Forget Your Crystal Ball: How Can Leaders Really Prepare For The Future?
We live in an age that is characterized by radical technological progress. What were once fantastic concepts in science fiction movies and novels are fast becoming a day-to-day reality. What’s more, we are travelling at speed into a future that will evolve in ways that none of us – not even the most talented futurists of today – will quite be able to predict.
So, with the future a vast “unknown unknown”, how can leaders even begin to prepare for it? At this year’s Fast Forward Forum in Venice, speakers shared their perspectives on how leaders can look ahead in this transformative age. Here are my key takeaways, based on what they said:
1. Don’t expect the innovation unit to be the only team that comes up with bright ideas. What happens if an organization assigns innovation to a single team? That team feels all the psychological burden of having to innovate, which inevitably hampers their ability to do so. And how much innovation does everyone else do? Next to none, of course – because that’s “someone else’s job”. Even worse, they can block the ideas put forward by the innovation team by failing to provide the support needed to implement and scale those ideas. “Companies that are perpetual innovators understand that innovation and great ideas are a democracy,” said Carla Johnson, marketing influencer and author. “An innovation unit won’t work unless it’s paired with innovation as a culture.”
2. Ask yourself this question: just because we can, does it mean that we should? There are huge ethical implications around the exploitation of data and the development of new technological tools. Today we can only see the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding what these implications are, however. Furthermore, the lack of a regulatory framework around emerging technologies means that things are already happening within organizations that may be regarded as unethical by the broader public. Data scientists are not yet required to take an ethical oath to do no harm and there are typically few checks and balances within organizations to prevent them from using data and technology in inappropriate ways. It is therefore down to leaders to make a considered judgment around ethics. Here they might want to heed the advice of Sandra Matz, assistant professor of management at Columbia Business School. She tells her students who are developing apps: “If you were using the app, would you be ok with this?”
3. Actively seek out different perspectives to find the blind spots. When an organization implements a new technology, it will gain in some areas but lose in others. In fact, the implications of any digital change project extend far beyond the practicalities of the new technological tools that are being implemented, and even the processes that go with them. For example, operational effectiveness may come at the expense of a collaborative organizational culture. So how can leaders better understand the consequences of digital transformation within an organization? “With digital change projects, there will be more questions than any single person has the answer to,” said Sunnie Groeneveld, founder of consultancy Inspire 925 and author of the book Inspired at Work. “So you need people who can show you the blind spots. You need to know what you’re not seeing.”
4. Understand what your organization’s brand truly stands for. What are the fundamental values that the organization was founded on and has lost along the way? By processing these values through a lens of diversity, redesigning the business model around them and living them, the organization will grow in a socially responsible way – which will bring its own rewards. “I believe the business model of the future is shared values + shared action = shared profit,” said Cindy Gallop, advertising consultant and coach. “When you come together on the basis of values that you all share, and you are able to co-act on those values, you can do things in the real world that benefit society and benefit the brand and its consumers.”
5. Don’t over-rely on your crystal ball. Accept that no matter how much you read about, and prepare for, the future, it will still evolve in unexpected ways and present challenges and opportunities that you cannot even conceive of today. “If you can see a little bit of the future, you might be able to create it,” said serial entrepreneur and marketing strategist Igor Beuker. “But you never know if innovation is going to work.”
This article was first published on www.forbes.com: https://www.forbes.com/sites/sallypercy/2019/10/09/forget-your-crystal-ball-how-can-leaders-really-prepare-for-the-future/#131e4b722122