What can Planners Learn from Startups?


‘Business management processes grounded in the 20th century simply won’t cut it in the machine learning age’. 

By Jack Carter, Untangled

As far as days go, there aren’t many as unwelcome as the one the world faced on 15 Sept. 2008. A decade has passed since the global financial crisis hit, an event whose fallout is still being felt today. Where many businesses were able to manoeuvre between the landmines of the crisis, many were unable to adapt in time. As a result, the nature of business today is far different from that of 2008.

Luke Flett

“Business has changed dramatically,” said Luke Flett, global client relationship director at event agency SPARK THINKING.

While the economy has rebounded, financial uncertainty has forced businesses to alter their models so that growth is plotted with extreme care, as if the next financial crash is just around the corner.

Ensuring a business’ viability while forecasting the next potential storm is tricky. That makes it easy to understand why startups, with their agile project management styles, are flourishing around the world. The nimble nature in which these companies operate means they are able to adapt to business and consumer trends much quicker, said Stephan Vogel, business development manager at global energy trading platform Lition.

“The pace of technological change is seemingly quickening (and) this is where established corporations can learn from startups. Business management processes grounded in the 20th century simply won’t cut it in the machine learning age,” Vogel said.

At SPARK THINKING, managing change is done by constantly asking where risks to the business come from and asking how, as an agency, you can respond creatively.
“We use a thought model to ask: What sort of change might affect us, how will that change be recognised, and what would be the implications on our business? If management are willing to do some creative thinking, and to ask the right questions, there might be a hidden opportunity that is risky but, if understood and prepared for, could create a real … opportunity,” Flett said.

Stephan Vogel

However, where consultancies and agencies tend to point to the growth of technology as the cause of today’s unprecedented changes, Flett said he believes that the real factors are a little harder to predict.

“For us it is more about change in social mores and social norms, all those things we tend to take for granted in life — the things that make up the backdrop, the flavour, and the colour of our everyday lives,” he said. “These changing social attitudes, such as our willingness to be part of a sharing economy ecosystem, through to our declining trust in governments, are the new disruptive forces that provide a source of fresh thinking and new ideas.”

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