How do companies keep up with or, better still, stay ahead of the curve with the ever-accelerating technological and cultural change that influences our world today? After all, the first text message was sent less than thirty years ago. Google has only been around for two decades, Facebook fifteen years and Twitter twelve years. Companies and industries have experienced infrastructure changes of massive proportions in the past two decades – Amazon has consistently led the pack here with Sunday deliveries and the use of drones to deliver packages to your door.

INC., This Morning newsletter, notes: “As a thoughtful leader today of a company or team, you have to assess, apportion resources and take action in an environment with 3 to 5 year lifespans and constant technological disruption. You can do this only if you look to the future. If you spend your time enjoying the present or worse, wishing for the past, the world will most certainly pass you by”.

“Staying ahead of the curve” literally refers to your position on the statistical Bell Curve, where the top of the curve represents the median, average result. By being ahead of the curve, you represent the top percentile of results that either has the advanced skills or understanding that sets you apart. How does a company get ahead of the curve and equally importantly, stay there? There are a few important steps which require your investment as a leader:

  1. Create an environment of trust – where seniority is not as important as ideas, where cohesion and collaboration trump silos, where dignity and respect direct every relationship (internal or external) and where values guide every decision. This, in turn, creates a positive environment and stimulates thinking and dialogue.
  2. Tap into the creative energy of your people – unsafe environments and disruptive negative energy paralyse teams and other communities. Address negativity and remove barriers swiftly to send a strong message of behaviour expectations. Stimulate emotional electricity as you inspire your people with “big picture” vision, information and good consistent communication.
  3. Master characteristics of agility (see also Lee Colan – Leadership Matters) –
    1. Speed – quit spending too much time on analysis and follow your intuition. Use the 80/20 Principles to guide you to faster decision–making (gather 80% of the relevant bits of information in the first 20% of available time. The remaining 20% of the data (which would take the remaining 80% of your time to obtain) typically does not substantially improve the quality of your decision.
    2. Flexibility – stretch minds to learn new skills and explore new approaches. Look for learning in post-project reviews, customer meetings, changes in priorities and mistakes. Learn from these experiences to build flexibility into future approaches.
    3. Strengths – regardless of rapidly changing circumstances, continue strengthening your team’s core competencies – what they are best at doing. Don’t paint stripes on your back if you are not a zebra.
  4. Stay committed and uncommitted at the same time – committed to your values, your staff, your customers, etc., but uncommitted preferably to anything that may tie you down or impede agility (e.g. long-term leases, hard to sell property or equipment, etc.). You want to be able to change direction swiftly to catch opportunities or avoid a threat.
  5. Master the short-term, but think future – do what you do well (or better than the rest), but focus your thinking on what your product and services are going to look like within the next five years. Check out industry trends, ensure that mobile technology is being fully utilised in every way in your business and get teams involved in planning a creative future for their respective functions.

Staying ahead of the curve in our “disrupted” world requires the combined creativity of everyone in the company – all applying positive energy to generate ideas, inspire change and chart an exciting path towards a sustainable future. To neglect this could result in irrelevance for the business.

Free To Grow helps you tap into the creative energy of employees with an engaging approach to leadership (www.freetogrow.com)

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