3 minute read 28 Mar 2018
corporate agility woman practicing yoga

Why businesses should take inspiration from yoga

By

Kristina Rogers

EY Global Consumer Leader

Global leader for consumer industries. Marketing strategist. Worked in 20 countries. Harvard MBA. Photographer. Scuba diver. Canadian fiction reader. Mother of two.

3 minute read 28 Mar 2018

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Large organizations that seek to become more agile might consider an alternative approach to gaining flexibility and a holistic view.

With its Frog Poses, Elephant Trunks and Downward Facing Dogs, a yoga class can be a baffling place for a beginner. But there’s one move every first-timer can manage. You lie flat on your back, arms at your side and stay completely still. It’s called Savasana – the Corpse Pose.

Learning how to lay motionless might not sound like a great use of time for a busy executive; if you made a list of what it takes to win in today’s fast-disrupting industry, dynamism would be right near the top.

But reflecting on the 2016 Consumer Goods Forum, which took place in South Africa and focused on “seizing opportunities in the face of disruption,” I think a few minutes spent contemplating the possible benefits of some “corporate yoga” would prove a good investment – in the consumer products (CP) industry and other industries as well.

There’s more to success than slimming down

Many CP executives have done a great job in recent years to boost their organizational “wellness.” They’ve become leaner by stripping out unwanted cost. But as they would learn in a yoga class, a leaner body is not necessarily a healthy body. From the more holistic perspective you get when you’re sitting on a foam mat breathing deeply, a strong corporate body is also one that is flexible and in balance.

For a long time, this industry valued the exact opposite. When markets were stable and consumer trends were more predictable, great advantages could flow from corporate rigidity. But today it’s more of a liability than an asset. An EY survey revealed nearly two-thirds (68%) of CP companies said they need to make significant changes to their business operations. And three quarters (74%) felt they needed to be bolder in tackling the challenges of sustained growth.

Find your rigidity and let go

Established players look with envy at the supple young start-ups that are taking their business and winning customers. But there’s a lot they can do to regain their composure through being more flexible.

Each yoga class includes a quick “body scan” – you identify stiff joints, tight muscles and other points of rigidity, and work to make them more flexible. It’s a useful discipline that CP companies could learn from.

For example, is your portfolio weighed down with baggage? Brands create their own backstories in terms of loyalty, legacies, headcounts and history. Some of this is valuable. But it can become baggage, making it hard to manage-out underperforming brands, even if they’re steadily losing shelf space or share of wallet. CP companies must confront the idea that they might have to get smaller before they can get bigger again.

They shouldn’t be afraid to prune their portfolios when some products no longer fly off the shelves.

Or are you suffering with resource rigidity? The world is awash with sophisticated tools covering everything from big data analytics to executive dashboards and social media sentiment analysis. Yet many companies still favor cost-cutting over investment in innovation; they lack the flexibility needed to keep cost and investment in balance.

Companies that don’t shed their rigidity now and embrace innovation fast will lose out to rivals that can embrace disruption. As anyone who has tried yoga knows, toned and muscular is great, but you can’t beat flexibility. Organizations that don’t have it will be stuck in the Corpse Pose.

This blog was originally published on LinkedIn, July 2016, under the headline “Flex to Success: Taking the Values of Yoga to the Consumer Products Boardroom.”

Summary

Similar to the holistic perspective you get when sitting and breathing deeply, a strong corporate body is both flexible and in balance.

About this article

By

Kristina Rogers

EY Global Consumer Leader

Global leader for consumer industries. Marketing strategist. Worked in 20 countries. Harvard MBA. Photographer. Scuba diver. Canadian fiction reader. Mother of two.