How can you best guide your organization into a faster future?
As someone who spends a lot of time talking, writing and speaking about trends and innovation, and who is constantly taking a look at trends, I have a list of what I think works.
1. Listen to the grassroots
With the rapid rate of change within every industry, it can be extremely difficult to keep up with what’s important and what’s not, not to mention keeping on top of the trends, challenges, and opportunities that should be guiding your activities and strategies. There might be plenty going on within your industry, as the result of rapid new business strategies, rapidly evolving business models, heightened market competition, ever-growing volumes of research and knowledge, and countless other challenges.
To be effective at what you do, you must keep on top of these trends, and determine how to adjust your activities and strategies accordingly. You should focus on building a strong collaborative culture within your organization, using both leading-edge tools and technology as well as ensuring that your culture supports a heightened degree of informal, personal contact.
Take the time to engender and build an informal, “open-door” culture that promotes regular and ongoing contact throughout the organization. Encourage feedback, complaints, and observations, as well as a culture that provides for sharing of leading-edge trends, challenges, and opportunities.
2. Listen beyond the grassroots
You can’t listen only to people within your organization to spot the trends that will affect you — you have to go beyond them and listen to what others are saying as well.
That’s why figuring out the future is no longer restricted to listening to the “usual suspects” inside; — 21st-century leaders recognize that everything in their industry is being affected by events, trends, and developments far beyond the norm.
The problem for any executive is that it is all too easy to become isolated and focused on the issues of the day – the management issues and all the fine details that come with running a major organization. There’s so much going that there can be precious little time to come up for air and simply see or “think” through what is going on elsewhere.”
And yet, taking the time to listen “outside of the box” can be one of the most important things you can do. That’s why you shouldn’t just “think” outside of the box – but you should on a regular basis “step” outside of it. One way of doing this is by ensuring that you take the time to place yourself in completely different circumstances. Pick 2 or 3 conferences each year – in completely unrelated, different industries or professionals that are far beyond the norm! Go and listen – and see what another industry is saying!
You might be surprised by how invigorating an experience it can be to open up your mind to what is going on elsewhere. You may find that it will help you discover the trends that will affect you in the future, long before your traditional trends radar might have picked them up.
3. Listen to the rebels
Often, the trends that will affect you can be found in the offbeat chatter by those who are busy redeveloping the future right around them.
Those leading edge trendsetters are often at odds with everyone else. They have different views and opinions. They’re the rebels in the crowd, eager to cast off the past to develop a future that will be very, very different. They’re busy tearing apart the conventional business models that have guided you for ages; they have different ideas as to the nature of the product or service that is delivered; they are all too eager to change everything around them to create the future as they see fit. They are often marginalized, simply because their aggressive attitude in changing the future can make them rather unlikable by many.
What should you do? Learn to learn from them! Seek out the rebels in your organization- you might not like what they have to say, but often, they are probably right in what they will tell you. Great leaders recognize that while many people have an attitude, outlook, culture and approach to life and business that is completely at odds with their perspective – they are willing to listen to what they say because change often emanates from such people.
4. Maintain a willingness to do a right turn
There’s no doubt that things change very rapidly in our world today.
Need evidence? A few years ago, there was no Uber. Today, its’ causing havoc, challenge and opportunity worldwide.
The result is that many organizations are now scrambling to deal with a new reality.
5. Redefine your structure
Part of the process of reinventing your relevance consists of challenging the typical organizational structure.
Many people in our economy today don’t work within the traditional corporate model that has worked in the past – they are ‘nomadic workers.’ Many young people continue to reject the traditional career path of long term careers with large organizations. Instead, they establish themselves in small, micro-organizations that provide needed skills to a corporate audience regardless of where they might be. Are you reaching them with your efforts?
Not only that, but there is a lot of talent in the newly-disenfranchised’ : – those white collar workers who were laid off in the last 10 years through a variety of recessions – and who have established small, home-based businesses from which they provide their skills to a global audience. They’re working within your community of interest, but are they a part of your strategic plan?
Step back and consider where the skills you need might exist today, and ensure that you change your strategies, activities and capabilities so that you reaching out to all of them.
6. Seek offbeat solutions to difficult problems
When a food manufacturer was trying to find out how to improve the changeover time of one of their assembly lines, they hit upon a novel solution: bring in an Indy race pit crew to show them how. Their thinking was, who has better mastered the talent of “quick- thinking, quick work” than a group of people who can instantly change several tires in a highly coordinated team effort that lasts only a few seconds? It was an offbeat solution, but it certainly did the trick.
That’s why you should keep an eye out for the quirky, innovative, unusual things occurring within your industry — look for weird ideas and capitalize upon them!
7. Kill indecision
There is no doubt that every organization has suffered from rather aggressive indecision through the last several years, brought on by war, terror, a challenging economy, and much uncertainty.
The impact has been dramatic – many people just can’t seem to make decisions about many matters of the day. I certainly see this as a speaker – while I used to be regularly booked as far as a year in advance, now some organizations are booking me just a few weeks before their conference or event. Why? Because uncertainty has led to a degree of decision stagnation.
Pummel this trend to the ground before it goes any further. Make sure your organization continues to run by timelines, deadlines, and clear goals and objectives. Carefully ensure that your culture provides for regular decision-making, not deferral and discussion. There are quite a few issues you are probably wrestling with, and maybe some of them have been around for far too long.
What should you do? Encouraging risk-taking is one method of ending complacency, as is rewarding failure. If your organization can’t make decisions, then a bit of a cultural change is probably necessary!
8. Restore your sense of passion and purpose
Last but not least, get excited about the future again!
There have been so many challenges through the last few years, that many people in the business community have lost their sense of purpose and their passion for the future.
The key message for you is – get over it! We’re in for a bright and wonderful future, and it’s by getting excited about the future again that you can best prepare and plan for it.