Rethinking Industry Dynamics: What’s your Velocity Regime?

I have often thought that the emphasis on speed and “now-ness” that the digital world encourages is not reflected in many industries actual experience of business -i.e. their customers are living in many non-synchronized time scales – such as that of their nostalgia -yearning for times when things were made “better” e.g. appliances that could be repaired vs tossed for new ones, and returning to their youth e.g. sales of 60’s rock stars, contrasted with the consumers societies drive for the latest gadgets and cars etc. How slowly we actually adopt new ideas- such as reduced consumption, change eating habits or adopt new washing powder. There is a disconnect here that this post from It Depends – Ian McCarthy’s Blog and diagram make explicit:

“Competitive advantages are temporary, especially in fast changing industries. A cover of Business Week magazine asks “Is Your Company Fast Enough?”, and there are scores of popular business books and magazines with titles such as “Fast Company”, “Business @ the Speed of Thought”, and “The Age of Speed”. Such publications suggest that in fast moving industry environments, speed, and in particular being fast, is an important factor in the creation and erosion of competitive advantage.

In an article entitled “A Multidimensional Conceptualization of Environmental Velocity”, that I authored with colleagues Thomas Lawrence, Brian Wixted, and Brian Gordon, we present a framework that dispels this notion that speed always leads to business success.”

Figure 1: Conflicted Velocity Regime for the Fashion Apparel Industry

When faced with such a velocity regime, it is misguided to focus on designing and managing a business that is uniformly fast. What’s important is determining your “velocity regime” – the multiple different rates and directions of change in your world – and then ensuring that different business activities are organized and coordinated to effectively respond to these different velocities.

For a detailed description of Figure 1, and the concept of the velocity regimes, please go to the full article. We provide illustrative industry examples and measures for determining your velocity regimes.

Adapted from: McCarthy, I.P., Lawrence, T.B., Wixted, B., and Gordon, B. 2010. A Multidimensional conceptualization of environmental velocity. Academy of Management Review, 35(4), 604-626.

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