The faster you’re travelling, the further ahead you need to look. When we get behind the wheel of a car, we all do this automatically.
But we don’t seem to do it in business.
The reality is that all of us in business are travelling faster now. We may not notice it. The effects are subtle. There are no trees whizzing past the window to give us the impression of speed. But it’s there. Information flows faster. Disruption happens quicker. You can see it in everything from the speed of the delivery to your door, to the turnover on the stock market.
This places an imperative on every business leader to look further ahead. Not necessarily at the far horizon — the rate of disruption is so great that it is further clouding that already-unclear picture. But certainly beyond the next quarter or year.
Expand your field of view
Not only do we have to look further, we have to expand our field of view. To return to the driving analogy, we’re not on a long, straight motorway. We’re crossing a constant stream of intersections. Industries are colliding at an unprecedented rate. The threats to the safety of our journey do not come from our competitors coming up behind us. They come from the unexpected entrant to our lane, veering in from elsewhere.
Few — too few — leaders have gotten to grips with this new reality.
From a vision to a mission
I confess a level of self-interest here. This is what I do. I help businesses to see the future and expand their field of view. It’s called Applied Futurism. I’d like to do it for you. But even more, I’d like you to do it for yourself.
Because this belief in the need to look beyond has gone beyond a business proposition. It has become a mission.
I genuinely believe the way that most people do business now is broken.
Firstly, we spend far too much time worrying about our competitors. To return again to my driving analogy, this is like watching your rear view mirror instead of the road ahead. You’re so focused on who might overtake you that you miss the turning that could put you on a much faster route.
Secondly, we spend all our time focused on incremental improvements when there’s an existential threat around the corner. This is like concentrating on your fuel economy when there’s a crash in front of you. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing a few more MPG than your peers if you’re all headed for a pile-up.
Be a futurist
I can’t fix every business. But I can share what I’ve learned in the last five years, working with organisations around the world to address these problems. That’s why I now license my knowledge to consultants and business leaders, so that they can address these problems in their own businesses and those of their clients. And I teach the tools I I’ve created to professionals on one-day courses at the University of Salford.
In fact, we’ve just announced new dates for the course. You can find out more about the course at http://www.salford.ac.uk/onecpd/courses/futurism-for-business. And if you’re interested in the tools, check out http://futurism-tools.com.
Whether you choose to use my tools or not, I’d urge you to do this: next time you get in the driving seat of your business, stop and look up. Look ahead, not one year but two, three, five. Look around. Look to your left and to your right, at your customers, at the businesses you interact with at home and think: what could these people, their processes, their technologies, do to my industry and my business?
Look ahead and then act. Make change. Steer around that potential crash. Be the first to take that new route.