Thursday, September 30, 2021

Leadership Advice from a Futurist

Over the years I have conducted many surveys of business and technology professionals, and the one consistent insight across all these surveys is a high level scepticism that leaders will make the necessary decisions and act fast enough to compete effectively.  I understand that.  Most failures can be directly traced back to either bad decisions or a lack of decisions by leaders, but I also have great sympathy for them.   Leading through rapid market evolutions and disruptions is difficult in the best of times, but when you throw in fast changing consumer behaviors, supply chain disruptions, technology advancements and global pandemics it's just unfair.   There are, however, some great insights and wisdom that can be gleaned from all the surveys I have reviewed and research I have participated in.  I put together the following list that I hope you will find useful.
  1. Develop and monitor your own digital mindset and that of your organization's: Understand the need to continuously upgrade and update your own thinking, as well as your organization’s.  
  2. Accept that business success lies within change. Understand digital technologies and their capabilities.  Rethink every aspect of your business in light of technology advancements and changing customer preferences.
  3. Understand the role and impact of platforms and platform ecosystems.  Understand how they will change your marketplace now and in the future.   Think Uber, airbnb, Amazon, Apple, etc.
  4. Recognize the role culture plays in being successful in three key areas: leadership culture, organizational culture and customer culture.  Make every effort to ensure your culture helps, not hinders your success.
  5. Understand the four areas of digital transformation where speed is essential: technology adoption, organizational agility, decision-making and customer alignment.  Recognize the consequences of being slow in any of these areas and focus on improving them.
  6. Organize for agility: Platform ecosystems are changing the rules of business and rapidly expanding into adjacent markets.  Be prepared to rethink and respond rapidly.
  7. Know the unknowns: If your organization is operating on conjecture as a result of data blind spots, fix that with sensors, analytics, artificial intelligence, automation, customer and behavioral analytics.  Help your businesses operate at a level of precision never before possible. 
  8. Harvest the future: Understand that tomorrow’s competitive advantages are created today.  Invest in innovation experts that can identify new and emerging technologies early, and understand the possible business impacts faster than competitors.  The value of innovations and inventions depreciates rapidly over time, so catching them early optimizes value.
  9. Teach the leaders: Continuously educate and train your leadership and board to ensure they keep an open, curious, updated and innovative mindset.  They need to learn at the same pace and cadence as their markets are evolving.  Running the day-to-day operations of a large enterprise is complex and all consuming, and without a formal process, plan and schedule for continuing leadership education it doesn’t happen.
Thriving during digital and market transformation does not happen by accident.  It is a purposeful effort.

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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.