Rise Above the Echo Chamber

Here are five strategies to shift your focus from immediate results to long-term, sustainable growth.

The marketplace can feel like an echo chamber where the only opinions on company performance simply align with whether the latest quarterly report missed, met or exceeded expectations.

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Success comes from intentional, disciplined efforts to think differently.

But it’s not that simple. Winning in the market today requires balancing current business strategy — both in good times and bad — with the limitless possibilities tied to emerging technologies and evolving consumer demands.

Growth companies soar above market expectations because quarterly feedback is just one data point in their success narratives. They turn the volume down on the echo chamber and focus instead on explosive growth.

In my experience, it’s courageous leaders, willing to experiment and even fail, who pave the path to sustainable growth. Success is rarely a byproduct of conformity — it comes from intentional, disciplined efforts to think differently.

Here are a five strategies to encourage divergent thinking and keep your organization laser focused on growth.

      Reduce reverberation.

Reverberation is the collection of reflected sounds from the surfaces of an enclosure. In other words, it’s an echo.

In an echo chamber, messages are reinforcing because they are merely reflections of the same messages repeated. One of the most effective ways to reduce reverberation is by absorption, which is merely introducing barriers between a sound source and a reflective point.

Sometimes it’s necessary to create meaningful distance between the vagaries of the marketplace and the business units most engaged in experimentation, exploration, failing fast, divergent thinking and other innovative activities. This creates a safe space for growth-oriented strategy development.

UPS engages a community of thought leaders called BrightBrown. Led by UPS Vice President of Innovation David Lee, BrightBrown brings together a cross functional group of thinkers to ask results-oriented questions like: What are the facts? What are my assumptions? And what is possible? 

By filtering some market influences from these discussions, we inspire courageous and diverse thought.

      Do what customers want.

Implicit to any business decision is the assumption that the target customer needs or wants the resulting benefit of the decision. Growth companies remain hyper focused on customer wants regardless of whether it’s essential to existing business.

Nonessential business today may become essential tomorrow. Courageous organizations build cultural excitement around ever-expanding opportunities to align the business with customer wants and readily allocate resources to explore and develop new customer-focused solutions.

UPS showcased this focus with the launch of Ware2Go, an asset-light service aimed at connecting merchants and distributors by matching available warehouse space and fulfillment services with merchants who need to get their online orders to customers.

In thinking broadly and deeply about customer wants, growth companies will explore every opportunity for new business and revenue streams. With a growth paradigm, keeping the customer first inspires every subsequent action.

      Leverage innovation.

As technologies emerge, growth companies will identify customer needs and deliver solutions that leverage new innovations in profitable ways.

Blockchain, automation, 5G, artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies are making the impossible, possible. Refining the most profitable methods of implementing these new technologies will require investment and exploration.

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Growth companies identify customer needs and deliver solutions that leverage new innovations.

UPS, in collaboration with Matternet, recently rolled out the first-ever commercial drone delivery of medical samples in the United States. The drone program at the WakeMed Hospital campus in Raleigh, North Carolina, was not only a watershed moment for patients but also a turning point for the entire transportation industry.

Only through the iterative process of rapid failure — followed by explosive success — can divergent voices in a crowded market win big. A growth paradigm recognizes the immeasurable value of emerging technology, and a growth company invests in the refinement of its profitable use.

      Protect your reputation.

The quality of core products and services form the foundation of any successful enterprise. Companies engaged in paradigm-challenging work don’t risk everything and accept spectacular failure for the sake of risk alone.

To the contrary, being courageously divergent means accepting risk as a part of business life — it’s certainly preferable to a predictable playbook each quarter focused only on short-term results.

A growth company cultivates a reputation for shrewd and proactive business moves based on the best investments given the available information.

The soft drink industry, for example, weathered several years of disappointing performance as consumers moved from large, sugary drinks to healthier alternatives. Today, a variety of diet and low-calorie options line store shelves.

Lower margins, as well as reputation considerations, fueled the enhanced product offerings. Growth companies always have reputation in mind and weigh immediate risk versus long-term disaster.

      Build systems around fearless communication.

An open door is useless if no one walks through it. So are ideas without action.

Growth companies create sustainable feedback loops with customers by continuously producing customer-facing solutions in direct response to specific feedback. Customers involved in the development process often beta test solutions and serve as a sounding board.

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Reward customers for their candid feedback by constantly improving products and services.

Growth companies reward customers for their candid feedback by constantly improving products and services. Similarly, courageous companies always focus on leveraging the best ideas.

For example, internal feedback led UPS to create one of the largest patent portfolios in the logistics industry.

On the subject of feedback, a colleague who works for an e-commerce marketplace told me simply: We are data driven — there is never a concern with escalating a conversation based on data.

Growth companies embrace data-driven decisions and leave little room for politics in the pursuit of satisfying customer demands.

Make history

Unwavering devotion to growth is the definition of courage in a marketplace driven by quarterly results. Such companies foster environments where divergent voices redefine what’s possible.

They systematically build organizations and processes around a mindset of perpetual growth — from hiring talent to sharing feedback. They foster creative thought while maintaining a high level of excellence in legacy business operations.

Companies with an eye on the future that embrace these five strategies will rise above the pitfalls of the echo chamber. They’ll plot their own course. And the lucky few, they’ll make history.

Andrew Cooper is the Chief Legal Officer and Department Manager for UPS Airlines. He is responsible for overseeing legal matters and developing strong, cooperative government partnerships.

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