“Is your competition busy playing 3-dimensional chess, while you are playing checkers on a blank board?” – Futurist Jim Carroll
For an upcoming keynote, I’m working on a report on key lessons I’ve learned from my global clients over the last 30 years. One aspect is taking a look at ‘dismissive leadership‘ – those situations where a senior executive, often a CEO, dismissed any potential future threat from business model disruption.
I have quite a few – a telecom CEO who totally dismissed the opportunity for VoIP (voice-over-IP) to totally change the telecom industry; auto industry executives who dismissed the idea of an upstart young automotive company with radical new ideas; technology engineers dismissing the idea of Apple forever changing their industry. In all of these cases, there was a certain level of hubris; a belief that nothing would ever change.
Thats’ why dismissal driven by hubris is easy; yet, it’s often wrong. That’s why today’s quote – a derivative I actually saw online in a comment thread about a certain lawyer named Jack Smith – bears relevance. Often, new disruptive upstarts are playing a complex game of chess while everyone else in an industry is playing a simple game of checkers. The match is often not even fair.
Why do new competitors emerge at a fast speed today? There are many reasons. They know that technology drives change; that the impact of globalization allows bigger ranges of competition; and that automation and AI allow for tighter, leaner organizations that can move faster. These startups have accelerated workforce skills and a younger demographic; they have a simple leadership willingness to accept inevitable business model change; they pursue connected intelligence through the rapid sharing of ideas. The reasons are many; often, it is a simple ability to think big and bold, not small and careful.
We’ve certainly seen our fair share of this challenge in past years, and it will only continue to accelerate. Industry disruption is a persistent condition, not a short-term phenomenon. Technology is expanding disruption to most industries, whereas previously it was only affecting. few. Accelerating trends make it happen faster, and organizations are discovering how to better innovate at speed. Changing consumer behavior – we are becoming more amenable to new ways of doing things – allows for the further introduction of new ways of doing business. Embedding intelligence into products fundamentally changes markets because we are fundamentally changing what we sell. I could go on.
In the face of this, out come the excuses: “We don’t need to worry.” “It won’t impact us.” “We’ll figure it out.” “It’s not urgent.” “We’ll worry about it later.” These are simple moves in checkers. They don’t cut it in 3-dimensional chess.
Stop saying these things.