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February 18, 2009

Adaptation: What is your company's 2.0?

While the economic uncertainties of the fall seemed to deliver an air of pause, caution, and consideration, the new year - and the resounding revelation that the soured economic climate is here to stay - seems to have helped usher in a call for action.
The last few months have encouraged many of us entrepreneurs to recalculate and recalibrate. And now it is time to move. Ah, adaptation - the plan previously unforeseen, the unplanned path taken.

We have talked and worked with many who are in the process of adapting their company, product, service, offering - in other words creating the 2.0 version of their own company. Maybe, for your company, it previously made sense to do one thing, but now, another. Perhaps a former best-seller is replaced by a lower-cost version or a new suddenly-in-demand product. Or, alternatively, the climate change has brought about opportunities and markets that didn't exist before. On a smaller scale, it could be that your offering remains the same but your pitch and positioning has changed to match the new marketplace.

With adaptation on the brain, we spotted some interesting examples from a
Fast Company
article this month. The larger article highlights "The World's 50 Most Innovative Companies", but a few adaptation examples stood out. In each case, these adaptations have been in the works long before the economic downtown began, however, they demonstrate the type of thinking (mirroring customer need) that is required today.

Amazon - no description needed, as everyone is familiar with the online marketplace GIANT. However, CEO Jeff Bezos had something really interesting to say about Amazon's recent foray into the product market with the recently launched Kindle reader. "There are two ways to extend a business. Take inventory of what you are good at and extend out from your skills. Or determine what your customers need and work backward, even if it requires learning new skills. Kindle is an example of working backward." Read Fast Company's profile.

Etsy - originally an online handmade artist community cum marketplace, Etsy is continuing to adapt and change its offering to meet the growing needs of both its buyers and sellers. Some of the new projects that they have integrated into the offering are their "This Handmade Life" - an opportunity for sellers to establish a personal relationship with buyers by profiling themselves and their business through images, text, videos, etc.; "Virtual Labs" - online meet-ups that can be used (by sellers, buyers, and observers alike) as trunk shows, workshops, and special interest groups; "Custom Section" - an opportunity for buyers to post their specific need and receive bids from interested crafters and artists. Read Fast Company's profile.

Zappos - innovative and adaptive from the start and a fantastic example of entrepreneurship, Zappos began by bucking the status quo in online shopping by taking a very customer-experience-centric perspective. Not only do they provide free shipping BOTH WAYS!, but they incorporated multi-view product images to help incorporate a primary advantage of traditional, off-line shopping. Read Fast Company's profile.

We suspect that this will be a prevalent theme and business challenge for some time to come. So, if you haven't already started to think about your company's 2.0, now is the time!
If you have already started to think about it or act on it, then great! We would love to know! Share with us how you have adapted your company in response to the changing economic climate.

Need some inspiration or guidance?
excerpt in the Lyles Center newsletter, and originally from Donald Kuratko, offers a helpful overview of what they call "source of innovative ideas". We think of them more like game changers, things that shake up the marketplace and create opportunity, such as unexpected occurrences, incongruities, process needs. It may be helpful to think about how these 8 shifts apply to your business. We want to know:

In what ways have you ADAPTED?

The customer experience?

Your operations?

posted by Adelaide

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