Creative Leadership: Focus on the Future

One of the key abilities for leaders in any organization is that of using creative thinking to focus on the future. Leaders who get it right will flourish. Get it wrong, and not only will your career tank, but your company along with it.

If you want a sneak peak at what’s in store electronically, take a look at new tech products being introduced this week at CES in Las Vegas. Not all innovations will stick, but you can spot trends and extrapolate them to how your company will do business differently in the coming decade.

When it comes to your own company, remember this classic quote from Peter Drucker:

The business enterprise has two, and only two, basic functions: marketing and innovation. It is not necessary for a business to grow bigger; but it is necessary that it constantly grow better. ―Peter F. Drucker, management expert

Top executives estimate they spend only about 3 percent of their time thinking about the critical issues that will shape their businesses 10 or more years down the road. It’s simply not enough.

It’s easy to get caught up in the urgency of day-to-day operations and short-term goals. How often do you look beyond what’s in front of you?

While the ability to focus on the future separates high-potential leaders from the rank and file, many of us fail to understand and appreciate its importance. Such future planning is closely linked to creative thinking abilities, yet many of us devote almost no time to it. Lack of creative thinking becomes a huge barrier to our career success and our company’s trajectory.

You only have to look at a few of the disruptive innovations in the last two decades to realize how critical creative thinking becomes to your business future:

  • The shift from postal mail to email
  • The shift from land lines to cell phones
  • The shift from desktop computers to mobile devices
  • The shift from newspapers and books to e-readers and online information

When we consider these few examples, we begin to realize that no company is immune from disruptions in strategy. Are you sure the future will include all of your products and services?

Here are a few ways to shift from small- to big-picture thinking:

  • Daydream! Carve out time each week to peer into the distance and imagine what may be out there.
  • Take 30 minutes each day to learn what’s going on in your industry, with customers, and with your products’ and services’ potential future.
  • Ask others for imaginative thinking about the future. Create a task force to explore ideas.
  • Find out what competitors are envisioning. There are many ways to do this without spying (create relationships, host a panel, connect through trade organizations).

I’d love to hear from you and what you’re doing to hone your future-thinking skills.

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