


So harness these tools and start fixing all those broken processes in the back office. Once you’ve done this, start designing new ways to add value. Do this by taking a customer customer-centric approach and giving the people in your company the tools they need to achieve their objectives. Use data at every step to make informed decisions and reimagine your processes. Build adaptability and flexibility into what you’re doing to meet whatever needs the business has. And take every opportunity to unlock value in your supply chain and create strategic advantages for your enterprise.


What it takes to be a changemaker

Making change happen in a global enterprise isn’t easy. Ask anybody that’s doing it. They’ll tell you they meet resistance at every step because people are often afraid of what change will mean for them and their role. Plus, it’s difficult to upend years—or even decades—of legacy processes and systems.

To be a changemaker, you must have the vision to design the future, the will to implement your vision, and the leadership and compassion to manage the consequences. But most crucially, you must win the support of the enterprise and your colleagues. You can design for change, but this change won’t materialize unless you convince your people to change with you.


You must show people why change is good for them. Show them how the changes aren’t a threat to their job, but a chance to reinvent their job. Show them how they can break free from the mundane tactical work and start being more strategic. Show them how they can change the trajectory of their career. Show them how change is inevitable and equip them with the ability to embrace change.


Leading change is never an easy place to be. But if you want to be at the cutting edge, you must figure out how to do it.


Always ask ‘what if’


In this period of rapid change, it can often seem like what happens in the future is out of our control. We’re just passive observers reacting to outcomes dictated by invisible forces. What we learnt is that this isn’t true. We all have a stake in designing the future we want to see. We just need to keep asking ‘what if’ and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.


That is what innovation and designing for the future is all about: asking what if things were different and exploring how they could be different. So while we can’t predict the future, we can all ensure we’re designing for a world of change.


Over to you.


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About the Author

James Hayward

James is a Senior Content Marketing Manager at Tradeshift, focused on crafting compelling stories that provide supply chain professionals with unique insights and actionable advice on how to take their organization to the next level. A journalist by trade, James was previously the Global Editor at Treasury Today magazine.

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