Thinking Differently – Eight Principles for Preparing for the Future

Tracey Keys

Tracey Keys is the director of Strategy Dynamics Global SA, a Switzerland-based consultancy. She is the co-author, with Thomas Malnight, of The Global Trends Fieldbook, from which this article is adapted, (www.GlobalTrends.com) and of Ready: The 3Rs of Preparing Your Organization for the Future, with co-authors Thomas Malnight and Kees van der Graaf (www.3RsReady.com).

Tracey Keys explores how leaders need to think – and act – differently to prepare themselves and their organisations for the future.

Reliable crystal balls are in short supply – which is a problem as leaders and executives need to cope with an increasing amount of change coupled with uncertainty and volatility in the environment and their markets.

“If you are not able to manage ambiguity, and you need to understand everything before you start doing anything, you narrow everything and reduce your options and possibilities. This will not work in the future,” Clara Gaymard, president and CEO of GE France, says.

Preparing an organisation for the future requires thinking differently. The playing field in which companies operate is changing. So too are the players, their roles and even the game itself. Old mind sets need to be replaced with a fresh approach based on what the world is becoming, not what it used to be.

Easily said. But most organisations, and the executives leading them, are very busy. However, not taking the time to prepare for the future is a choice. A bad one. Companies such as Kodak and Nokia failed to keep up with changes in technology and consumer behaviours that they themselves once shaped – respectively resulting in bankruptcy and selling off the “crown jewels”.

This article offers eight principles for thinking differently, recognising that the value is in the thinking and readiness for the future that this brings rather than in detailed planning, as plans will need to evolve over time.

Embrace Ambigity: Don’t just think outside the box, throw away the boxes

Executives typically divide the world into boxes (industry, market, products, functions) to simplify thinking and activities. But these boxes no longer reflect the realities of cross-boundary competition and an increasingly interconnected world.

Today, no individual firm can own and manage all of the critical assets or supply all the products and services required to provide consumer or customer experiences.

Rather, the challenge facing leaders is to throw away the boxes, to embrace the ambiguity and the opportunities of the growing interdependence between industries, countries, companies, organisations and functions.

BMW’s revolutionary i3 and i8 cars do just this, combining intelligence, new energy solutions and a clear understanding that what they are doing is meeting end users’ personal transportation needs, not making cars.

For the full article, you can view the PDF or listen to the podcast.

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