If you have read any of my past articles, you know that in my Anticipatory Leader System, I teach a competency called the Skip It Principle.
On the surface, something like problem skipping might seem like a hands-off approach to solving an issue that arises in your organization; however, it’s actually tremendously hands-on, and involves creative critical thinking.
Most problems that surface in our daily business operation or in our industry as a whole are not the real problems we should focus on. Instead, they are mere derivatives of a bigger problem that is actually affecting our realities. Skipping the perceived problem, in many cases, reveals the aforementioned real problem, as these perceived problems cloud our vision and often seem insurmountable.
In turn, this shifts our operation into neutral, and in bigger organizations, pervades to be one of the most costly wastes of time we’ve come to know. So if you’re new to problem skipping and you haven’t checked out my Anticipatory Leader System just yet, I implore you to do so, but in the meantime, let’s explore two diverse examples of where my Skip It Principle applies.
The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 made a mess out of all industries in one way or another. Even well into the aftermath of this virus, many business professionals in all fields are still trying to piece together the remnants of what was and what will be.
Education was among one of the biggest industries impacted by safer-at-home orders and global lockdowns. Virtual education became something that was just expected out of K-12 teachers and college professors alike, and many teach in fields that are so removed from anything digital, they hadn’t a clue how to translate it via Zoom.
Take, for example, a small engine repair course at a technical college. Not only is this course extremely hands-on with anything except a computer, many instructors who teach this are adjuncts: part-time college professors who also work full-time. During traditional times, these types of instructors worked for the day, and then perhaps taught one night a week for a few hours, or twice a week for less time each meeting.
Enter: the pandemic and a global lockdown. The colleges scrambled to make their curriculum remote to keep students and staff at home, and Zoom was their best option. Suddenly, the small engine repair adjunct professor needed to switch their entire class to a virtual setting, thanks to the pandemic. But is the real problem the coronavirus pandemic?
While the pandemic is an issue for everyone, in the case of this adjunct professor, it is not their real problem. Whether a pandemic or simply because the school wanted to go virtual for money savings or enrollment issues, the real problem here is a part-time instructor with a full-time job finding a way to do the impossible: teach something extremely physical via a digital medium.
If the adjunct professor were to sit and focus on the pandemic, they might still be sitting at home with no solution, completely at the mercy of when the pandemic will be completely gone and everything “back to normal” and in-person. What the pandemic illustrated to many colleges is the Hard Trend future certainty that many individuals prefer and actually thrive in virtual education.
What that Hard Trend illustrates is a reality that no matter what, a shift to virtual was coming in some form. It likely already had prior to the pandemic, especially because colleges use platforms like Canvas to grade and communicate with students. The only difference here is the delivery becoming virtual, the real problem in this situation.
So how did the adjunct small engine repair professor solve this problem? They may have had to turn to one of their colleagues who have experience in video to help them pre-film lessons in their own garage, where their actual teaching hours are instead focused on answering questions. Perhaps the adjunct also uses resources at their school to better learn how to Zoom with students when the time comes to review something hands-on they’re working on at home.
As mentioned in the example above, there was already a shift to virtual in many areas of college education, namely how grading has been done and the fact that platforms like Canvas and Blackboard have facilitated bulk communication with students remotely. These even boasted features like Canvas Studio, where screen-recorded presentations were made easy to do long before the coronavirus pandemic.
This was an indisputable Hard Trend, and could also be predicted by way of my identification of the Three Digital Accelerators that drive digital disruptions — processing power/computing power, bandwidth, and storage. As these digital attributes accelerate even faster, more physical industries will have digital characteristics designed to streamline tasks.
This in turn will create problems for business leaders and employees; however, using my Skip It Principle, those leaders and employees will better identify their real problem and learn to be Anticipatory in finding solutions to future disruptions and the problems they bring.
Essentially, had the adjunct professor been Anticipatory about how virtual their teaching was becoming already prior to COVID-19, they may have started to integrate more virtual lessons in their course, familiarizing themselves with even the most digital aspects of teaching something physical and seeing the coronavirus pandemic as a mere obstacle no different than any other change in their teaching process.
Don’t let solvable problems cease your entire operation; learn to use the Skip It Principle today through my Anticipatory Leader System, and more importantly, discover how developing an Anticipatory mindset by way of identifying Hard Trends that will happen allows you to predict some of the biggest disruptions heading your way.
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.