How to Build Business Acumen into your Team

Team meetingIn a world of constant change, it’s important to know you have a team with the right commercial and business acumen. It can mean the difference between making decisions that lead to success or failure.

Defining acumen and its place in the business

Commercial acumen asks the question ‘how do we do what we currently do better?’. It considers the current competitive landscape and the things driving the market such as customer needs. It might include the next one to three years but usually the focus is on the next year or the next quarter.

Business acumen incorporates this mindset but also asks ‘what additional products and services could we offer that our customers might want/need in the future?’.

It looks further ahead and establishes the business models that will support the introduction of new products and services customers will need/demand in the future. The timescale is one to five years.

A lasting approach using simulations

Today’s complex world means that leaders must have people in the organisation who are capable of delivering the strategy. People who stay focused on the goals and can react to the market and keep driving profit.

However, it must also have people who are capable of assessing when the strategy is no longer fit for purpose and when being reactive might be detrimental to success, or slow it down.

New market opportunities, changing customer habits or interests, developments in technology all influence this and companies need to have teams who can read the clues and devise a long term strategy that delivers.

It’s therefore important there is a balance between commercial and business acumen.

However, it can be easier said than done as these skills can’t always be learnt from a text book. It takes experience, and sometimes failure, to hone them.

That’s why business simulations, where people can acquire and then practice the skills in a safe way, are a highly valuable way to address the problem.

Why? Well, simulations help to test fundamental attributes of acumen such as:

  • levels of knowledge, including how the organisation operates and the bigger picture that poses opportunity and risk
  • ability, including dealing with ambiguity, complexity and change in and outside of their control
  • and important skills like stakeholder management <diagram?>

At the end of a simulation the leadership team can see where there is strength and where there are weaknesses or gaps at a company level and by individual. It’s a great way to identify people who could be promoted or moved into roles they are better suited to but have never considered.

At the same time, it can help people see the value they bring to the organisation, and the contribution they will make to success.

Of course, it might also lead people to consider whether the organisation is still right for them and help them see their career should take a different path. It becomes a hugely positive experience to leave with this knowledge.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, simulations help to create and sustain a culture that is supportive of questioning the status quo and finding new profitable ways of doing business. It becomes natural to look at the world from both points of view and find the right course using market data and constructive debate.

As a result, commercial and business acumen is engrained into the company for good and the strategic imperatives are continually assessed and delivered.

It’s these skills that will encourage the right decisions about which technology to adopt, business models to use, new markets to compete in or whether to export into new territories and allow companies to compete successfully.

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