Imagine if we lived in a world where we only took action if we knew with absolute certainty it was the right decision?
Society, businesses, individuals… everyone would be lulled into a sense of complacency. Pace of change and innovation would be painfully slow—if not come to a screeching halt—and advance only when impact was “knowable.” Risk taking and speculation would be muted while incalculable efforts would be exhausted to prove or disprove some of the more foundational facts we possess today. (Can we even fathom a different reality where Netflix and Apple have not displaced Blockbuster and Polaroid?)
Fortunately, as a society, we tend to choose action, change and disruption far more than we choose inaction. Think of the most recent advances and emerging technology that have positively shaped civilization: telemedicine, human genome mapping, stem cell research, solar energy, artificial intelligence and IoT, to name a few. Technology literally powers business and society. What is emerging one day becomes mainstream the next. We are always moments away from the next great creation.
Our human spirit, and innate desire to invent, is in many ways the only constant in a sea of ever-change. We must take that same spirit into our organizations and fully embrace innovation and disruption. Not just sometimes or when it’s convenient. Not just when we know with absolute certainty, we are making the right decision. Just take a quick look at the Fortune 500 trends where turnover is nearing 50 percent. Or that 81% of businesses are planning strategic big moves—acquisitions, divestitures, new business models, etc.—this year.
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Business success and survivability hinges on us developing a sixth sense, an anticipation of the macro, client and societal shifts that are coming before they come. Companies must shed the hardened premise that “how business is done” today will also be how business is done tomorrow. Today, we are living a business revolution where those that identify the market needs and fill the void the quickest are winning—or owning new markets. In many cases, if you are not the first, there is no second place… or even a place at all.
Fortunately, we are building teams and methods designed to provoke and escalate the explorers and inventors innate in each of us. We are leaning into innovation-first cultures, embracing resilient operating models, and inspiring our teams to act, even when the pathway is not completely clear.
As you look to sharpen your organization’s sixth sense to anticipate and adapt before the macro happens, consider these quick tips:
- Create “safe” space for creativity, experimentation and trial and error. Innovation-first cultures allow teams to break through functional walls and ignite their “genius zone.” Gay Hendricks, author of “The Big Leap,” suggests that individuals and teams have “zones” in which we operate at our most creative, and these zones often fall outside of defined scopes and roles. Help your team discover their individual zones of genius (when they are the most exhilarated) and nurture the heck out of it.
- Know when to live in the gray and when to inspire action. Organizational change—and conditioning your team to embrace a sixth sense—can be messy, chaotic and result in conversations that range from exciting to confusing to polarizing. As leaders we must acknowledge those moments and invite our teams to live in kludge while we work towards solutions. Instill the confidence that the process is necessary (and normal), and when it’s time insist, ask questions to help your team get out of the gray like: What must we do now? What comes next?
- Add new perspectives and new people to the equation to jolt stalling change initiatives. As leaders, we need to be aware of when incremental small steps actually introduce greater business risk when compared to bold action. Every team gets stuck sometimes, and it’s no one’s fault when the path forward is not revealing. But treadmilling is sign of distress or ideation drain, and momentum must be reignited via a shift in dynamics.
It has never been more important for our teams to successfully peer around the corners, continually reimagine business models, and anticipate what comes next before it actually happens. We must strengthen our sixth sense muscle, conditioning our minds, behaviors, and workplace culture to stay ahead of the macro. It’s amazing how much our world changed in just 12 months; imagine how much more different it will look even 6 months from now.
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