It is clear that in business, many leaders and entrepreneurs alike chase and strive for stability.
Whether it be in your bottom line or a product your organization is working to perfect, the concept of stability brings the comfort and illusion that you’ve finally “made it.” You and your organization have achieved success, and now it’s time to kick your feet up and savor the sweet satisfaction of a job well done.
However, the reality is that this mindset is more detrimental than anyone realizes. First and foremost, the concept of stability is often confused very easily with the dangers of complacency. If I were to ask a business reveling in stability if they think they are actually being complacent, many would disagree.
However, the world we find ourselves in today is dominated by exponential, digital transformation of all sorts. Therefore, actively seeking a plateau to progress where you can rest on your laurels and coast is tremendously detrimental and will ultimately set you far behind the competition.
After all, you can only coast uphill so far before gravity takes over, right?
Aside from its likeness to the concept of stability, complacency is dangerous because it is so appealing and comforting. When you are climbing a hill on your bicycle, the thought of finishing at the top and then coasting downhill thereafter is naturally attractive because you are exhausted and need a break.
That state of mind occurs in business as well, materializing when you have experienced a long history of success and are in the wake of positive news, such as goals reached, benchmarks achieved and other means of measuring success that may have given you a bit of burn out. But much like the bicyclist example, you know there’s going to be another hill!
Rest, if you must, but do not stagnate. That next hill is metaphoric to disruptions in the status quo of your business. Celebrating success is fantastic but knowing and respecting the reality that the other hill is on the horizon is your way of implementing my Hard Trend Methodology, where you identify future certainties that will happen and pre-solve problems associated with them in an anticipatory way.
Assuming you can just coast the rest of your career or through the existence of your organization sounds preposterous, doesn’t it? That’s because it is; you know you can’t do that, because as you take your precious time in the pits of a race, patting yourself on the back for leading so far, you’re giving your competitors the opportunity to pass you.
What you and your organization have accomplished so far may have allowed you to leap far ahead of others in the products and services you offer, but change is the only constant, and we are always moving forward into the future. Viewing your organization as a living entity with no “end point” helps restructure your mindset to one of anticipation, whereas celebrating a win as being good enough places you in a finite mindset while both your customers and the competition continue on the journey.
Celebrating the small wins is certainly vital for morale, but do not view your career or your organization’s legacy as an “end product” but rather a dynamic, living entity.
So how do you work to counter the dangers of complacency as a business leader? As I just mentioned, we are always moving forward in time, spending the rest of our lives in the future. Therefore, by returning your attention to tomorrow, you shift your mindset to one of anticipation.
Consider this: An agile and reactionary mindset is one implemented when responding to something unexpected. Imagine waking up every day, genuinely shocked that tomorrow came. That is strange to even write! We are certain that tomorrow will arrive, as are both your customers and competitors. Now imagine reacting to that concept every single morning in a panic because you were sure yesterday was the last day of existence. That should sound exhausting and unrealistic, because it is.
This is why implementing my Anticipatory Organization Model makes the most sense; there is a future after today that is ripe with opportunity. Because of this, a key concept of my Anticipatory Organization Model is a principle I refer to as Futureview®. In essence, this is how you and your organization see the future. Is it a positive one ripe with opportunities or a future merely characterized by disruption and frustrating missteps you must react to? Is it one that’s likely to occur or one that is teetering on extinction?
More importantly, does your organization have an aligned Futureview? A positive Futureview can be very pervasive. If an organization’s leaders have a positive Futureview, that naturally spreads to others around them, opening their eyes to the bright future and prompting them to want to come along for the ride. They’re more excited and, as a result, less complacent in their mindsets and behaviors.
Your positive Futureview impacts clients and customers with whom you work outside of your organization as well. Their view of doing business with you now and in the future is positive, and all of this positivity spurs innovations at all levels.
In my travels, too often I see companies and organizations rewarding legacy behavior and mindsets, cementing themselves in the past. This type of disconnect from the exponentially disruptive world around them can lead to complacency within its staff and a disjointed Futureview.
For example, you may wish to encourage employees to implement my Hard Trend Methodology, prompting them to actively watch for predictable problems and solve them before they arise. Is there an interactive way to incentivize them, where there is a reward for those who not only identify a future problem but create a solution to it as well? By offering attractive rewards and benefits for efforts that combat complacency—in this case, pre-solving predictable problems—you’re naturally boosting your company’s ability to resist complacency. Invest in the people within your organization and help them grow with you in the future—they’ll want to keep themselves and your organization moving forward.
Complacency is a very real danger for businesses in all industries. Developing and fostering an anticipatory mindset helps not only align your organization’s Futureview but educates your organization in understanding that business and life are ever-evolving entities, impossible to solely react to. The future is filled with boundless opportunity and the ability to pre-solve problems before they become problems, so be sure to shift your mindset to an anticipatory one to leverage that opportunity like never before.
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.