Rethinking Business, Breaking Patterns and Disrupting the Industry


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 Fast Company’s Robert Safian emphasized the value of adaptability in today’s business environment.
Returning to the stage as the 2013 Vision Monday Global Leadership Summit keynote speaker was Robert Safian, editor and managing director of Fast Company, who expanded upon his 2012 address to touch upon this year’s themes of creativity and innovation.

As the leader of a publication that focuses primarily on the inventive minds behind pioneer companies, it came as no surprise that Safian would discuss topics like reinvention, imagination and, perhaps the most significant of all, adaptation.

His energetic presentation began with a piece of advice: that audience members rethink their business model. “It’s easy for us to resist change,” Safian said. “It’s harder for us to embrace it. I encourage you to embrace it.”

Today’s business leaders, Safian said, are able to succeed due to their constant willingness and ability to adjust and transform. His term for this, Generation Flux, refers to a diverse group of business leaders who embrace the instability of modern industry and are able to thrive in an environment of change.

“No matter how the world changes, you adapt with it,” said Safian. “We’re living in a mobile, social, global, interconnected world. The old rules of business are out—and there are no new ones.”

To view video highlights of this session, click here.

In support of this theory, Safian cited examples of business leaders from a range of companies, from independent start-ups to established conglomerates, who embrace this culture of change. Along with “obvious” Generation Flux members like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, Safian drew similarities between innovators like Dennis Crowley, founder of Foursquare, who “reinvented” the way mobile users share their location with his social “check-in” site; Mark Parker, CEO of Nike, who embraces and encourages creativity by periodically redecorating his office or incorporating an idea from a junior company member; and Millard “Mickey” Drexler, president of J Crew, who visits J Crew locations to question and restructure store layout and presentation by shouting directions over a public intercom.

“There is unprecedented change happening throughout all industry,” Safian said. “You’re only as good as your next product. Keep moving your business forward.”

Safian pointed out the need to always look ahead rather than hold on to methods of the past. “Don’t be nostalgic for what you did before simply because it’s what you did before,” he said. “Be conscious about why you’re keeping your business model,” he said.

Safian’s examples communicated three overarching messages: “take your ideas from everybody,” or allow a shared platform of talents and capabilities; “redefine the corner office,” meaning decision makers must be willing to integrate new ideas into the core, not the outskirts, of their business model; and “edit and amplify,” implying companies should focus on their strengths and let go of dated approaches.

He closed his address with brief, but sound words of advice. “Rethink. Break patterns. Disrupt the industry.”