Preparing For a New Future

DECEMBER 1 / Donna Kennedy-Glans

EVERYTHING IS CHANGING and shifting. Cycle times are speeding up. What will have value two years from now? Cryptocurrency, lithium, Facebook’s new “metaverse”? We honestly don’t know. What is certain; the new future we are creating is going to be different than the world we leave behind.  

As you transition your enterprise from pandemic crisis-survival mode to strategic rebuilding, resist the temptation to simply restore old ways of doing things. Use this opportunity to rebuild for the storm after this storm.  

Rigorously test your enterprise assumptions, and ask tougher questions:

What can be left behind?

Winding down all or part of a viable business or institution isn’t something that comes naturally to many of us. Yet to move forward, there may be parts of your enterprise that need to be left behind. What resources, strategies and, dare I say, values no longer serve your enterprise?  

When is more not better?

And I encourage you to ask tougher questions, including head-scratching ones like: What happens to our assumptions if we are agnostic about growth? What if we ask what’s “enough” rather than how can we get “more?” What if we focus on qualitative growth and not just quantitative growth?  

What constitutes value (as distinct from values) for our enterprise?

Nearly overnight, bitcoin and rare-earth metals became hot commodities. Access to high-speed internet became more highly valued when people were locked down. In a carbon-reduced economy, “green” becomes more valuable.  

Some people will try to curl up into a safe cocoon until this storm passes, convincing themselves that the world can get back to “normal.” But efforts to ignore a changing world and sustain the status quo are likely to generate turbulence—more blaming and finger-pointing, polarized positioning and toxicity, and daily confrontations that accomplish nothing—and the storm after this storm will be daunting to navigate.  

It’s important to accept that we have reached an inflection point where business as usual is no longer a safe or useful strategy. In a fast-paced and highly disruptive era, remaining relevant becomes a prime objective for enterprise.

This fact poses a particular challenge for veteran enterprise builders: How do you mentor new builders, knowing that your guidance to the next generation of enterprise builders must sometimes include advice to not do what you did? To guide others in your organization, speak candidly about your enterprise story, including the ways that you navigated (or failed to navigate) big changes in the past. Open up the space for fresh thinking and new ideas. Encourage your colleagues to move beyond self-censorship and scripts. You have more to fear from your inhibitions than you do from your vulnerabilities.

RECOMMENDED READING: Chapter 7: Rebuild for the Storm After this Storm, Teaching the Dinosaur to Dance: Moving beyond Business as Usual