Imagine The Future

The goal posts have moved – not further away but closer than ever.

What used to be considered 10-year stretch visions are now achievable in 3-5 years, pressuring CEOs to really think what 10 year visions should look like.

Many CEOs are resorting to giving up 10 year visions in place of 3-5 year ones feeling that since they can’t “see” the future there’s no purpose in trying to imagine it. That’s a big mistake. What your company might look like 10 years from today doesn’t have to be explicitly spelled out right now.

Just because it’s difficult to imagine what the long-term future could be, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the effort to do so. Thinking outside the box is what creates sustainable competitive advantage, brand equity and highly profitable businesses.

What’s caused this dramatic shift in thinking? The latest generation of simpler and affordable technologies has allowed CEOs to imagine long-term outcomes not previously considered – and achievable faster than ever before.

Many CEOs spend a vast amount of time optimizing and organizing the status-quo, afraid of the risk in getting involved with unknown technologies and applications that may expose their ignorance. There is also a pre-conceived idea that game changing growth comes from technology that is too expensive and only works well in larger businesses.

Because of technology’s lower cost, greater availability to smaller businesses and its accelerated impact on change, imagination and creativity have greater importance for CEOs than ever and need to be at the front and center of business strategic thinking.

Failure to prioritize strategic imagination and creativity, and incorporate technology applications that go beyond the latest version of installed software, may soon mean your company will be focusing on strategies to combat an unwanted competitive threat and being an unwilling participant in someone else’s future vision.

As a CEO, you simply must incorporate technology into your long-term thinking.

Here are some steps to help get you there:

• Don’t get suckered into thinking that since the pace of change is quick and your business may be growing so fast that long term visions are not necessary. Long-term is 10 years and thinking in those terms is what will grow the value of your business.

• Learn, learn and learn! Immerse yourself in technology driven businesses, search out conferences to attend, become inspired by the technology itself and follow forward thinking leaders inside and outside of your industry who are using technology to drive their visions even if “technology” seems too complicated to you.

• Thoughtfully imagine and through creatively applied new technologies, visualize how your company can create long-term competitive advantage in your business segment. Look at what others are doing and imagine how you could apply these ideas to your company.

• Let your mind run wild and imagine how mainstream and newly developed technologies can take your company’s core competencies to a whole new level. Then, write down a long-term future state for your business regardless of whether or not you know how to achieve it.

• Map out the ideal organizational structure and workplace culture to make certain any executive gaps are covered so you’re capable of thinking way beyond how “you’ve always done it”.

• Incorporate a primary technology strategy (how) into your strategic plan.

• Set “acceptable” and “game changing” measures and milestones. Include dates.

• Review every 90 days to make certain you’re staying on track.

One of the great examples of using nascent technology and long-term thinking to grow a business is Ray Dalio. Ray, with a handful of employees, applied well-thought through rules and systems combined with microcomputers (later known as personal computers) in the 1980’s to align the building blocks of what is now the largest hedge fund in the world, Bridgewater Associates. Dalio took the core competency of thinking in a rules & systems based manner and applied unfamiliar (at the time) but promising technology to create results better than anyone else.

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Brian Oken has helped dozens of business owners and CEOs become better leaders, build more effective teams and grow bottom-line profits.

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