The ex-chair of Intel Andrew Grove says: "When a company faces an inflection point, its future might literally be at stake – the proper response leads to sustained growth, while inappropriate reactions often lead to obsolescence."
Our industry seems to be constantly facing inflection points. It is key to know which to react to in a strategic way and which to deal with tactically. The real secret is to know when an inflection point is happening in the first place. There are plenty of consultants that companies can hire who can advise a chief executive on this. My view is that the role of the chief strategy officer is to spot the inflection point before it happens and plan for a competitive advantage from it.
We also face inflection points in our personal lives that may or may not coincide with those of our industry. These can be harder to spot and harder to deal with. There are no corporate consultants for these, nor chief strategy officers to strategise for them. If you are heading now for the beach or a city break, maybe this is a good time to think about whether a personal inflection point is heading your way.
Last month, I was at The Society Club on Ingestre Street, an adorable gallery, bookshop and wine bar. It was the venue of the Wow Talks. Wow Talks are short, inspirational and interactive speeches that take place around London to an eclectic but incredibly charming audience. As well as the set of prepared speakers, of which I was one, the owner of the gallery was invited to give her story.
She talked about her own personal inflection point. When she’d decided that her first career wasn’t enough for her and wanted to change everything, she came to London to set up a new model in bookstores. Her view is that we get at least two inflection points each. One – an obvious one, really – is when we’re starting out. What made you join the advertising industry in the first place?
I know that, for me, my initial job as a TV buyer started as a stopgap between university and a barrister’s qualification. The inflection point came not then, but when I had to choose between continuing my job and being able to afford to leave home, or giving up the job to continue studying and living with my parents. The former seemed way more attractive at the time, and turned into a job that I love. I had to choose and I chose an entire career path based on what was, with perspective, a fairly short-term set of reasons.
What about the second inflection point? Have you had yours yet? A time when you, once again, throw everything up into the air and rethink your future. Is there a moment, as in the history of a company or an industry, when there is a permanent and enduring change that makes you face your future in a new way?
The personal inflection point may not always be welcome, but that doesn’t mean it won’t represent a bright and positive outcome if you react to it in the appropriate way. A new perspective on your next set of challenges might come about if you were to see them as your next inflection point for growth.
Sue Unerman is the chief strategy officer at MediaCom