I had a fascinating conversation with the CFO of one of our clients today. We were talking about whether all the recent news about the economy was indicative of a bottom, and if it were, what a recovery would look like.
I shared with him my insights that the biggest danger about the recovery is that while executives are intellectually acknowledging that this recovery will be different from any before, most of them are still acting as if the recovery will mirror past recoveries (albeit not as fast). My opinion is that the faster executives understand that tomorrow’s rules will have little to do with yesterday’s, the healthier their businesses will be.
Simply put, if you are expecting the same customers to buy the same stuff, you’re in for some heartache. If you’re expecting the pricing for your traditional offerings to rebound as the market recovers, you’re in for some bad news. If you’re expecting that the same thoughts, strategies and actions that led to results yesterday will lead to those same results tomorrow…well, good luck.
The most valuable commodity in the executive suite today is intuition and a willingness to experiment. Unfortunately, most suites are going heavy duty of rational thought, attempting to “think things through.” The only way to succeed today is to manage disruption – both the disruption you are bringing to the market and the disruptions that the world is bringing to you. This is not a new thought, by the way, as almost 20 years ago, Jack Welch of GE fame, said, “If the rate of change outside your organization is greater than the rate of change inside your organization, your organization is in trouble.”
The challenge is that it is a completely natural desire to bring rationality to the table. As a matter of fact, if you don’t “think things through,” it feels like you are more likely to miss something. Also, during the industrial age, managing processes was the critical success driver. Management requires rationale, linear thinking. Management is about dealing with the known.
Today, however, the keys to success are disruption and transformation. By their very nature, disruption and transformation eliminate the realm of certainty. When you take the thought approach designed to manage certainty and apply it to inherently uncertain stimuli, the natural result is paralysis and inaction.
The bad news today is that all the experience and the lessons you’ve learned in the past have very little correlation to your potential success tomorrow. The good news is that the future is completely yours, you no longer have to be limited by your past.
The choice you must make is whether you want to be paralyzed, or liberated, by this reality.