Are you prepared?

Most of us are aware we need to be prepared for a future we’ve yet to get our heads around. A future that involves driverless cars, robotics, artificial intelligence, big data. A future shaped by changing demographics and geo-politics. A future we can’t yet imagine.


We know it’s coming. We see the signs in what we watch and read. We know our organisations are contemplating what we must do to stay relevant. But few of us have taken the time to really think about what this will mean for us, or those that matter to us.

Yet our job as leaders is to lead – and leading today no longer means leading for business as usual. Rather it means leading others to a future that we only have glimpses of. But how do we prepare for a future we can’t even predict?

This question is at the crux of the difference between leading change and leading transformation. Leading change is like training be a Territorial. We go through drills to help us prepare to handle similar situations to those that have happened before e.g. disaster relief. The scale of the change might be different – but the change itself will be recognisable and our response will be predictable.

Leading transformation is like training for the SAS. The stakes are higher and the situations we are likely to find ourselves in are utterly unfamiliar. It’s not a case of running drills to deal with the familiar. It’s about focusing relentlessly on developing the mindset, disciplines and practices to be prepared to handle whatever comes up.

In preparing ourselves and those we lead to meet the challenges of an unknown future, we, like the SAS, must prepare differently. 

We must develop new insights into our motivations, tendencies of response and identities and adopt different mindsets. We must develop new disciplines that enable us to model with more precision, learn faster and perform better. We must up our game so we can ruthlessly focus on what really matters and push ourselves so we become masters of our own destinies – personally and organisationally.

So how do we begin? We start by learning to pay attention. Much as we are advised to keep up with our professional and industry reading, we must be equally diligent in keeping up with future trends. 

We begin by keeping a list for ourselves that’s marked ‘The Future’. Every time we see something, read something or have a conversation about anything that could possibly have an impact on the future (no matter how seemingly insignificant) we make a note. At this point we're not considering what this could mean, we're just getting into the habit of paying attention.

For example, recent entries on my list include:

  • The possibilities of cars powered by poo

  • The impact of pop-up office spaces rather than being tied into multi-year leases

  • Prediction that by 2020, 50% of workforce will be free-lancers

  • Shopping malls declining in favour of big-box stores

  • A prediction that within twenty years the number of accountants in NZ would drop from 17,669 to 19

What’s on your list?

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