The transportation industry has been changing rapidly for decades.
With all the disruption, it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always so. The transportation industry has undergone gradual evolution for most of its modern history, from incremental improvements to industry staples like airplanes and automobiles.
Times are different.
From autonomous vehicles to space exploration and blockchain logistics, the pace and intensity of disruption has accelerated.
What makes recent changes fundamentally different is that the boundaries of the industry itself are blurring, tightly linking transportation to other industries like technology, energy and risk management. It could be argued that there is no longer a “transportation industry”.
This presents a challenge for transport leaders.
Blurring of industry boundaries will require transportation leaders to be comfortable with “living on the borders,” taking advantage of disruptions in different industries to find new ways to create value for customers. But that is precisely the problem. One of the biggest obstacles to becoming an effective frontier is the “knowledge curse”. The knowledge curse is when we allow industry orthodoxies to hamper our ability to create innovative value for customers.
The transportation industry is changing rapidly. Are you?
Here are three key skills every leader needs to strengthen to ensure that their organizations not only survive, but also thrive through rapid change:
Ask more and better questions
Richard Branson once said that “innovation happens when people have the freedom to ask questions and the resources and the power to find the answers.” Leaders need to encourage – and model – the use of questions to challenge orthodoxies and industry processes. One of the most powerful questions one can ask is, “What if we do it all over again today?” What would we do differently in our organization? Why?
Feel the pain
A mentor once told me, “Don’t innovate. Solve problems. ”That’s powerful advice.
Too often we focus on being ‘innovative’ and lose sight of the ultimate goal of innovation: solving stakeholder problems. Cross-border commuters spend time with their stakeholders to better understand their world and to feel their pain. Do something unconventional – maybe spend a day working in your client’s operations or interviewing frontline workers about their day-to-day issues.
Experiment, experiment, experiment
When you feel there might be a better solution to a problem, let the data speak by harnessing the power of small experiments.
Frontier dwellers know that most of the time, “disruptive” innovation happens through a series of lessons learned from small experiences. Don’t focus on being the next Uber or Tesla by betting everything on a potential home run. Uber and Tesla didn’t!
No one can predict exactly where the transportation industry is going. However, armed with a “frontier” mentality, leaders can be assured that wherever they go they will be ready.
Drew Yancey, PhD, is a partner at InCite Performance Group, where he helps large organizations create new avenues for growth in rapidly changing markets. His career began in the transportation industry as Director of Strategy for one of the Top 50 Foodservice Distributors, helping lead the business through its acquisition by one of the Top Five Distributors. After that, he became CEO and led the turnaround of a product merchandising and logistics company. He then worked as a consultant at Clareo, advising Fortune 500 companies in various industries. Drew holds a Masters of Divinity from Denver Seminary, an MBA from Texas A&M University and a PhD from the University of Birmingham (UK).