As COVID-19 uncertainty spreads around the world at an exponential pace, the global community is finding out that reacting quickly to the societal and economic disruptions that the virus creates, no matter how agile a reactor you are, is not good enough and quite frankly, is simply not working.
With disruptive changes moving so fast, everything seems to be uncertain, and that uncertainty can cause us all to “wait and see,” which is the exact opposite of what we should be doing now! The only way individuals, entrepreneurs, business and government leaders can get ahead of the spread of the virus, and get control of its speed and devastating impact, is to stop focusing on reacting quickly, or “pivoting,” as some have called it, and start becoming anticipatory by separating the Hard Trends that will happen from the Soft Trends that might happen and can be changed.
You cannot change a Hard Trend, but you can see it coming, and by knowing what will happen before it happens, you can create strategies to take advantage of that trend, giving you certainty and the confidence to make bold moves as you move ahead. Another major advantage of Hard Trends is that they allow you to identify the problems that are ahead and solve them before they occur.
The coronavirus pandemic has leveled the playing field. The exponential uncertainty it brings with it has forced increasing numbers of people to live day-by-day as they try to protect what they have in an effort to combat what might happen as this highly unusual year unfolds.
However, it is important to note that the exponential spread of COVID-19 as it doubles every three days is a Soft Trend, meaning that the exponential spread can be changed! Anticipatory government and business leaders saw the predictable exponential spread of the virus and the potential human and economic impact. They realized it was a Soft Trend that could be changed and took action to slow and eventually stop the spread by closing nonessential businesses and implementing strong social distancing measures in order to flatten the curve, save countless lives, and save millions, billions, and even trillions of dollars.
As we lock down, work remotely and do our best to remain healthy and safe, realize that everyone is hurting and with that, there are enormous new ways to make a bigger difference as you simultaneously grow your business.
So how do you innovate when everyone’s mindset is to wait out the storm? You Go Opposite; take the road less traveled to take your organization from success to significance and turn this pandemic disruption into opportunity.
I’ve written about this anticipatory principle in the past; I call it the Law of Opposites. By looking for a solution to a problem or a new opportunity in the exact opposite direction from where you are currently looking, you will see amazing solutions and opportunities that were outside of your view. From a strategic standpoint, when everyone goes one way, Anticipatory Leaders often go the other and take the road less traveled.
There isn’t a better time to do this! The pandemic and lock downs already are a road less traveled, one in which many will sit on the sidelines and wait and see what will happen. In many ways the world seems to be hitting a pause button as the vast majority goes into a hold position. By doing so, they will not be ready for the identifiable certainty that the pandemic will end.
Many might think that having a wait and see approach is less stressful, but the opposite is true. As you wait, you will see others moving ahead, intuitively knowing that while others are moving ahead, you’re falling behind. The stress of waiting for months will mount, making it harder to start moving again.
I’m sure you have heard the old saying: “an object at rest tends to stay at rest, while an object in motion tends to stay in motion.” Admittedly, it’s hard to move forward when you can’t see ahead. That’s why you should start with the opposite; observe what you can see instead of focusing on what you can’t see. Instead of looking at all the things you aren’t certain about, ask yourself: What are you certain about? Instead of looking at all the things you can’t do, ask yourself: What can you do now? Why not do the opposite while everyone else sits and waits?
This is the perfect time to redefine and reinvent what you do and how you do it. Redefining and reinventing are core principles of Anticipatory Leaders, and as we see, current systems, such as how we deliver healthcare and the global supply chain, buckle under the load. The fault lines in our systems become highly visible and the systems become ripe for reinvention.
The fact is that every system is ripe for reinvention, and the best time to do it is now. When times are good, transformational change can be put off, but when the world and everyone in it is hurting, people are much more open to new, innovative ideas. It’s time to double down on redefining and reinventing your products, services and customer experiences before someone else does, and if you do this while helping others through the crisis, you will find a lot more help along the way!
The news, which has been quite dark lately, is focused on the virus, what it has done and is doing. It’s imperative to look beyond the news and to look ahead at what we do know!
I would like you to consider becoming a positive disruptor, creating the transformations that need to happen to make the future better for everyone. This is not as hard as it seems, because perfection is impossible; everything can be improved. Everything has facets to it that can be changed for the better. A positive disruptor has the power to unite people and help humankind move forward in a positive and productive way.
In this new year, new decade and global pandemic, where do you start? It’s simple; find certainty by identifying the Hard Trends that will happen and the related opportunities to move forward. Remember, trends by themselves do not have power until you attach them to an opportunity, which is when they burst into actionable light. And positive disruptors use Soft Trends to their advantage, because they can change them if they’re undesirable.
When everyone is stuck in one mindset, Go Opposite! If you anticipate instead of reacting, redefine and reinvent instead of waiting, move forward instead of standing still, and focus on significance over success, you will put yourself and your organization much further ahead than ever before.
In this time of unprecedented uncertainty, actively shaping your future by becoming an Anticipatory Leader has never been more important.
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.