Getting to the Future First
The business landscape is littered with the bones of corporate dinosaurs that failed to adapt. Like Kodak, they didn’t respond quickly enough to an emerging discontinuity (digital film). Like Nokia, they seriously underestimated an unorthodox new competitor (Apple). Like Intel, they procrastinated in pursuing a major new opportunity (chips for mobile devices). Or like General Motors, they couldn’t let go of a beloved but slowly dying strategy (the company’s bloated brand portfolio). Today we live in a world that is all punctuation and no equilibrium; a world in which change is relentless, seditious and ever-surprising. And that’s a problem—because most large companies aren’t very adaptable. Time and again, despite their resource advantages, they surrender the future to upstarts.
Today, leaders in every organization must ask themselves: Are we changing as fast as the world around us is changing? Are we capable of regularly reinventing ourselves without the imperative of a crisis? Are we awake, alive, and tuned into what’s popping up on the horizon?
When it comes to answering those questions in the affirmative, too many organizations are hamstrung bystrategic inertia—they venerate legacy strategies, ignore the harbingers of the future, under-invest in nascent businesses and over-invest in the past.
To build a truly adaptable organization, leaders will need to discover ways of …
- Guarding against strategy lock-in.
- Overcoming denial, arrogance and nostalgia.
- Spotting and amplifying weak signals that portend a radically different future.
- Generating and testing a wide variety of new strategic options.
- Excising all those things in the company’s management processes and culture that reflexively favor more-of-the-same.
How can an organization build an evolutionary advantage—so it’s always proactively reinventing itself, always playing offense and never defense, always rushing out ahead of its rivals to claim the future?