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Trends versus Disruptive Challenges and Threats

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January 21, 2020 January 21, 2020

By Steve Steckler

Thirty-four years, futurist, John Naisbitt predicted trends that he felt were changing our society and the modern world. In his book, Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming our Lives, he identified a number of changes including the evolution from an industrial to an information-based economy, movement to a global marketplace, an embracing of technology, decentralization and the diminishing impact of government and the growth of more choice overall.

Predicting important trends is important. Realizing that the trend has already taken place is perhaps even more important. About a year ago, appearing on the “Charlie Rose Show”, reflecting upon his years at IBM as the former Chairman and CEO, Sam Palmisano shared  two key reasons that large companies like his former one, often miss the trends that have already taken hold in the marketplace and minds of customers. He mentioned two key reasons: First, the current financial business model encourages you to keep on doing what you are doing, especially if you are succeeding. 

Second, a lack of appreciation that new disruptive technology can replace your current product line. In other words, IBM, according to Palmisano viewed the PC and then the phone as a device and not a client server platform that could replace enterprise or mainframe technology. Customers felt that the newer and less expensive technology was good enough for what they wanted to achieve.

The interview reminded me of other famous situations of either missing or almost missing the disruptive changes that can relinquish a once premier company to a corporate footnote. Digital Equipment ‘s (DEC) failure to understand and  then respond to the impact and popularity of the personal computer  versus their minicomputer. And there is the story that circulated when I was at Microsoft of Bill Gates having to be convinced of what the rise and expansion of the internet would mean on computing and Microsoft.

Many companies with the help of HR are now focusing on being innovative. This is not sufficient to arrive ahead of the curve. Identifying emerging disruptive trends is not enough either. We all understand how our business models deliver success but realizing how our current approach fosters complacency and strangles change is critical.  Also, learning that what is good enough may well be just what customers want and are willing to pay for.  Trend watching should always include a deep evidence based focus on customers, not just global megatrends.

So what does all of this mean? Well, leaders with HR’s support, should develop a perspective that is both internally and externally focused on what changes or trends will likely impact their business model along with the ability to develop a roadmap for needed change. Leaders can prepare themselves and their employees for the managed change and transformation that can re-invent the business model. Based on the emerging trends that we see already,  change readiness and resiliency is and  will be a leadership  muscle that will not only be needed more often but will have to become a core competency for survival.

Originally posted : 03 Jan. 2017 | on conferenceboard.org

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