You can't influence -- much less control -- many of the variables that will affect your future. There is one, however, that is totally within your control. Your mindset, the perspective and thinking through which you view the world, creates the lens that guides your choices, actions, and results.
A Mindset for the Future
Most organizations are excellent at competing in a world that no longer exists. They can meet today's expectations for flawless execution and speed. They know and understand their current competitors. They have mastered their current technology.
What about the future?
Change has never changed faster than it is changing today. Futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil said that the technological progress made during the entire 20th century is equivalent to 20 years of progress at our current rate of change. He predicts that we'll experience the next 20 years of progress (at today's rate of speed) in the next 14 years. We'll achieve that again in the following seven years.
Combine the exponential increase in the rate of change with increasing customer demands, geopolitical uncertainty, governmental regulations, and new competitors and you get a world that requires a new mindset to flourish.
- A relentless focus on flawless execution today,
- An awareness of what's over the horizon that could present either danger or opportunity in the future, and,
- A willingness to quickly pivot and adapt to the changing world and customer expectations around you while remaining disciplined to make the main things the main thing.
Balancing what works today with what is needed tomorrow while combining both with a commitment to both process excellence AND creative thinking isn't easy to pull off.
The good news is that you can create a nimble mindset. Netflix, as an example, disrupted itself while maintaining its legacy business by moving from its DVD-centric business to a streaming business.
Here are five actions to add a nimble perspective to your organization's mindset:
1. Start at the top. Some organizations alter their organizational structure to separate the responsibilities of execution today and innovating for tomorrow. That can work, but invariably the bias or emphasis at the top influences how your organization operates. If senior leaders don't adopt a nimble mindset, nothing really changes regardless of your organizational structure.
2. Pay attention to the middle. The middle of your organization is where change goes to die, or at a minimum, enter purgatory. Middle managers arrived where they are by knowing how to play by the rules that you are changing. They will determine if adopting a nimble mindset actually occurs or is simply another program du jour.
3. Develop students of your business. Open-book management is an excellent first step for creating financial literacy, but that's not enough. Developing students of your business extends to anticipating what is ahead for tomorrow. Ideally, everyone would have the time and expertise to explore the future. If that isn't feasible for you, consider creating Scout Teams that -- like the scouts that rode ahead of the Old West wagon trains -- explore ahead to identify danger and determine the best route for success.
4. Slow down to develop new habits. You can't change the specifics of a situation, but you can choose your response and action to flourish in it. Unfortunately, your initial approach to a challenge is often the old way with which you are most comfortable approach. Slowing down to think puts you back in control of your response and action. Remember, you are the architect of how you think about your future.
5. Reinforce with both stories and metrics. Mindset drives action, and action delivers results. It is crucial to identify and monitor the performance metrics that point to success. Results are, however, a lagging indicator. Individual success stories will appear long before the numbers are in. Share and reinforce individual successes that will lead to the metrics you want. You will miss opportunities to anchor the change if you wait for results.
Uncertainty, upheaval, and rapid change are the new normal. If you don't adjust your mindset, you will never adjust your behavior, performance, and ultimately, results.