I’m often providing detailed strategic guidance to senior executives and leaders on trends and the future, and certainly the economy has become a big part of what I address today. Much of my time is spent putting into perspective the fact that we’ve always had downturns; there’s still plenty of growth opportunities out there; innovation is even more critical now to ensure that you’re ready to go as the economy starts firing on both cylinders again (which it will.)
What has become evident is that the most pressing issue for leaders today is the focus. While volatility rocks global markets, there continue to be fundamental truths: your industry, products, competition, skills requirements, organizational capabilities, and ability to respond to rapid change will define your future success.
Here’s my advice on what you should be doing right now to ensure that you are ready for what comes next, based, in part, on a blog entry I wrote last April!
- think growth: It’s all too easy right now to lose your enthusiasm and sense of purpose. When economies contract, so too does your motivation. Don’t let that happen — now is the worst time to lose sight of the future! Think opportunity: study my “Where’s the Growth” document, and think about what it implies
- check your speed: it’s the high-velocity economy. Markets, brands, products, industries, competition, and globalization are changing faster than ever before. Make sure you’ve got a team that can operate at the pace of change. Agility is the key word. Search this blog for insight on that!
- immerse in ideas. The global idea cycle is collapsing. New ideas are launched, analyzed, and developed into products at a speed that is astonishing. Rapid product change is the new norm: I’m dealing with the CEO of one organization that is involved in a rapidly emerging, multi-billion dollar market that will appear, go super-nova, and disappear, over the course of about 18-24 months, before it is superseded by the next generation of product. That’s fast, and that’s a new reality.
- check your bench strength. After the cutting begins, the value goes out the door. Yet your ability to access ever more scarce, specialized skills will define your future success. It’s your ability to establish a fast, agile, quick-to-assemble collaborative team that will define your ability to grab all the opportunity that is emerging out there.
- assess your threats. where could emerging technologies, fast science, radical business models, new industry dynamics, new regulatory macroeconomic, political, or social trends impact your bottom line in a way that you hadn’t thought of before? Two years ago, China and quality wasn’t an issue.
- invest in the experience. Experiential capital — the depth of capability that you have from exploring, taking risks, trying things out — is the financial capital. It’s a precious resource and might be in short supply if you aren’t working to build it up.
- set the tone. If you let the current economic headlines drive your corporate spirit, you’re sunk. You have to keep people focused on the future — otherwise, your team will smell your fear. Leadership is all about keeping your team focused on opportunity and goals, not on ongoing and regular (“new normal” volatility.