Anticipate: The Art of Leading by Looking Ahead

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Navigating Change

Studies show that the companies that navigate change well last the longest.

Why do some corporate leaders navigate through massive change while others seem oblivious to it?

How do you position your organization ahead of the trends?

Is it possible to learn to anticipate and prepare for the future?

 

Rob-Jan De Jong is a speaker, consultant and faculty member at Wharton’s executive program on Global Strategic Leadership. His new book, Anticipate: The Art of Leading by Looking Ahead, outlines what it takes to become a visionary leader. Sharing examples and principles from his research, Rob-Jan’s mission is to increase your personal visionary capacity.  I recently had the opportunity to ask him about vision and the art of looking ahead.

 

“Anyone can grow their visionary capacity.” –Rob-Jan De Jong

 

3 Keys to Unleashing Vision at All Levels

As a CEO, I just loved this sentence:  “Vision is not an exclusive for those in top ranked positions.”  It’s really something for everyone, not only those with a title.  How do corporate leaders unleash creativity and vision at all levels of the organization?

  1. Empowerment and trust. 

An important success factor is around empowerment and trust.  A directive company culture is detrimental for people’s engagement.  Having a sense of influence is a prerequisite for getting people to become involved in the hard work of engaging with uncertainty and anticipating the future.

 

“Vision is not an exclusive for those in top ranked positions.” –Rob-Jan De Jong

 

  1. Fault Tolerance.

A second critical factor is fault tolerance. This naturally goes with empowerment – people will get it right and every so often they will get it wrong. These are the important moments of truth for you as the leader, as your response will set the standard for the culture that shapes from these moments. People will be on the lookout about how serious you are about empowerment. My simple suggestion is to not focus on what went wrong but to focus on what the person has learned.

 

“Visioning, future engagement, anticipation is a skill set and a mindset.” –Rob-Jan De Jong

 

  1. Enabling Others.

And a third factor that should not be underestimated is that you will also need to enable your people to do this. Visioning, future engagement, anticipation is a skill set and a mindset. And it is often a step aside from the environment people have grown accustomed to, so you will need to enable your people to strengthen themselves in this area.

That might sound like blatant promotion for my work and my book, but I’m absolutely convinced that this has been a gap in management theory.  Despite the widely acknowledged importance of ‘vision’ in leadership, little – if any – systematic support has been provided in terms of developing your visionary side as a leader in a responsible way.  Scholars, business schools and strategy textbooks agree that a vision is one of the most powerful instruments a leader can have.  And how you go about developing this side of your leadership has been met with tremendous silence.

It was my intention to fill part of this gap by offering a comprehensive perspective on the topic, original ideas, a developmental framework, various practices, and many stories and anecdotes to draw lessons from.

 

“Vision, the hallmark of leadership, is less a derivative of spreadsheets and more a product of the mind called imagination.” –Abraham Zaleznik

 

Learning to Be Visionary

Why Your Leadership View Trumps Strategy

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Your View Impacts Your Success

It was 1984 when Roger Ulrich released the results of a study that changed the way modern medical science thought about patient recovery.  Patients who had gallbladder surgery were split between hospital rooms with a view of nature and rooms with a view of a brick wall.  Controlling for all other factors, Dr. Ulrich concluded that those with a view of the nature outside recovered faster, required less pain medicine, and had fewer negative comments recorded by the nurses.

Intuitively, the conclusions make sense.  A natural view creates a sense of peace, reduces stress and helps us relax.  The study had a wide-ranging impact on the environments of hospitals and other institutions.

Interesting, you say, and then you file this tidbit away should you ever find yourself healing from gallbladder surgery:  When that happens, I want a room with a view!

I believe that healing from surgery is not the only benefit of a good view.

The doctors in this study, working in a suburban Pennsylvania hospital, had the same strategy in mind for the patients.  But the results were different based on a factor that they were not controlling.  That difference was not the medicines, the care, nor the treatment strategy.

The difference was the view.

 

“What you view has impact on who you become.” -Skip Prichard

 

Same Goals, Different Outcomes

The same strategy, the same goals, the same execution may result in different outcomes.  Why?  The view.

Why do some teams have spectacular results?  Why do some leaders create sustainable energy?

The Dangers of Always Trying To Be Right At Work

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In a previous post, I shared how the joy of being right can often be wrong.  Trying to be right at all costs comes at a surprisingly high price.

  • We waste time and energy.
  • We damage relationships.
  • We refuse to listen to the other side.
  • We cause others to stop sharing freely.
  • We stop listening as we develop arguments.

 

“Choose being kind over being right and you’ll be right every time.” –Richard Carlson

 

For all of those reasons and more, being right is not always worth the cost.

When you are right, what happens?  Others applaud your brilliance!  They nod to you as you pass them in the hall.  A gleaming trophy arrives for your new corner office, allowing everyone to know that you are “RIGHT.”

Ah, no. Not exactly.  Pretty much none of that happens.

It’s far better to allow others to be right.  Let little offenses pass.  Save the disagreements for the big things.

 

“Celebrating accomplishments is one of the fastest ways to change a culture.” -Skip Prichard

 

That’s my advice for individuals.  It happens in organizations, too.  When an entire organizational culture is centered on being “right,” what happens then?

You will find a culture:

With more meetings. Instead of having a conversation about an issue, everyone works hard to be correct.  That means that there are meetings to prepare for meetings to prepare for meetings.

With longer meetings.  Everyone needs time to share the “right” point of view.  Everyone needs the microphone to prove her point or to highlight his knowledge.  And we need time to point out the flaws in everyone else.

Seeing the Future at CES

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If you want to be more creative, get around creative people.  If you want to spark innovation, immerse yourself in the latest technologies.  If you want to envision the future, tune in to voices shaping tomorrow.

CES is the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas.  It highlights the world’s most cutting-edge consumer technologies.  On display:  Fitness devices, 3D printing, robotics, all things motion, educational technologies, cars, audio, video, gaming, sensor technologies, next generation tablets, drones, wearable technologies.

This week, I’m attending the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas, dunked in innovation, creativity and the future.  I am enjoying the opportunity to experience the latest technologies.  I’m always amazed at the benefits from attending this conference, including the opportunity to meet with content creators, technologists, thought leaders, and technology executives.  The range of people I was able to see this year ranged from librarians to publishers to university researchers.

There are literally thousands of new things to see, so my brief overview will be a random selection.  With so many interests and things to share, I set a timer to write this post.  When it rings, I will stop.  And I will try to feature a few things you may not see in the mainstream media.  Here we go:

SLEEP:

photo 1-6For those of us with chronic insomnia or sleep problems, there are a number of new apps and devices to help.  One that intrigues me is Beddit.  Beddit doesn’t require you to wear a device at night (which for me makes my sleep even worse).  Instead, you place a sensor under your bed sheet, and it connects wirelessly to your device.  It tracks sleep quality, heart rate, breathing, snoring and bedroom noise.  It then provides personal coaching to improve your sleep.

The best shortcut to being more creative: get around creative people. -Skip Prichard

HYGIENE:

In the “everything seems to be connected” category, Kolibree introduces the world’s first connected toothbrush.  You can watch your brushing habits progress.photo-23

If you wear glasses, look out for a car wash for your glasses.  At $1, it had the “theatre factor” and drew a crowd.  My glasses were clean, dry and sanitized in no time.  Look for these showing up in high-traffic areas or near the beach where everyone wears glasses.

Walking by Panasonic to see the new 4K Toughpad, I noticed a range of beauty products. At CES, you find what you are not looking for and what you don’t expect.

SECURITY:

Who can possibly remember all of the passwords required in today’s digital age?  Now myIDkey uses biometric technology to authenticate your identity and display your information when you need it.  All safely protected with military grade encryption.

photo 5-5Ever worry when the lights go out in a power outage? Worry no more with a light that senses the power is out and stays on.

And to keep your home secure, Okidokeys allows you to unlock doors with any mobile phone or a smart wristband.  Most of us are never out of reach of our mobile phone, making lost keys a thing of the past.

FITNESS AND MEDICAL:

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Are you forgetful?  Have an aging parent?  The Smart Pill Box from imedipac solves these problems.  It even allows alerts to family and relatives.

 

 

Numerous new fitness applications are on display everywhere.  Improve your golf or tennis game with a biometric analysis of your swing.  The new devices go far beyond measuring how many steps you take in a day and now monitor blood pressure, blood sugar, calculating carb intake, maximizing your fitness performance, and even detecting concussions.  Perhaps you want to wear a camera to take your coach into the action.

3 Tools to Break Through the Noise

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We’ve all heard that your brand and your platform are important to your success.  But what if, after all of your platform and branding work, you are lost in a sea of competing messages?

That’s where Jonah Sachs enters, arguing that we are in the midst of the Story Wars.  The Story Wars are raging around us.  With so many messages bombarding us daily, fewer resonate and make it through the cacophony.  What cuts through the noise?  Stories.  And the subtitle of his new book signals the importance of the story teller:  Why those who tell—and live—the best stories will rule the future.

Jonah Sachs is the co-founder and CEO of Free Range Studios, helping major brands create unforgettable marketing campaigns.  He has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fast Company Magazine, CNN, and FOX News. He has created numerous viral marketing campaigns.

Stories that empower are better performers. –Jonah Sachs

Jonah, let’s start there.  You’ve created viral campaigns.  Why is it that some campaigns take off and go viral and others fail to break through?

I’ve been exploring that exact question for 14 years. I couldn’t figure out the pattern at first. No rules seemed to universally apply. At times I thought it had to do with humor, shock value, beauty, good taglines. And then I discovered that one thing viral successes seem to share: They tell compelling stories that appear to give audiences the chance to see themselves as heroes in it. Instead of just talking about how great they are, brand campaigns that break through tend to talk about how great their audiences can be.

jonah-sachsIs this where you developed the idea for Winning the Story Wars?

Yes. It was this search to understand what works in viral campaigning that led me to study mythology, neuroscience and psychology in the hopes of understanding what makes stories work. All that thinking eventually became my book.

You talk about the five sins of marketing:  vanity, authority, insincerity, puffery and gimmickry.  Would you touch on just one of them and give an example of how the sin destroys?