As leaders and organization executives around the world know too well, modern-day cultural and business environments are rapidly evolving – and usually in unpredictable and disruptive fashion. Less than a year ago, for instance, meetings and events were typically organized as largely physical events. Right now, they have evolved into virtual, streaming affairs.
Naturally, it is in the best interest of those in leadership and management positions to find ways to survive and thrive in whatever volatile and unpredictable situations life throws their way. And one idea that has consistently gained traction as a great tool to help organizations embrace change and evolution is future proofing.
But Jeff De Cagna argues that while the term 'future proof' might be appealing because of the sense of control it might give executives, it is both erroneous and unhelpful to imagine that organizations can somehow be proofed against disruption and the impact of societal transformation.
Since no one knows what the future will be or control exactly how it will unfold, you should shift your mindset from figuring out how to help your organization resist the future. Instead, focus on anticipating a range of plausible futures and embark on preparing to thrive in them so you can truly be future ready.
Deloitte Consulting has stated that disruption is no longer an interruption to the pattern, but the pattern itself. The old, linear approach of identifying your problem, assessing gaps, and building solutions can no longer keep up with the pace of change. Nothing demonstrates this more starkly that the manner in which the ongoing global pandemic caught most organizations flat-footed.
Here's how you shift your focus from rote optimization to ensuring you are so future ready that you have the capabilities that allow you to be the disruptor rather than the disrupted:
- Overcome the burden of tradition
You know how certain things are done the way they are because that has always been the case? Well, you are going to have to take a long hard look at all of your organization's deeply held beliefs about how things work. Ideas accumulated over the ages but which create inertia and undermine your ability to cultivate an adaptive and enterprising workforce need to unearthed and thrown out.
Instead of keeping pace with your rivals or ancient ideas that don't work, take some time to consider where the future is heading. A good question to ask yourself if where you might need to make a change or try something new – but are constrained by your organization's culture or resources. Then, restructure and change your operating model so it's better adjusted to your outlook on the future.
- Be open to change
It can be hard to change or let go of processes that were really good at bringing results – but which for some reason are no longer consistent. However, an organization that is keen on being future ready must be willing to understand where it currently stands and where it needs to go.
This means that you need to collect both internal and external data, then analyze market and workforce trends so you can translate all that into actions that anticipate and drive disruption. Being open to change means encouraging the members of your organization to take smart risks with new programs and initiatives that help you stay abreast of changing business environments.
- Create a forward-thinking culture
Train yourself to be a leader who is comfortable in the constantly changing world by challenging the status quo and those ideas that do not enable the success of your teams. Then, create organizational structures which encourage employees or members to adopt a growth mind-set while also inspiring the exploration of creative solutions.
A Deloitte report indicates that organizations that prioritize and invest in leadership are thrice likely to innovate, five times more likely to anticipate change and disruption, and have 37 percent higher revenue per employee. When leaders and the people they lead continuously learn new skills, are personally invested and feel they are supported in their organizations, adapting and innovating become much easier.
- Spread your risk
No leading organization ever got to the front of the pack by trying to risk-free. You must, therefore, be ready and willing to come up with new ideas, accept failure when some of these ideas inevitably fail, and still try again until you get success. While not all bets will return positive results, they will help your organization grow its capabilities and learn.
If yours is not an organization that lives and breathes for innovation, however, there is still little harm that can come from adopting the spread-your-risk strategy. You may choose to widen your outreach efforts and strategic ventures, for instance, so that if some of your wagers do not pan out, you have nonetheless helped your organization learn through real-time monitoring and course correction; as well as grow its capabilities to absorb risk in the event of a disruption in the future.