Think about the future
We know that leadership is all about what we do next; and so we should take a keen interest in the future, near and far. But we all know that predictions – particularly predictions about the future – are pretty risky.
So how are we to compass the future environment in which leadership will play a defining role?
Commercial companies like to make demographic, economic or cash flow predictions; when I was with M&S, we were intently focused on the 21m customers who came to M&S stores each week: how could we get more to drop in? What would influence them in the future? What would their future needs look like? Could the marketing and market research people spot a trend? And it is often instructive here to think counter-intuitively: what if consumers want less choice rather than more?
Futurologists like the hundreds of men and women who contributed to Vodafone’s excellent Futureagenda tend to want to find big trends, huge tendencies, deep shifts in what we do and how we do it: so their interest is in big movements. Here are, for example, four certainties, all of which have profound implications for CLM in their respective fields:
1. Imbalanced population growth (200 people an hour in Karachi, -1 in Berlin)
2. Key resource constraints (eg water, arsenic)
3. Asian wealth shift – a return to the power of India as a trading nation
4. Universal data access – all done by mobile device
Academics love big theory. But there are two kinds of theory: those that have been disproved, and those that have not yet been disproved. Leaders should beware of easy or big theory. The world is simply too various.
The Heartstyles model allows for all variance in the future. Our individual futures are best lived Above the Line; and each new situation gives us the opportunity to practice S + T = B (situation + thinking = behaviour). This is an intrinsically ameliorative approach, tested by each of us, on ourselves, every time we are faced with a new stimulus, be it global or personal.