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Quote #01

Who says it can't be done?

Arthur D. Little

What does it mean?

Arthur D. Little loved a challenge. His response of “Who says it can’t be done?”, when asked whether it was possible to literally create a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, represents all that we stand for. Throughout our 130-year history, we have been driven to solve intractable issues, challenging us and our clients to turn the unimagined into reality.

Why do we believe it's important?

It is easy to believe that we live in a world of almost insurmountable challenges, whether it is globally with climate change, societally with the challenges posed by ageing populations, or corporately with the seeming inability of large and successful organisations to transform in response to digitally empowered customers. In the face of these challenges, our response has to be based on a belief that changes and improvements can be enacted, and this starts with a mindset – A mindset that is unprepared to accept the status quo or accept the immutability of challenges – A mindset that supports boldness, bravery and learning – A mindset that fundamentally believes ‘it can be done’!

How do we put it into practice?

We always seek to challenge conventional thinking, where it is either self-evidently going to fail or where it may even already have been tried and failed. We work with leaders to consider what they would need to believe in order to accept radical alternatives, and then become the agents of the change, managing the inevitable disruption this causes within the organisation. We inevitably find there is a need for both Agency and Pathway when driving successful change. That is, self-belief to take a radical approach; KPIs to back that belief and permission to act; plus clarity around the initial steps on a plausible route to success. We have a proven approach to help companies achieve this, with minimal viable analysis, rigorous creativity to determine problem and solution hypotheses, then a total focus on action and feedback. Critically, we remain fully issue-centric and solution agnostic at all times. We don't define the problem statement to match our existing capabilities, rather, we assemble the right capabilities to solve the true problem.

When faced with a client’s urgent $50 million problem and no apparent answer to address, one of our clients took a bold decision. They chose not to refine their forecasts downward and accept the issue may take 2-3 years to address, which could have been explained away as "this is just the way it is". Instead, they opted to see if something radical could be achieved. Customer feedback meant the company had less than six months to make a fundamental intervention to customer experience, across a complex set of digital products, or face losing significant business to competitors. Through a process of rigorous creativity, within 6 weeks we identified a novel way forward - totally new thinking on operations and technology for the company - which went into market operation a further 10 weeks later. Together with the client, we delivered on Arthur D. Little’s original call to action.

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