Don’t Play The Perpetual Game Of Follow-The-Leader

By Daniel Burrus|23-09-2016 | 1 Min Read

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How to shift from crisis management to opportunity management

In my latest New York Times bestseller, Flash Foresight, I share seven principles that can make invisible opportunities visible. Becoming anticipatory, both personally and organisationally, is crucial.

Agility has been a reasonable survival strategy during times of rapid change, like the 1980s, 1990s, and even the early 2000s. Today, however, the pace of technology-driven change is beyond rapid.

Change is too fast for even the best reaction time to be fast enough. These days, thriving is not only about agility, it’s also about anticipation.

Is being proactive enough?

Being proactive has been another popular technique; it’s defined something like this: “Don’t wait, do something now – take action!” But do what? How do you know the action you’re taking is the right action?

Being proactive is the attempt to solve today’s problems before they grow worse. That’s not good enough: we need to solve tomorrow’s predictable problem. . . before they happen. We don’t just need to take positive action, but we need to take positive action based on future known events. To succeed today, we need to be pre-active.

Being proactive is agile; being pre-active is being both agile and anticipatory.

The shift from proactive to pre-active also creates a shift in the nature of our relationship with change. We tend to think of change as disruptive, but this is generally true only when change comes from the outside in. For example, when a new technology comes out that changes customer behaviour, or when the boss changes strategy, or when a competing marketplace opens up overseas, we scramble to adapt.

Being pre-active means putting yourself into opportunity mode, looking at predictable problems before they occur, and then preventing them from happening in the first place. It means, instead of always reacting to change that happens from the outside in, it’s about creating change from the inside out.

Don’t play catch-up, rather, anticipate the future

Change from the outside-in is disruptive. Change from the inside out is purposeful and constructive. This is the kind of change that allows you to direct your future and seize your destiny. The only possible way to operate in that kind of change is by becoming anticipatory.

One way to do that is with a tactic I call future benchmarking.

Benchmarking is a popular technique of strategic management that involves tracking and imitating the best practices of the leader in your field. But there is an inherent problem here: you’re benchmarking the best practices of the present. By the time you reverse-engineer it, copy it, and implement it, it will be obsolete. Because change is moving forward so rapidly, you’ll always be playing catch-up.

What you really want to do is jump ahead. How? By skipping over today’s best practices and benchmarking what the best practices will be in the visible future, based on Hard Trends and future certainties.

Let’s say you’re a manufacturer. You decide that Toyota’s “lean manufacturing” approach is the best model around right now, so you say, “Let’s copy that.” But it may take you four or five years to successfully copy what Toyota is doing. So what do you do?

Instead of looking at what Toyota is doing today, ask yourself, “Based on the Hard Trends we know will happen, and the strategic path Toyota is on, what is our best projection of what Toyota will be doing four or five years from now?” You will be amazed at what you can see when you take this approach.

Then you can base your strategy on emulating those best practices so you can become the leader of your field, instead of staying in a perpetual game of follow-the-leader.
You might like this: Enough About Leaders, What About Followers?
How are you supposed to figure out what Toyota, or anyone else, is going to be doing five years from now? By taking the time to fine-tune your knowledge of the Hard Trends.

Here are a few examples of Hard Trends to get you started:

  • Demand for wireless broadband will continue to grow.
  • Social media will increasingly be used for marketing and to engage with customers.
  • After 4G wireless, we will have 5G wireless.
  • Smartphones will get much smarter and cloud computing will continue to rapidly grow.

These are just a few examples of Hard Trends. By taking the time to list all of the things you are certain about instead of being stuck on all of the things you are uncertain about, you will not only become anticipatory and pre-active, you will discover a powerful new way to see new opportunities and create competitive advantage ahead of the competition.

Try it. The results you will get from being anticipatory will amaze you.

Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading futurists on global trends and innovation. He is the author of six books including New York Times & Wall Street Journal best seller, Flash Foresight. He is also the creator of  The Anticipatory Organization™ Learning System–named a Top 10 Product of 2016. To engage with him, e-mail us at editor@leaderonomics.com.

Reposted with permission on Leaderonomics.com.

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Daniel is the CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology-driven trends to help clients understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous opportunities.
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