A million reasons why you shouldn’t put your customer first (or second)

Brace for impact

If you are dig-your-heels-in adamant that prioritizing your customer is the most effective way to maximise sustainable growth, now would be a good time to check your footing. Because effective though it is as a ‘cultural value’, it’s not the most effective. In fact, it doesn’t even come close.

Those in the know

Strategy consultants Cognosis have published a white paper that leverages MIT Sloan’s 500 Culture research based on responses from over a million people. Cognosis analysed the financial performance of 100 companies over 15 years, assessing them based on their most important cultural value.

Of 9 values identified, 2 stood out from the crowd:

Organisations that prioritised ‘innovation’ above all others delivered more than double the revenue growth of e.g. ‘customer’, ‘collaboration’ or ‘performance ’ led organisations. Impressive, but unfortunately they also actually decreased their ROI% in the longterm.

However, those organisations whose most important cultural value was ‘Adaptability’ (or Adaptability Intelligence as we call it) delivered the highest revenue growth. And they doubled their ROI%.

And that’s not even the punchline

Overall, the organisations in the study ranked adaptability as their lowest competency. In fact, they were 20 times more positive about their customer, diversity, innovation and collaboration abilities than they were about their adaptability.

So here’s the point:

The skillset that delivers by far the most value-add to the bottom line is the one that organisations possess the least.

Cognosis calls this the ‘Adaptability Gap’ (in the same way that the Grand Canyon or the ideology of North vs. South Korea could be called ‘gaps’). So let’s peer over the ledge.


To hold on to your customers, let go of them

Is the Cognosis report concluding that the customer doesn’t matter so much any more? Not at all. But I reckon the only way to demonstrate enduring love for your customer is by adapting to the shifting sands of their needs and wants. After all, who wants to be in a relationship that isn’t moving forwards? Whatever the height of the pedestal you put your customer on, if you can’t adapt to change, they’ll change their pedestal.

What about collaboration then? Well, I reckon it’s never been more important to link arms to face an increasingly volatile future. However, those who become world-class collaborators but only unite in defence of the status quo will all become irrelevant together.

And innovation? It’s unquestionably key to sustainable growth. But unless you have the adaptability to hunt for opportunities and manage threats quickly, you risk innovating in a vacuum, or executing too slowly. Or both.

Adaptability Intelligence unlocks everything

But with adaptability as your first priority in developing your people and your culture, everything else you value will follow. And at High Performance Change, we have data of our own to back that: for example, raising the Adaptability Intelligence of a client’s leadership team resulted in 76% of them reporting increased levels of collaboration, and 80% reporting increased levels of innovation.

Here’s the takeaway

The evidence is clear, the verdict is simple: If you want to maximise your revenue and ROI, raise your Adaptability Intelligence.

To find out more, check out www.highperformancechange.com, and I look forward to connecting with you soon!

And thanks and kudos to Cognosis for their insight.