Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Meshing innovation, product development and production, marketing and sales as a virtuous cycle 6

Posted in business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 4, 2017

This is my sixth installment to a series in which I reconsider cosmetic and innovative change as they impact upon and even fundamentally shape the product design and development, manufacturing, marketing, distribution and sales cycle, and from both the producer and consumer perspectives (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2, postings 342 and loosely following for Parts 1-5.)

I focused in Part 5 on a restaurant example, where that business’ owner had decided to pursue a farm to table approach as the defining vision of their restaurant. Earlier, in Part 3 I offered a restaurant-oriented example of a downward vicious cycle, that fits a pattern that I have come to call a restaurant death spiral, where loss of business leads to cost cutting and corner cutting that in turn drives away customers and creates still greater loss – with that pattern repeating until the restaurant finishes failing. Think of the Part 3 scenario of this series as background and prelude for a Part 5 change of direction recovery here, for the level of urgency and determination that that would bring a business owner to, in order to avoid repeating what might in any way be viewed as returning to a lessons-learned failed path.

• What do the two business model approaches of Parts 3 and 5 have in common? Any realistic answer to that would have to include a rigidity that can create vulnerability and certainly in the face of the unexpected, and increased risk in any case, and certainly when the Part 5 scenario is pushed to its logical pure-play extreme.

And this brings me to the set of issues that I would at least begin address here in this posting, as encapsulated in this following set of bullet points:

1. Discussing what businesses respond to, and in the specific context of this series, as they respond in patterns of decision and action, review and further decision and action that can have recurringly cyclical elements to them.
2. And it means addressing how they would respond at a higher level strategic and overall operational level and not just at a day-to-day, here-and-now details level, and certainly if they do so effectively.
3. In anticipation of that point, I cite agility and resiliency as organizational goals – and as buffering mechanisms against the down-sides of change. I have already touched on this set of issues (e.g. in Part 5) but will return to further consider it in light of my discussion of the above Points 1 and 2.

I begin with Point 1 of that list, and with the point that the two just-referenced case study examples hold in common: their inflexibility and what it is grounded in.

• Business owners who pursue a Part 3 scenario or analogous approach to running their business, generally seem to be pursuing known and easy more than anything else, and with a goal of limiting risk from avoiding forays into what for them would be the unknown and unfamiliar.
• Business owners who pursue a more purely Part 5 scenario or analogous approach to running their business, do so with a goal of never, ever again risking falling into a known failed pattern: a once followed easy but long-term dangerous trap like the restaurant death spiral. And when I posit a Part 5 approach as a break-away from that downward spiral and with all of the pain that it had caused, the pressures to pursue their new course can be very intense.

Rigidity and the resulting fragility that it can engender, arise in both of these scenarios. And addressing the questions of what businesses respond to, and both one-off and as a matter of developing cyclically recurring processes, has to begin with a deeper understanding of goals and priorities and of what really should be added into the basic business mission and vision where that has to be fundamentally reconsidered.

Let’s consider the farm to table, local-only sourcing restaurant of Part 5. They started out pursuing this approach after what their owner came to see as a near death experience for their restaurant dream and for their own personal financial wellbeing too. And they began to see some real success from this as their business began to flourish. Then they hit a wall in the form of locally sourced supplies limitations that arose from really challenging weather and crop loss for the farms they would buy from. And this leads me to a fundamental question.

• Does this restaurant owner seek to run a locally sourcing farm to table restaurant only and with that their one and only mission defining goal?
• Or do they seek to provide the best food possible from the best ingredients possible where that might usually mean buying and using local and from specific partner business farms – but where they would selectively deviate from that when necessary for maintaining both quality of food and the variety that they would want on their menus?
• What, ultimately, are their operational and process-based priorities there?
• And what are the actual priorities of their customers and of their potential customers who would be drawn to quality, and even if they see value in farm to table and local sourcing where possible?

Transparency and openness are important here, in what such a restaurant offers its customers and in how it describes and explains and markets itself. And the same can be said for openness in how this restaurant maintains connection with and support for the local farms and dairies and other largely family owned and run enterprises that they began turning to when first becoming a farm to table restaurant. It is important to note here that farm to table restaurants do not just approach a within-organization business model and its requirements when pursuing that approach. They join a community with their family owned small farm and dairy providers that can become both mutually supportive and mutually rewarding and for all involved.

I am writing about marketing and communications here, but more importantly I am writing about a rethinking of what a business does and how, and with the necessary selectively expressed flexibility needed to address and surmount challenges. And yes, this might even mean buying premium quality canned Italian tomatoes or buying distantly grown ones – whichever would best meet the restaurant’s quality criteria and needs, until locally grown can be freshly available again. (I noted in Part 5 that elements of this scenario are now dated by the improvement of long-distance transportation, and even for ripe produce and at good costs at point of delivery. But I offer this example and continue developing it here because basic decisions with their competing alternative resolutions still arise and will continue to do so, as change and the unexpected force reconsideration and decisions, and in ways that might be novel to the business model in place. And the farm to table ethic of buying local and supporting local producers where ever possible, has to be taken into account here too.)

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment with Point 2 of my above-repeated topics list. And in anticipation of that, I note here that I will begin that line of discussion where I finished this posting, at a point where decisions have to be made that can be grounded in business ethics and related terms and in how a business and its owners enter into and participate in larger communities that only begin with their customers and their potential customer bases. I will discuss this in the context of meeting strategic and operational needs within a business, to keep it viable and profitably robust. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. And see also Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 continuation.

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