Patience is a virtue. Throughout much of childhood, our parents and guardians instilled in us to be patient or to wait calmly for our turn at something.
Having patience is an important characteristic in everyday life, but as an adult — especially if you are a business leader or C-suite executive — too often does the concept of patience become a hands-off defense mechanism used to fight discomfort in facing change. The mindset that surrounds this behavior is known as “wait and see,” where a company tries to simply wait out the storm of disruption patiently, hoping the status quo will remain intact after the clouds clear.
Take it from my decades of experience in helping both disruptive and disrupted clients: The wait-and-see mindset is extremely self-destructive thanks to the speed of digital disruptions, how competitors are leveraging them exponentially, and the rate of change in the general physical world that has always been constant.
Assuming change will simply pass you by without impacting you or your organization is as foolish as thinking that, somehow, because you really enjoy sunny afternoons, night will never fall upon you.
Now, the darkness of evening encompassing you while you sit outside hoping the afternoon sun will stay exactly where it is in the sky may make you cold or make it hard for you to navigate your way back inside, but in this scenario, sitting and waiting is generally harmless. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for disregarding disruption and change as a business leader.
Sitting and waiting for inevitable change to come, assuming you will know how to pivot, is not being patient. No matter how much you and your colleagues believe that a brilliant idea will fall into your lap while you wait, that wait-and-see mindset is self-destruction in disguise.
Though if you can believe it, digital technology is not the only thing driving change, such as the disruption we have witnessed in the retail industry thanks to eCommerce. “The way things are” and the assumption that customers like the way the world works at any given moment may not be as rosy as you think, and this is driving more identifiable change than the technology itself.
Disruption is happening everywhere, impacting even those presumably secure industries that are already resting on their laurels without even realizing it. Considering eCommerce websites and applications, businesses in this sector are a seemingly unshakeable area of retail, immune to the level of disruption that they brought to the traditional retail industry, right?
Wrong! I hear constantly how customers of both small stores and large chains alike are complaining about online stores, but not because their products aren’t available due to shipping issues. It is because the functionality of online shopping is struggling, and many have user-based needs that are not being fulfilled.
An example can be found in shopping for apparel items through a clothing store’s website. A customer knows they want a hooded sweatshirt with a logo from their favorite band on it, they know the store has it, but the online store poorly displays what sizes are in stock, what color options are there, and even when the customer puts it in their cart, the checkout process fails.
Customers’ needs change by the hour and even by the minute in some cases! When a company feels blindsided by changes in the industry — which are most often brought about by customers’ needs — it is likely because they don’t think their customers have any problems with their service, or that they have no internal problems. Trust me, they do!
All companies have problems, and the smallest ones leave open gaps in your foundation that will be preyed upon by disruptive, Anticipatory organizations that have a solution. This in turn appears as “change” to you and your employees. Enough leaks in a boat will cause it to sink, no matter how strong of a material it is constructed from. But the positive reality is that most of those leaks haven’t damaged the hull of your business just yet — you still have time!
I once heard a great quote from an entrepreneur: “Don’t focus on what will put your competition out of business. Instead, figure out what will put you out of business, and then do it!”
When it comes to disruption and change, it is better to self-disrupt than to self-destruct! Ask yourself: What will put us out of business? If the answer to that question pertains to faulty processes that have never been remedied or problems you are ignoring internally and externally that customers frequently complain about, you are hitting the self-destruct button on your organization.
Being honest with the issue brings to light a new, more opportunistic question: Why don’t you do what will disrupt your business nearly to the point of closing up shop?
What you are doing is identifying a Hard Trend future certainty that will impact your organization. What’s more is that you are most likely not the only business or organization that would be blindsided by that disruption you identify from that question. Getting in front of it first and driving transformation by being Anticipatory will keep you safe and can even end in a massive transformation in your bottom line!
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.