Paradigm shifts happen in cycles, and to better understand the fast-paced business environment we live in today, we need to take a look at how we got here—especially if you’re a young entrepreneur.
History repeats itself and the tech industry, where my organization operates, is no exception. Before the computer era, there was the classic office desk. People went to work in an office, and on their desk, you would find a vast array of business and productivity tools. We had stationary, telephones, folders, business card holders, calculators, shredders and typewriters. You can imagine the size of the desks necessary to hold all of this and the clutter it created. Then came the first paradigm shift: the personal computer (PC). The PC took all of these business and productivity tools and placed them within a mouse click and keyboard stroke away.
As computers became more and more a part of our daily lives, we started shifting those brick-and-mortar tools to different software applications. We would come into work in the morning, turn on our PC, and open up local and shared folders, MS office software, email software, ERP software, as well as accounting and other business software. All of these would have to be installed on your PC via CD.
The business workplace then started to move into the cloud era. Now when you go to work in the morning, you no longer open up multiple different software, but you open up multiple different tabs on your internet browser. Instead of the CD install, you would have to log in via username and password to all of these different applications. Subscription-based services quickly became the new norm. Streaming services, cloud storage, SaaS are exploding onto the scene.
If we have learned anything from the desk-to-PC paradigm shift is that the clutter that now exists on our browsers cannot be a sustainable model. With big data and AI, the next paradigm shift is coming. Most of the cloud-based tools we are now using could very likely in the future be integrated into one browser tab—an all-in-one interface allowing us to do anything in cyberspace with a simple point-and-click solution.
When we see any paradigm shift on the horizon, we as entrepreneurs get excited. This is an opportunity for us—as leaders and entrepreneurs both in and out of the tech sector—to make our move and leave our mark on the business world. Here are a couple of things I usually focus on when trying to make a move in an ever-changing environment.
1. Scale, scale, scale.
When the world is changing fast, the key to unlocking growth is to focus on scale. These are the times when massive amounts of R&D budgets are being pumped into new ventures, like AI development, big data and Web3 in tech. Unless you have already dipped your toe into the R&D pool, you need to focus on the aggregation as a key to scale. Take Uber or Airbnb, for example. The solutions they proposed were not a technological innovation, but they were able to solve the provider’s issues and the consumer’s issues into an aggregated platform. This allowed unprecedented scale.
2. Maintain the “problem first” strategy.
This is nothing new—any business leader tends to focus on the problem they are trying to solve. This becomes even more relevant in times of drastic change. It’s easy to get caught up in the new technologies, the new hype, the new trends and lose focus on the actual problem we were trying to solve in the first place. Have some strategy sessions with your executive team and reaffirm the problem you are trying to solve and commit to it. Don’t get tempted and start chasing unicorns.
3. Innovate on the sales and distribution channels.
When paradigm shifts happen, the problems that people face on a day-to-day basis remain the same, but they look for better channels to solve those problems. We need to eat, so we would go to the butcher for meat, the bakery for bread, etc. Then came a new sales channel—the all-in-one supermarket. Then, the pandemic shifted to grocery delivery to your door. Sometimes the key to growth is not the solution but how you deliver that solution. Focus on innovative and new sales or distribution channels.
They say “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste”—so is a paradigm shift. Don’t forget, every time there is a change in a change in human behavior or a change in technology, it is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to step up and access exponential growth. This is the time for us to take that next step and expand our businesses.