For centuries, leadership skill has been measured by your ability to make things happen inside “built to last” organizations. Success depended on your ability to build trust, cultivate long-term relationships, and manage stakeholders. But we are now entering a world defined by temporary, cross-functional teams, frequently formed to work on specific issues or goals, rather than more traditional fixed structures. Excelling will require a fundamentally different skill set.
Our ideas make no difference if we cannot get others – our colleagues, partners, bosses, investors – to embrace them. Through the 120 or more interviews I’ve conducted this last year with innovators, I’ve heard over and over again that change is constant and those who have impact are skilled at getting people to embrace this fact.
When it comes to pitching your employer new business ideas, few can claim a track record as impressive as Brendan Ripp’s. Brendan most recently served as group publisher of the Sports Illustrated Group, where he led the development of nearly two dozen brand extensions, including a new film production unit, a college sports vertical, consumer events for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit and most recently the launch of SI Overtime, a branded content studio. He also formed content, media and marketing partnerships with WebMD and Wired, prior to which he served as publisher of Time, Fortune and Money.
We all know that companies that thrive in the future share certain traits. They need to listen to core customers and excel at sensing new trends.
“All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.”
If you consider ‘disruptive’ businesses with true transformative effects — think of Uber, Tesla, or AirBNB, for example — you’ll find they do the first, majorly important aspect of any business: they solve problems for the customer.
It is so easy to miss! When the future was lobbing softballs at you, you could hit the trends every time. But the future has upped its game. It’s throwing fastballs and curveballs now.
What software company would’ve thought five years ago that Amazon would be its biggest competitor in the cloud? What automobile manufacturer thought five years ago that a simple mobile app would force them to rethink their business?
In our last blog post, we argued that a “digital transformation” being experienced across nearly every sector is thrusting us into a new era of complexity. Large companies are failing to adapt. They are dying earlier and faster than ever before. And their failure to adapt could come at a profound detriment to society.
An odd thing happened in a client’s boardroom recently. We were listing out the competitors we needed to keep an eye on as part of a scenario planning exercise. We had discussed the usual suspects – long-time direct – and even the more recent entrants – mostly technology start-ups that were now picking up speed. Then someone said, “What really scares me are the competitors we can’t see.”
What is next to fall?
The talent barrier is already coming down. In the past, companies offered workers a straightforward bargain: give up what you want to do to do what we want you to do, and in exchange we will give you full-time employment, a title, and a hierarchy. Trade freedom for predictability.