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Agility and Adaptability in a company

The importance of being agile and adaptive

adaptability agility Jan 06, 2021

By Nick Bottai – Co-Founder/Director @ The Marketing Leaders Ltd.


It doesn't matter if we are speaking about physical or mental agility. The principle is the same: do a variety of things and be ready to face a variety of threats.

Think like an athlete...

Scenario 1. Every day for one year you run a track with the same obstacles. In the end, you are skilled to face THOSE obstacles. But what happens if the next day you find a new one? You probably fall because your brain is trained to do the same thing over and over again. You probably have the ability to do this track blinded but you are not ready for any changes.


Scenario 2. Every day you run a stage and every day the obstacles change. At the end of the year, you are skilled to REACT QUICKLY. But what happens if the next day you find a new one? Nothing different! You are well trained to face unexpected obstacles. Your brain is trained to look, understand, and react quickly and it’s ready for the changes and to use them as opportunities.


When you have to train for your career, you can choose what athlete you want to be.


Are we speaking about people or companies? Both!


Have you ever heard of Blockbuster? A leader in their industry, they were a global organisation. But the market changed: internet, YouTube, on-demand and Netflix. In 2000 Netflix CEO offered Blockbuster to acquire Netflix and he received a laugh as a reply. Blockbuster closed in 2010 and its value was $64 million. Netflix value was $28 Billion! Think about Blockbuster today IF they decided to buy or even better if they developed (they had all the resources) an online market.


1889 — George Eastman founded the Eastman Kodak Company

2012 — Kodak filed for bankruptcy

Kodak failed to embrace a new business model, to understand and adapt to the digital era. In the same year Kodak filed for bankruptcy, Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion.


Do you know Bill Gates? And do you know what is his biggest mistake?

This is what he said: “the greatest mistake ever is the whatever mismanagement I engaged in that caused Microsoft not to be what Android is, Android is the standard non-Apple phone form platform. That was a natural thing for Microsoft to win.”

Microsoft had the resources, human, know-how, and finances. It just took the wrong decisions. “and what's that worth? $400 billion that would be transferred from company G [Google] to company M [Microsoft]”


These companies (and many others) were not able to forecast the future, they weren't agile, and they do not exist anymore.


They were the athlete in Scenario 1 and their employees were the same. The best in their market BUT the market today changes very, very fast and they were not agile. And a company is made by people, If the people in the company are not agile, the company is the same.

"We always did like this"

People are scared of changes. "We want someone expert in this industry"... and so on. Today it doesn’t work anymore. Today everything is so fast that the more you are prepared, the better you can face the market. Because if your competitors take advantage of it, you can be the next Blockbuster, or Kodak, and so on…


Stop being the athlete in Scenario 1. Try to be the one in Scenario 2 and if you can't, when you build your team, be sure to include also the athlete from Scenario 2.


If you are a player in today's market, you have to play with today's rules. If you play with 90’ rules, you are the best candidate to be the next to fall.


The life-cycle of products and companies is shorter than 30 years ago. My best advice is: change with the changes. Why not adapt? Because if you adapt it means you do not change, it means you are the same and adapt to something different!


Change the market, change the industry, change the role. Learn and understand as much as possible from different markets and industries and you'll keep your mind agile and open.

Changes often offer opportunities. Embrace them and find your way!

And to finish I’ll share with you a personal experience.

Last Christmas I wanted to eat something from Tuscany since the pandemic prevented me to go back to my family.

As the first step, I went looking for some famous brands… “online shop error 404”

Then I Googled “food specialities Siena online shop” (in Italian but let’s use English for the purpose of the article). The SERP was about 534,000 results, but it’s fine since I used a very specific area. However, the websites didn’t satisfy me because:

  • Only Italian delivery
  • Overpriced
  • Products not from Siena
  • Products and brands I never heard about

I was disappointed but for sure I didn’t give up. After browsing 5 google pages, I changed the query, I changed the approach and I searched for “online store Siena typical products”. The word I used is typical referred to neighbourhood shops.

BINGO! I found a small shop, in the heart of Siena that offered the products I wanted: Antica Drogheria Manganelli (

UK delivery… in English… and REAL typical products. I was really surprised as a small shop was offering services big brands didn't.

The business model of this little shop is as much easy as creative. It has local products collected from other local shops: bakeries, wineries, butchers… So, instead of having a lot of small shops, it’s all in one.

A real good example of networking, creativity, and adaptability. Like many other local shops, they faced the changes in the markets and they adapted brilliantly, increasing their business and breaking the geographic barriers selling not only locally but internationally.


Find the opportunities in the changes!


More articles about Agility and Adaptability are available at the Knowledge House, which is reserved to The Marketing Leaders' FULL Members.