Disrupting The Future

As leaders, focusing on the future and building it for today has never been more critical if your organisation wants to grow and sustain enterprise value.   

We would argue that sustaining enterprise value growth, however defined and in whatever type of organisation (i.e. private or public sector) is the most important, difficult and complex role a leader undertakes. For any organisation the world around is evolving at an ever-increasing pace, where future opportunities and threats have never been so challenging and yet so uncertain.

Stepping back in history there aren’t many periods when the importance of disrupting the future has held such importance lest you be disrupted. Especially given the pace of life today, which is only going to get faster.  One thing is for certain if you don’t disruptively challenge the status-quo, both internal and external as well as the very fabric of the what and how you do things today, you are in grave danger of being disrupted and going the way of the dinosaurs.  

We believe there are 7 important questions you should ask yourself and other members of the leadership team.

Firstly, are you concerned enough about the future to be brave enough to put aside quality time and resource from the whirlwind of managing the ‘here and now’. This is necessary to gain insights and consider what it will take to compete both in the near term as well as the truly disruptive emerging future? You can be sure that somebody else is.

Secondly, are you prepared to be unorthodox and deal ruthlessly with organisational and leadership entropy as well as any ‘sacred cows.’ Often challengers are no more efficient than current market leaders. However, they do differ in several important respects: they are not a slave to orthodoxy and are good at identifying opportunities and bringing relative strength to bear against relative weakness. They also do not allow weeds to flourish and suffocate the growth of the ‘good’.

Next, are we being or going to be disruptive enough?  We live in a fast-moving customer centric world. Influencers through social media, the speed of communication, data-science and technology are compounded by macro-drivers such as; the climate, resource scarcity, political risk, migration and ageing populations amongst others. These are creating dramatic upheavals both within organisations and externally. No one sector is immune from this fast paced, disruptive future.

Fourthly, are you going to lay this down in a clear, dare we say it, good strategic plan that is clearly articulated to the whole organisation as a galvanising force?

Fifthly, are you prepared to start today to build the architecture for the disruptive future? that strategy may be very short-term, especially in a turnaround situation, something that we are not unfamiliar with. However, whilst it’s important to make sure ‘the here and now’ is prioritised it is not completely at the expense of what is to come. Restructuring, without regard for the future is just a simple form of corporate anorexia, it makes you thinner but not any healthier. We prefer to think in terms of re-generation which holds out hope but does not ignore the potential need for pruning alongside a good dose of fertiliser.

Next, are we executing and delivering well enough?  It’s been said that “a half-baked, strategy with great execution will always beat a superb strategy with poor execution.” Our view is why be sub-optimal, surely, we should execute on an optimal strategy with great delivery and to be ultimately successful it needs to be disruptive. For this to be successful it needs to be phased, prioritised, risk aware and be focused on managing inputs.

Which leaves the final question: are you going to leave a legacy for the next management team to build upon or is the organisation going the way of the dinosaurs? Not today or maybe in the next 3 years but sometime in the disruptive future.

In the whirlwind of today, you may still ask why this is so important right now. To this we say market leadership today does not give a divine right to leadership in the future. The casualties littered over many commercial battlefields are testament to that. You don’t have to look far to see examples where a ‘left-field’ ‘upstart’ business has entered an industry and/or market and completely revolutionised the way we, as customers, interact and benefit. Just look at Garmin, Uber, Netflix, Amazon, AirBnB to name just a few. Then think of the losers. All had the same if not more opportunities as well significantly greater resources around the time these upstarts entered the scene.  

When thinking of the future, continuous improvement whilst being laudable just won’t cut it.  Putting it off until tomorrow is also not an option, most of these upstarts started yesterday and time flies so fast before you know it five years are past, and you are well behind the development curve. As Malcolm X said, “The future belongs to those who prepare for it today”.