Insurgence in Action: Lessons from the 2016 US Presidential Election
Donald Trump shocked the world by defeating Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US Presidential Election. He will become the 45th President of the United States upon inauguration on January 20, 2017. While this moment is surreal for many in the global citizenry, especially for those living in the US, it should serve as a blaring siren or wake-up call for business leaders in established companies, also called incumbents.
Donald Trump first stunned most of us by ascending to the top of the Republican ticket as its standard bearer, after besting a field of sixteen other rivals, including several sitting and former senators and governors. With no prior political experience, the billionaire real-estate mogul and star of the popular reality show, “The Apprentice”, whose celebrity has been built on making “You’re Fired” a household catchphrase, will take the reigns as the leader of the free world. In a political environment traditionally dominated by establishment politicians and incumbents, Donald Trump stepped into the void created by the two major parties. As an outsider, his unorthodox campaign tapped into a portion of the electorate’s fears and anxiety caused by job losses due to America’s open trade policies and the global recession, and by changing demographics.
Lessons from the Trump campaign and his ultimate victory are instructive for companies in search of growth.
- Get a reality check. Incumbents are mired in complacency and unable to breakout of the status quo despite the increasing onslaught of disruptive market forces. They must be realistic and accept the need for change.
- Play offense, not defense. Incumbents can win by showing courage and confronting imminent threats from insurgents. Those non-traditional companies, including start-ups and companies outside their industries, leverage new business models and capabilities to address unmet and evolving market needs.
- Get close to customers. Insurgents operate on a perpetual learning curve as it relates to customers. Two core capabilities most common among insurgents are: understanding of the customer; and flexibility. They possess a deep understanding of customer needs and insist on putting customers first at all stages of the product lifecycle. If Incumbents continue to operate in business-as-usual mode without the same 360- degree view of their customers, it is only a matter of time before they, like Blockbuster, Kodak and others, are diminished or become extinct.
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