Unfear: Facing Change in an Era of Uncertainty

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In the same vein, every disruptive threat creates an equal, if not greater, opportunity. Learn more about future-back here. A future-back strategy, on the other hand, begins with the assumption that tomorrow will be different than today. The first step in the process involves grabbing hold of the underlying trends that will reshape your company and industry.

The best way to spot these trends is to live in the periphery. Where is that? It is the edges or fringes of your industry. That might be extreme customer groups, such as those in particularly demanding circumstances or those that have demonstrated that they can be satisfied with very little.

It could be among people historically locked out of the market because they lacked skills, wealth, or sophistication.

Adam Hamilton: 'Unafraid: Living with courage and hope in uncertain times'

It might be the teenagers and hackers that love to create and play. In a business-to-business context it might be in smaller businesses, or businesses in poorer markets. The periphery certainly exists is in global innovation hotspots where new businesses incubate and early adopters proliferate, such as Silicon Valley, Shanghai, Berlin, and London.

Remember, disruptive change often starts small. For example, in , I was giving a presentation at a leading cable broadcaster and highlighted the disruptive potential of YouTube. In , that was true. Anything growing rapidly bears attention.

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! Unfear Facing Change In An Era Of Uncertainty

This is a simple way to not ignore small stuff. As you imagine the consequences of peripheral trends in the future, go beyond the firstdegree impact. For example, consider the driverless cars that Google, BMW, and others are working on. Obviously cars without drivers could change driving patterns, which could affect auto manufacturers. Presumably they will crash less frequently, which could enable dramatically different designs that are much lighter weight, affecting material companies.

Lighter cars will get much better mileage, affecting gas companies. And what about local governments that earn revenue from handing out speeding tickets? Or urban planners that allocate prime real estate to parking lots? Finally, consider employment implications. One million people in the U.

What happens when they are displaced by robots? A future-back mindset fueled by a connection to the periphery brings the future into sharper clarity. It can never be perfectly predictable — Innosight co-founder Mark Johnson uses the metaphor of an impressionist painting — but it can be much clearer. How can you create the future you desire, rather than be swept away by powerful trends? Draw inspiration from John F. Months after the Russians had launched a man into space and looked positioned to win the next great world race, Kennedy made his famous and ambitious declaration:.

I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. This was no idle, pie-in-the sky promise. Before making the speech Kennedy had Vice President Lyndon Johnson carefully study the feasibility of his goal.

As Johnson explored how the U. However, getting to the moon required a fold performance improvement over current technology. Here, the Americans had an advantage with broader and deeper technological resources.

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The last area links to the final piece of setting a strategic direction: picking unfair fights. It has never been easier to start a company, and at least a handful of fast-growing enterprises like WhatsApp and Instagram acquired by Facebook in and respectively have demonstrated the ability to attract large user bases with almost skeleton teams.

An incumbent that seeks to fight against hordes of attacking entrepreneurs needs to pick fights where it has unfair advantage because it has something that no startup could match. One story in that article described how medical device manufacturer Medtronic developed a new business model to make its pacemaker more affordable and accessible to Indian consumers. Get the future in your inbox. At a basic level, business leaders have two jobs to do.

Unfear: Facing Change in an Era of Uncertainty

Losing the balance between the two can be deadly. Too much focus on today causes companies to miss industry-changing growth opportunities. Too little focus on today often leads to a crisis in the core, which after all provides both the cash flows to invest in growth and the capabilities to make it happen. Easy enough in theory, but incredibly difficult to practice.


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Big companies must regularly allocate four scarce resources: money, assets, rewards, and leadership time. Re-wiring these systems takes significant investment, so executives need to consider three near-term interventions to fight the shadow strategy:. Every innovative idea, and I mean every one, is partially right and partially wrong. Inside many large organizations, the default answer is to address this challenge through analysis.

Run focus groups. Talk to industry experts. Sharpen the financial projections. Hold alignment meetings. Get everything lined up, and then launch aggressively. The punch the innovator takes is the plan that looked so rock solid on paper almost always looks like it rested on shaky assumptions when it meets up with real customers. The sales person who committed to pushing a new idea aggressively holds back instead. The engineer who promised they will ship on time gets distracted by other responsibilities.

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At the turn of the last century, people were obsessed with manned flight. Most would-be innovators worked diligently to create prototypes of their ideas, building contraptions that the hindsight of history would call crazy. Before the Wright brothers built a plane, they flew a kite. The great thing about a kite is when it crashes, no one gets hurt and it is easy enough to rebuild. One of our clients in the toy industry flew a creative kite to test an idea about a new distribution channel.

The company could have commissioned a custom kiosk and run a test in a few hospitals, but that would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Instead it created a disaggregated kiosk for a few hundred dollars. A TV screen advertised products. Inventory sat on a table. An iPad served as order entry. And Alasdair did fulfillment. This was not some complicated Siri-like bot; it was our colleague who received a text message and completed the order.

The kite crashed. They simply took out their smartphone and gave it to their children. To improve their kites, in the Wright Brothers combined a cardboard box, some bicycle spoke wire, and a fan, creating a wind tunnel to expedite experiments. Imagine how it felt to be able to run experiments of 38 wing surfaces in two months!

One underappreciated form of business wind tunnel is a thought experiment. Repeat the exercise for a customer, channel partner, or sales force member. Imagine how an innovator you admire might tackle the problem. They are ways to create data to inform future decisions. We view it a bit differently. The metaphor that we favor is to be a chameleon — to be able to seamlessly adopt a different guise depending on the context.

The first question a leader should always ask is: What type of game is the team playing? Sometimes teams will play games that look like roulette, where they spin the wheel and hope for the best. Smart leaders that recognize roulette is being played should punish teams, because they are taking poorly thought out risks. Sometimes teams will play games that look like chess, where outcomes are primarily based on skill. Leaders here need only to look at the results teams achieve to assess performance.

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