How Leaders Can Adapt To An Environment Of Change
Change can happen in any industry and comes in many forms: political, regulatory, social and technological. Change can be challenging to navigate. It also presents itself as an opportunity for leaders who know how to adapt and recognize it, even when it’s controversial.
How can business leaders spot the difference between courting controversy and getting in on the ground floor of the next big thing? Here are a few tips.
Don’t Fear PESTs, Study Them
The business environment is one of constant change. If you’re hoping to benefit from the opportunities change can create, you’re better off studying how it could affect your business than trying to avoid the inevitable.
How do you study the nature of change that might affect your business? One way is to perform a PEST or PESTLE analysis. These are acronyms that stand for Political, Economic, Social and Technological change, and can sometimes also involve Legal, Ethical and Environmental change. This type of analysis is similar to the SWOT analysis that many businesses use in their planning efforts, but it looks at opportunities and threats in more specific detail.
Questions that might be asked during a PEST or PESTLE analysis include:
• Is political change, domestic or global, likely to have an impact?
• Are there economic changes that could impact the business, such as changes in lending, employment or other factors?
• Is technological disruption playing a role?
• Are there legislative changes creating or eliminating opportunity?
• What about social or ethical change?
For each change that might affect your business, an opportunity may also exist to take advantage of it. These are opportunities you can discover with further research.
Do Your Research
Research can help leaders see past challenges to uncover opportunities created by legislative and political change. In some cases, it can even help them see past social stigma and public skepticism to transform an industry.
One such case is the medical marijuana industry, which has been gaining legal and social legitimacy across the globe for the better part of a decade. It’s now legal in dozens of countries including the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, parts of Australia, and nearly two dozen U.S. states.
In Canada, where full legalization is coming in 2018, Deloitte estimates the legal pot market could reach $4.9 to $8.7 billion in potential revenue. Yet even as states like Washington and Colorado have passed legislation allowing recreational use, legal and social battles continue elsewhere. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently called on Congress to reject federal laws that refer marijuana enforcement to individual states. And even in Canada, Deloitte’s study indicates that 36% of the population still opposes recreational marijuana use.
So does the industry represent an opportunity or simply controversy? Dr. Avtar Dhillon, executive chairman of Victoria, BC-based Emerald Health Therapeutics, sees opportunity. Dhillon, a former family practitioner turned pharmaceutical company executive, says, “When the laws changed in Canada, people were asking my medical opinion about cannabis as it moved into forprofit production. I didn’t have a strong opinion about the industry or its benefits, so I did my research.”
What Dhillon found was that medical cannabis had demonstrated medical benefits in preliminary clinical studies but needed further scientific and clinical research. By bringing a more scientific approach, Dhillon believed it was possible to change the perception of medical marijuana in the global marketplace.
“In Canada, the medicinal market for marijuana-based products is maturing and legal countrywide, which is helping to open even more doors for research,” says Dhillon. “But the real opportunity is global. To change perceptions globally, the industry has to attract credible people and become recognized as one that cares about good research, quality product, and proper usage and consumption.”
Accept Change And Differentiate
In any business, change is a constant -- whether it’s driven by technology and social habits or political and legislative changes. Adapting to change requires careful research, an open mind and the ability to look at the opportunities that may lie hidden within a challenging environment.
Leaders need to accept that consumer beliefs, habits and technology will continue to drive change in everything from how we shop for the goods and services we buy every day, to how we communicate with one another, to what we eat and how we play. Rather than railing against disruption in your industry, look for ways to provide something the disruptors can’t. That’s how leaders embrace change and recognize opportunity.
Whether you’re a retailer, manufacturer or supplier, bringing a new product to market or marketing an old one in new ways, the path forward lies in understanding these changes and investing in the opportunities they present. Says Dhillon, “Change is a chance to make a difference but taking advantage of it requires the ability to look past challenges and see the possibilities that exist. If you’re in it for the right reasons, everything else falls into place.”
This piece originally appeared in Forbes.