Four Factors To Determine Your Future Relevance
How do you know if the decisions you are making today will ensure your company's future relevance and ultimate success? This question is often at the center of my work with clients. Leaders, entrepreneurs, organizations, and individuals are making decisions everyday that will impact their future viability in the market place. Most of these decisions stem from past processes and methods that in many situations are no longer relevant today. Traditional strategic planning methods are often predicated on past successes and the assumption that what worked yesterday will work tomorrow. In some instances this may be true, but as many of you reading this have probably experienced, strategic plans often collect more dust than create opportunity.
In light of these concerns, I've simplified the process for determining your future relevance by assessing your growth trajectory in four factors:
The first question you must ask yourself in order to determine your future relevance is: "What potential issues, obstacles, or problems are we solving, addressing, or alleviating?"
Determining value requires you to recognize emerging market needs by identifying trend patterns and their plausible implications. Once a problem, issue, or obstacle actually arises, it's usually too late to respond to it, because someone else is already positioned to act more quickly either through serendipitous means, related markets, or through the prior use of strategic foresight. This is what leads us to the second factor, "Speed."
The second question you must ask yourself in order to determine future relevance is, "How fast can we address the issue or solve the problem when it arises?"
Those organizations that can deliver solutions with remarkable speed are either lean enough to quickly deliver a solution with very little forethought or happen to be in the right place at the right time. But waiting for those moments, with little to no forethought, is an exercise in insanity and a gamble, to say the least. Instead, the application of strategic foresight enables an organization to position itself in that space before the market need arises. Consider the seasoned professional outfielder who gets in the right position and waits for the ball to come to him rather than simply reacting, chasing, diving, and hoping his reach is long enough. The ability to anticipate where the needs and opportunities are most likely going to occur provides a huge competitive advantage.
The third question you must ask yourself in order to determine your future relevance is, "How applicable is our solution/service/product in multiple future outcomes?"
Most prepare for one future outcome, established by their baseline assumptions and industry bias. You must consider a variety of alternative future outcomes, as well as the variety of potential uses your solution may provide in each of these outcomes. For example, did Twitter's founders anticipate their product would be the instrument of revolution that overthrew a 40+ year dictatorship in Egypt? If future outcome #1 doesn't happen, in what other markets are you positioned to excel? It's important to think of how your product, solution, or service may impact several facets of society. This gives you the advantage of being prepared to enter or create new markets as well as dominate your existing market.
The last question you must ask yourself in order to determine future relevance is "How malleable is our solution to sudden changes or unexpected shifts?"
Here is where the value of foresight allows you to see what others may not see for several years to come. Future relevance requires us to not only challenge industry norms and baseline assumptions about today but also tomorrow. In order to do this you must consider the implications of future outcomes by asking questions such as, "What new vulnerabilities and opportunities arise in each alternative future outcome?" Then consider, "How prepared is our organization and solution to rapidly respond to each of these shifts?" Now is the time to begin implementing the changes that will place you in a position of advantage in each of these scenarios.
Why focus on being one step ahead of the competition when you can be several steps ahead?
What are you doing to ensure that your expertise, product, or service is relevant in the future?