How do you prepare people for the future, if they have no interest in it?
That might seem an interesting question, but I’ve come to the conclusion, after dealing with hundreds of industries and thousands of executives and professionals, that there are quite a few people out there who love the sentiment once professed by Ogden Nash: “progress is great but it’s gone on way too long.”
I’ve learned that there are two types of business executives: those who think about the future quite a bit and who are very forward-oriented in their thinking. They are very innovative, realistic, creative, and open to new ways of thinking, because they are actively preparing for rapid change in terms of skills, markets and industry fundamentals.
Then there are others who are stuck in the status quo.
Once you get into the idea that everything around you is changing at a furious pace, and you had better adapt to it, you might consider doing something about it. This might include ‘change-quotient’ inventory of your organization. If your people are hopelessly mired in the issues of “today” and aren’t thinking how their market and industry will be changing tomorrow, then you’ve got a pretty big problem.
How do you determine the change-quotient? Focus on these issues:
- velocity ratio: What is the rate of change within your industry? What’s the velocity of business model change? How many new competitors are there, and how quickly is the industry blurring as they come into play? What’s the staff turnover rate? How quickly do new products come to market?
- the rate of ‘rising tides‘: How quickly are customer expectations changing? If you’re in an industry in which there are rapidly rising tides in terms of minimum service delivery, you’ve got an industry in which there are countless opportunities for innovative, future oriented products and processes.
- innovation index: Is the industry widely innovative, or are there only a few scattered folks who dare buck the current reality? Is everyone in the industry generally stuck in the past, or is there a widespread focus on the future, with a lot of innovative activity as a result?
- retirement rate: Not to be crude, but how many boomers are there hanging around who want the benefits, want the salary, and want the executive responsibility, but don’t want to have to do anything to confront change? This, more than anything, can be one of the key measures for change-capability.
- generational tolerance: Out on the speaking circuit, I’ve been meeting thousands of Gen-X and Gen-Connecters in a lot of industries who scream in silent frustration each and every day. They’re stuck in organizations with management who actively work to kill new ideas. They’re full of innovation, but they have no outlet for it. On the other hand, there are other industries where the frustration doesn’t boil away, but instead, is tapped for opportunity. Spot those industries — where “young people” are welcomed as a source for ideas — and you’ve got an industry with massive agility and a high change-quotient
- wisdom wealth: Boomers need not be change-barriers; indeed, there are some who understand where change is occurring, and who are using their years of experience – often with devastating effect – to spot and capitalize on opportunity. These are some of the most powerful organizations on the planet. They’ve merged the generations, and are change-masters.
Take the time to look at how quickly the future is coming at us today, and then assess whether you, and the organization you work for, are ready for it.