New Year's Day 2020 was the dawn of a new year, a new decade, and a strong stock market with strong growth forecasts, despite being an election year, in which a high level of uncertainty is prevalent.
But now, with the global pandemic causing a much higher level of uncertainty, it’s never been more important to ask, “What are we certain about?”
If we take a moment to focus on this being an election year, we know that, before the pandemic made headlines, many companies had already planned to “wait and see,” in terms of innovation, holding off on moving forward too quickly due to the political uncertainties that come along with an election. There are so many possibilities and uncertainties that many leaders see nothing but red flags in business.
We also know that, as we get closer to the election date, political ads, both online and offline, from both parties, will be designed to create fear or anger, causing high emotions and distractions at home as well as at work. Unfortunately, even before 2020, the United States had really been the “Divided States” when it comes to our mindsets, creating unprecedented levels of emotional uncertainty and lack of trust.
Uncertainty forces us to hunker down and protect and defend the status quo. In a normal election year, many industries slow down. When you factor in the impact of COVID-19, this additional uncertainty will cause many companies to turn inward to crisis management and cease all innovation, assuming they stay open, as a way to be “safe,” relying on agility and reactiveness to combat what might happen to them as a result.
I am writing to tell you that this strategy of playing it safe couldn’t be any more wrong; you should not rest on your laurels and “wait and see” what 2020 has to offer. A virus or election doesn’t stop technology-driven exponential change and digital disruption. The pandemic will end, but digital disruption won’t; it will continue to accelerate! There has never been more uncertainty than there is today, and it has never been more imperative to become anticipatory, identify the Hard Trends and disruptions before they happen, and pre-solve predictable problems before they spread.
COVID-19 is teaching us a lesson in exponential growth; the virus doubles every three days when left to spread.
Those who have learned how to separate the Hard Trends that will happen from the Soft Trends that might happen, know that the exponential spread of the virus is a Soft Trend; it can be changed by strategies such as social distancing and locking down the movement of people. Sadly, many countries are learning the hard way that reacting quickly, no matter how agile you are, will not catch up to the virus and its human and economic impacts.
As we lock down the movement of people and, in many cases, work remotely as we do our best to keep our families, employees and customers healthy and safe, we must realize that, because everyone is hurting, there are enormous new ways to make a bigger difference as an individual and as a business. While others “wait and see,” Anticipatory Leaders and individuals are discovering new ways to become indispensable by way of using Hard Trends to identify the things they are certain about, and using the confidence that comes from certainty to make bold moves and seize the opportunity to shift from being a successful organization to a significant one that serves society in amazing new ways.
The impact of the pandemic uncertainty will continue to disrupt our lives and businesses until we contain it and develop a vaccine; however, there is no vaccine for digital disruption. A reactionary, agile strategy will have less of a positive impact every year as the exponential pace of technological change continues.
So, while others may “wait and see” what the future brings for our world post-pandemic, Anticipatory Leaders are not looking at the long list of things they can no longer do; they are creating a list of things they can do now using the Hard Trend certainties they have identified to have the confidence and support to create new ways to serve their people and customers.
For example, anticipatory convenience store owners could use the current pandemic to shift their brand to being a “necessity store” by using out-of-work Uber and Lyft drivers to deliver food and other supplies, using a mobile app, to current customers as well as new customers such as nursing homes and other healthcare facilities. This is just one example of why Anticipatory Leaders and organizations do not “wait and see” for fear of pandemic uncertainty or unknown election results; they know exponential change and digital disruption will continue to escalate, and they represent new ways to solve today's seemingly impossible problems and build a better tomorrow for themselves and others!
2020 will go down in history as much more than a new year, a new decade, and a U.S. election year. The global pandemic uncertainty has created a defining moment for all of humankind. There are amazing levels of uncertainty causing fear, panic and hunkering down to wait and see. Certainty, on the other hand, provides the confidence to move forward in a bold way.
Because strategy based on uncertainty has high risk, and strategy based on certainty has low risk and high reward, certainty becomes a much better choice now and in the future. The key to finding the confidence of certainty is to identify the Hard Trends that are based on future facts that will happen, and then link an opportunity to each one. Always remember that a trend by itself does not have power until you attach it to an opportunity. For example, it is a Hard Trend that this pandemic uncertainty will end when we have contained it, stopped the spread and have developed a cure – and we will do all of those.
The big question is: How will you and your organization be remembered after it is over? Will you squander this defining moment, or will you do something about it now? It has never been more important to actively shape your future by becoming an Anticipatory Leader.
Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading futurists on global trends and innovation. The New York Times has referred to him as one of the top three business gurus in the highest demand as a speaker. He is a strategic advisor to executives from Fortune 500 companies, helping them to accelerate innovation and results by develop game-changing strategies based on his proven methodologies for capitalizing on technology innovations and their future impact. His client list includes companies such as Microsoft, GE, American Express, Google, Deloitte, Procter & Gamble, Honda, and IBM. He is the author of seven books, including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller Flash Foresight, and his latest book The Anticipatory Organization. He is a featured writer with millions of monthly readers on the topics of innovation, change and the future and has appeared in Harvard Business Review, Wired, CNBC, and Huffington Post to name a few. He has been the featured subject of several PBS television specials and has appeared on programs such as CNN, Fox Business, and Bloomberg, and is quoted in a variety of publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Fortune, and Forbes. He has founded six businesses, four of which were national leaders in the United States in the first year. He is the CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients profit from technological, social and business forces that are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. In 1983 he became the first and only futurist to accurately identify the twenty technologies that would become the driving force of business and economic change for decades to come. He also linked exponential computing advances to economic value creation. His specialties are technology-driven trends, strategic innovation, strategic advising and planning, business keynote presentations.