There’s bad news for an awful lot of organizations. Their grip on the future is weak or nothing. They react, instead of responding and acting. Their view is narrow instead of broad. They think they know the future, but their grip on it is superficial at best.
Why? Ideas about change and the future come in little, trivial scatters, instead of being taken up comprehensively. Everything we do is part of a complex of systems. The questions are not narrow or simple, and the assumptions we work and act on are based in ever-changing conditions. But we oversimplify, bound, and narrow our thinking when we need to do exactly the opposite.
In all this, executives may even be rewarded for their narrow, specialized knowledge and abilities. Outcomes and outputs are measured in narrow ways. Progress in some areas completely hides decline, as when the measures are gross and cross-company. For example, an international company looking at its total revenues could see overall growth when in fact its fortunes and businesses are in decline in its base markets. Global growth often masks soft or declining markets.
What can you do about this?
It’s time to change your thinking. Part of this is being humble: admit you are always on a quest to know more and understand change better. Part is to open, and keep open a conversation about change and about your future. Recognize new ideas about the future and reward them. Let in the controversial and the scary ideas that may come with a frank acknowledgement that you need to know more and you need to change.
Break loose from the “what’s wrong let’s fix it” mentality of most managers. While you fix, you also need to change things. Your current reality is not the whole story, and your current view of what needs doing is not enough.
Spend time explicitly talking about where things are going, how your markets are evolving, and what you might do about it. Plan to build for resilience, not based on certainty–you won’t have that, but based on your best sense of the range of possibilities. And make the organization strong–ready it for uncertainty by building in divergent thought, new skills, wider partnerships and relationships, and deep and continuing intelligence on the world–the whole world, and how it’s changing.