“Denial of your reality is not going to lead you to a better outcome!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
“RIM continues to have strong technology, unique service capabilities and a large installed base of customers, and we are more determined than ever to capitalize on our strengths to overcome the recent execution challenges surrounding product launches and the resulting financial performance.” Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsllie, co-CEOs of Research in Motion, December 16, 2011
The Blackberry disappeared from relevance shortly after. As I’ve long said, denial is a powerful drug! Particularly when a senior leadership team is at the heart of the denial!
Yet it still happens all the time. We are surrounded by companies and leadership teams that believe that their current way of doing business will carry them into the future; that their current product line will be powerfully relevant in the years to come; that current staffing strategies provide them with the skills they need to go into the future; that the current lineup of competitors they face today are the same ones they will face tomorrow.
None of these things are true.
Here’s a clip from a keynote in which I talk to the reality of the change that every organization faces today:
With that in mind, here are the 7 stages of business model implosion that happens when a company goes into a denial-drive death spiral:
- Denial. A certainty exists that past success will define future success, which, when ingrained into a core culture of the organization leads to …
- Complacency. There is a belief that there is no need to act, that there there is no urgency required, or that there need be no rush to reinvent or change, which leads to ….
- Inaction. Initiative stalls, innovation dies, and progression pauses, which leads to …
- Damage. Inevitability, things start to go wrong, a death spiral begins, and growth begins to collapse or reverse, which leads to ….
- Shock. An attitude emerges, “how did this happen?” “I can’t believe this is happening!” … which leads to ….
- Indecision. Often aggressive, the inability to make decisions comes from the speed with with the disruption occurs and the paralysis of shock, which leads to …
- Anger. Fear dominates the agenda and anger drives rash decisions which do further damage or have no consequence … which eventually might lead to ….
There are two more potential steps – potential rebirth – though it doesn’t happen all the time.
- Action. The Board of Directors steps in and removes the CEO, instituting new leadership that is charged with the responsibility of taking the organization forward into the disruptive future… which leads to ….
- Transformation. The new CEO begins a careful voyage of reinvention and a renaissance of new ideas and strategies. Often, though, it is far too late to have any impact.
Having watched this scenario unfold for far too long, I always still seemed stunned to see that we still seem surrounded by those who are unable to align to the inevitable. How do we know? Because we hear the words and phrases they used that provide them a foundation for their failed disbelief. For years, I’ve used my list of the “Innovation Killers” to identify organizational sclerosis that holds companies back from pursuing the future – the excuses they make to deny reality. Ask yourself – how often do you hear these phrases?
- we’ll just wait till things get back to normal (hint: they won’t)
- we’ll wait till volatility this ends (hint: it doesn’t end – volatility is the new normal.)
- this era of uncertainty will be over soon (hint: it won’t)
- we’ll wait until there is clarity ((hint: don’t expect any)
- we’ll do it later (hint: why wait?)
- we can’t wait until we can do what we were doing before (hint: you won’t be)
- …and more
What’s the way out of this trap? Focus your team — relentlessly — on growth. I’ve seen CEOs who refuse to fall prey to the cult of denial. I remember keynoting for a global organization in Las Vegas during a period of massive economic volatility. The CEO got on stage before me — and spoke about the potential for a recession for exactly one minute. He then spent 19 minutes speaking about the growth opportunities that the organization could pursue!
That’s what everyone needs to do right now. There are growth opportunities in every industry. Focus on them!
It’s all right there in the video clip – directly from my keynote:
The impact of disruption is that everything you do forever changes – the products you develop, the services you deliver, the methodologies you use, the materials at the heart of it, the skills that are required, the speed with which you operate. Everything changes in terms of how you deal with the competition you face, the speed at which you’re impacted, the revenue you generate, the age group of those you are up against as potential competitors, and the collaboration you require,
Are you going to align to the future or are you going to fight to the future?
The future involves change, the future involves disruptive ideas, the future involves new ways of working and new ways of doing things. The future demands that you collaborate in new and different ways. The future demands that you form the ability to form fast teams, the future demands that you don’t fight the future, you align to the future – because that’s where you discover the nexus of opportunity!
When it comes to the future, some people see the future, and see a threat.
Innovators see the same future and see an opportunity!
And what I implore you to think about as you focus on this journey of transformation is this: what do you do to change your future before the future changes you?