Hailed as the World’s Leading Business Strategist, award-winning professional speaker Scott Steinberg is among today’s best-known trends experts and futurists, and the bestselling author of “Lead with Your Heart,” “Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty” and “Millennial Marketing: Bridging the Generation Gap.” The president and CEO of BIZDEV: The International Association for Business Development and Strategic Partnerships, his website is AKeynoteSpeaker.com.
So much for the idea of ‘status quo.’ As it pays to remind event attendees, while modern executives are no strangers to change and disruption, things only get more topsy-turvy for working professionals from here. In fact, according to recent surveys by consulting firm PwC, no two days on the job ever will be the same again. That’s because across every region of the world and every commercial sector, market leaders explain that the only consistent theme you can count on in coming years is: Unpredictability.
Think you’ve got a handle on how fast today’s business world moves? Think again. As we were shocked to find while researching our recent book, “Lead with Your Heart,” uncertainty is now the only certainty at work. The next 10 years will bring more change than the prior 10,000 years. And — thanks to rapid advancements in technology and communications tools — the one thing organizational leaders can count on going forward is that they’ll only be hit with more unforeseen disruptions harder, faster and from more angles than ever before. So what’s a forward-thinking executive to do if they want to help their enterprise stay ahead of the curve? Simple: Change up their leadership and management style to make leadership a concept that scales. Provide workers the insights they need to facilitate more dynamic decision-making, provide staffers with all the tools they need to stay better attuned to signals that the marketplace is sending them, and be faster about adapting to these developments in turn.
Bearing this in mind, and that business and cultural trends are now evolving at an unprecedented pace, it’s no surprise that business leaders around the world note that strategic priorities for any organization hoping to get ahead in coming years must also evolve. Among the concepts they say, it’s now vital to champion to your staff at meetings and events, are the importance of:
But most importantly, they also note that the best way to get ahead in uncertain times is always to double down and reinvest in your people — and that doing so can pay off in huge ways, because people are your most important asset today.
Taking this into account, today’s most effective leaders realize that here and now — while things are going well, and you can most afford to take chances — is the most opportune time to start making a host of smart investments in initiatives that drive constant learning and growth for their organization. And that it’s also the best time to start encouraging staffers to get behind the idea of making more insight-driven decisions, and educating themselves through a running process of trial and error that involves constantly brainstorming and testing a variety of new strategies and solutions.
Because in uncertain times, as we discovered, the irony is that you’ve got to take more risks, not fewer, if you want to get ahead. But these risks have to come in the form of small, smart, cost-effective bets designed as ongoing learning experiments that can help you quickly gain deeper insights into the shape of changing operating landscapes and make better and more informed choices as you become more informed. Likewise, to stay relevant — let alone ahead of the curve — organizations also have to start being more deliberate about putting systems and programs in place that can help frontline staffers assume more of an ownership role in driving workplace decisions.
That’s because, ironically, studies of the world’s most innovative firms repeatedly show that end-users — everyday customers, strategic partners, various internal/external stakeholders that we serve, etc. — are the No. 1, most reliable proven source where organizations get successful new ideas. And yet, at the same time, research also tells us that less than a third of organizations have effective systems in place for capturing this feedback and using it to create winning solutions. Keeping this in mind, the real question you should be asking yourself as an executive leader going forward — and encouraging your co-workers to ask themselves — isn’t “Do we have what it takes to compete?” as your organization. It’s “Are we doing everything we can to give our people all the tools and resources they need to be listening to these insights, and promptly and intelligently responding to them in turn?”
For example, Dell EMC is a market leader in the field of IT and big data. It has 60,000 employees worldwide. But when it has a huge, hard problem it just can’t seem to solve? It routinely puts the challenge to its employees in the form of an Innovation Contest. Workers are invited to suggest ideas for innovative new solutions — and can comment on these ideas, give colleagues feedback and vote on which are turned into real-world prototypes and products. But, it turns out that many of the firm’s most successful ventures are happening when employees worldwide are independently teaming up on their own time to bring new ideas to life that they found online, which weren’t technically contest winners.
Likewise, you can see a host of government agencies employing similar solutions for accelerating and scaling innovation at Challenge.gov, a website where institutions like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dept. of Defense put up contests asking the general public and private sector for help with tasks such as designing better healthcare programs or building better underground bunkers. Prizes for winning solutions can often exceed $1 million — but it’s often a small price to pay, comparatively, for creating platforms that allow them to radically multiply the number of winning ideas, insights and solutions these programs can help surface.
Long story short — when it comes to getting ahead despite disruption, and finding ways to successfully navigate through change, even as an experienced team leader, it often pays to find more ways to step back and let others take the lead. The more you look to make leadership and innovation concepts that scale, and put programs and platforms in place to rapidly transform ideas into reality — say a running conference program or series of experiential events and educational salons — the more successful you’ll be, no matter what the future brings. I&FMM