‘Slow’ trend creates new opportunities
Companies should look to reflect the desire for a better work-life balance.
The value of a slow-paced, leisurely lifestyle has gained greater importance in this fast-changing world, creating a state where “economies of speed” and the value of taking things “slow” coexist in ironic circumstance. Consumers learning to live more slowly are also more satisfied and find better balance between work and life. They indulge in the pleasures of leading a slower life by taking breaks or adopting simpler lifestyles than they did in the past.
People living in urban areas have also become more attracted to life away from the overworked, highly competitive city setting, preferring to live closer to nature. In addition, people are adopting healthier lifestyles with much more enthusiasm.
From a business perspective, this “slow” trend can provide various new opportunities. But it poses a threat at the same time, because it forces businesses to change existing management practices. For this reason, firms should explore opportunities tied to incorporating the trend into conventional business.
There are four promising business areas that stand to profit most.
First are businesses that place value in time. For example, Maersk, a leading shipping company, has reduced costs by halving the cruising speed of its container ships. And Louis Vuitton has maintained its lofty reputation by continuing to make its products by hand, despite the greater efficiency tied to mass-production methods.
Moleskine, a company that produces diaries and notebooks, is gaining popularity once again as the manual recording of data makes a comeback in line with the “slow” trend.
Businesses that aim to enrich living spaces also stand to gain from this trend. The recently designated “slow city” of Jeung Island boasts large expanses of mud flats, salt fields and wetlands.
The third promising business area involves the provision of mental relaxation. For instance, U.S.-based Umpqua Bank completely revamped its traditional reputation tied to high technology, expediency and trust into a modern image of comfort and friendliness.
That translated into an increase in the bank’s investments and helped it outpace its rivals.
Lastly, businesses that promote a healthier lifestyle seem well positioned to take advantage of the “slow” trend. For instance, Akinori Kimura’s “miracle apples” have been a huge success in Japan because they are completely organic and do away with the use of pesticides and fertilizers.
Companies should incorporate this “slow” trend into finding more time-efficient management practices. With an overemphasis on speed comes problems in the form of low quality, overused management resources and low levels of innovation.
Slower management addresses the need for companies to improve creativity and employee satisfaction, combining the traditional corporate value of time-efficient management (e.g., high production efficiency and performance-oriented management) with the values of slow management (e.g., low time pressure, greater employee autonomy and work-life balance).
Specifically, companies should boost creativity by acknowledging that innovative ideas take time to develop and require a level of autonomy. Another way of increasing employee creativity is by maximizing employee satisfaction via “rest and recharge” programs.
In addition, more effort should be placed on upgrading product quality through tighter process controls.
Lastly, companies should improve their corporate images by promoting the value of taking things slowly.
Companies should note that the desire to lead a slower lifestyle continues to grow as technology advances and competition rises. They should take into account the “slow” trend when planning new businesses, breaking the old habit of searching only for things that are faster and newer.
CEOs should successfully transplant slower management into their organizations through their corporate philosophies and leadership.
On the government side, slow businesses should be fostered so as to improve quality of life and the competitiveness of the service industry.
By doing this, local areas which remain underdeveloped compared to their urban peers can take advantage of a larger pool of opportunities.
*Joo Young-min is a research fellow in the Public Policy Research Department at the Samsung Economic Research Institute. For more SERI reports, please visit www.seriworld.org.
By Joo Young-min