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Change Is the Way of the World

Re-examining business assumptions is critical to long-term success.

Assumptions are the things in life that we accept as true or as certain to happen, without proof. They allow us to expect certain outcomes and aid us in making decisions. Some last a lifetime, such as moral values, while others may only last for a generation or until the next scientific breakthrough. Therefore, for a company to stay relevant and fully realize its potential, business leaders must regularly challenge their thinking and develop new avenues of thought.

In business, we tend to make assumptions about our market and our industry. We tend to get comfortable, assuming that what worked in the past will still work now. If we don’t keep our eyes and minds open, however, we can be blindsided by disruptions in the market that can be detrimental. That’s exactly what happened to Eastman Kodak when the digital photography industry exploded.

Wave crashing on a beach

Staying in the loop is critical.

Something similar is happening in the label printing industry today. Digital print technologies, especially UV inkjet, are changing the way converters process orders; from enabling variable printing and short runs, to expanding color options to improving image quality. While analog printing is far from obsolete, it seems that digital is gaining on it at a resounding pace, with digital presses outselling conventional equipment since 2014, according to LPC, Inc. This means that staying in the loop on these technologies, even if you’re not ready to buy, is critical. After all, let’s not forget that label printing has reinvented itself multiple times over the years, from exclusively paper labels printed via sheet-fed offset or letterpress, to roll-label letter-press and flexo with the onset of linered pressure-sensitive paper products, to thermal direct and thermal transfer on film for more demanding applications. The innovation continues, which means we must stay abreast of the latest information and keep questioning our assumptions about the industry to confirm what’s still true and what may not be.

Turning adversity into an opportunity.

Kodak was sure their digital photography patents would protect them from the rise in the usage of cell phone cameras. They assumed that the limited capabilities of camera phones wouldn’t disrupt their business. They couldn’t have been more wrong. The 90% drop in the photographic film market that followed due to the disruption brought on by digital photographic technology completely devastated Kodak. In contrast, Fujifilm challenged the assumption that film photography would never go away. They also challenged the assumption that they had to be in the film and camera industry exclusively. They expanded their thinking to realize the assets they held could be used in alternative ways, and found that their technology in film could also be applied to another membrane – human skin. Consequently, Fujifilm set about launching an anti-wrinkle skincare brand called Astalift, which is now a market leader in many regions. By entertaining different notions about reality, Fujifilm turned adversity into an opportunity and recreated its own reality.

Putting assumptions to the test.

It’s important to remember that disruptions can take many forms. Changes in technology is a biggie, of course; however, changes in the way customers interact with us (mobile), evolving customer demographics (younger work force), and new government or industry-specific regulations (UDI and GHS), can all put our assumptions to the test. As such, it’s important to try to view these things outside the realm of long-held assumptions. After all, who would have thought thirty years ago that we’d have an internet, much less surf it on wireless phones?!

Change can be positive.

While change can cause a fair amount of angst, it can be a positive if you view it as an opportunity. Managing it simply requires keeping our eyes open for new trends and our minds open to new ways of thinking and doing things. We must educate ourselves on the latest innovations, and plan for the developments that we think will have a significant impact. Finally, whether the transformation is technological, environmental, regulatory or interpersonal, we must adapt. We must test what we think to be true, and adapt to what we find the new truth to be.

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Contact Jim Joyce for more information or to uncover what's possible for your company.