At a conference I attended this week I was lucky enough to hear Bob Safian, editor of Fast Company Magazine, talk a bit about business strategies, and what he sees as characteristics of forward thinking companies. He emphasized that unlike Wall Street, which is focused on short term quarterly earnings, Fast Company takes a much longer term approach to business, which explains its unconventional choice of cover models, including snowboarder Shaun White among others. Three key questions for any company wanting to be a fast company include the following:
Who are your future customers and employees?
Understanding what the next generation is doing and how it will affect business practices is something no company should ignore. Safian explained that Shaun White, while only in his twenties, embodies this new wave of customers and employees, and how their approach to business may be a little less traditional. Similarly, Barack Obama, who landed a Fast Company cover well before he became a serious Presidential candidate, exemplified a new brand rollout that received a surprisingly strong response, illustrating the evolving marketplace (as well as how the post baby boom generation reacted to this brand).
What are your future tools?
Technology has changed rapidly in a very short period of time. Social networking tools like Twitter simply didn’t exist 5 years ago. The iPhone, which has seen rapid adoption, now has a library of 75,000 apps, and major brands realize that such tools are integral to reaching their audience. Similarly, consumers are now expecting brands to converse with them; no more of this one-to-many silver bullet nonsense that we might have learned in college communication theory classes. Companies need to be forward thinking and mindful of how these technologies will impact their strategies.
Do you or your leadership pursue a growth mindset?
Safian noted that fast companies tend to embrace the growth mindset, namely the notion that there are always new areas to explore and develops skills in. While you may not become an expert in everything you attempt, a growth mindset believes that with hard work and a belief in achieving a new goal, you will find success. He cited two examples, the first being Shaun White, who, having gone from being top of his game in snowboarding to entering the professional skateboarding arena. Nokia is another example, for it was a company that went from one industry, tires, to an entirely different one, mobile phones. It’s now one of the top mobile phone producers in the world.
Consider these questions and how they apply to your and your company. Whether you’re truly a fast company or not, these are strategies that any business seeking long-term success needs to factor into its strategic planning.