Anticipate: The Art of Leading by Looking Ahead

Empty curved road,Yorkshire,uk

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

Open window with view to a snowy winter scene

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?

Twitter is Not a Strategy

Tweet cloud

Techniques from an Expert Marketer

If you are marketing a company, a product, an idea, or even your personal brand, you may feel the pull between the new-media world and the traditional marketing methods you studied in school. When new technologies emerge, it often seems like everything is changing. Whether digital, mobile, or social, we are looking for new ways to connect with our audience.

What if these new ways actually prevented a brand from reaching its potential?

How do you get people to stick around?

How do you engage people in a substantive way, winning them over? 

 

“Timeless can be new.” -Tom Doctoroff

 

Tom Doctoroff has more than 20 years of experience shaping hundreds of global brands ranging from Microsoft to Ford to Nestle.  He’s appeared regularly on NBC, CBS, CNBC and other major media outlets. Tom’s new book Twitter is Not a Strategy: Rediscovering the Art of Brand Marketing is all about engagement. Its wisdom spans the two worlds, combining digital and traditional marketing to win and engage consumers.

 

The Marketing Identity Crisis

Tom, you’re the CEO of J. Walter Thompson in AsiaPacific and for decades have shaped some of the world’s biggest brands. Your new book title, Twitter is Not a Strategy, seems to imply some level of frustration.  Did you write this book with some level of frustration?

I wouldn’t call it frustration exactly.  But, yes, I do think the communications industry is going through something of an identity crisis.  The fundamentals of advertising and branding are too often forsaken as marketers seek technological and algorithmic salvation. The rise of digital has led to marketer anxiety, consumer confusion and too many transactional brands.  But old and new, traditional and digital, broadcast and “lean in” media are complementary.

 

“Each creative expression of the brand idea should be conceived with a specific behavioral objective in mind.” -Tom Doctoroff

 

Twitter is Not a Strategy is not meant to be a breakthrough book.  Indeed it might even be “anti-breakthrough.”  It is a call for the entire industry to stand up and reclaim the conceptual high ground of marketing communications.  Carefully crafted strategies and executions—adherence to the ABCs of brand building—will remain our lighthouse.  As brand pioneers, we must explore the shoals of a new digital landscape.  But let’s not become stranded by anxiety and indecision. Timeless can be new.

 

Traditional versus New Marketing Tension

Your book explains the traditional top down branding approach (message clarity) with a bottom up (consumer empowerment) approach. How do these two approaches need to work together?Twitter is Not a Strategy

To avoid confusing consumers, engagement needs to be both authentic and constructed. Marketers must forge a paradigm that allows freedom within a framework, pulling off the trick of simultaneously permitting consumers to participate with brands while empowering marketers to manage the message and dialog.  Marketers must achieve:  harmony between the clarity of top-down positioning and the dynamism of bottom-up consumer engagement; between long-term brand equity and short-term tactical messaging; and between emotional relevance and results driven by data-driven technology.

Different kinds of media reach us for complementary purposes.  Analog (traditional) media shape our brand preference while most digital media deepens our engagement and leads to brand loyalty.

The former boast broad reach.  They forge perceptions across consumer masses. Film—with its sound, color, movement, and ability to break through clutter—is an indispensable tool to guide consumers amid an explosion of offerings. Even in the United States, despite the proliferation of smartphones and other digital devices, the 30-second broadcast television commercial continues to rule (and increase). Manufacturers spent some $67 billion on network and cable advertising in 2013 – and not for sentimental reasons.

The latter encourage engagement with brands. With more opportunity to trigger behavioral changes – learning more, using more, buying more, advocating more – marketers can increase the probability of purchase and repeat purchase.

 

Traditional media shape brand preference. Digital leads to loyalty.

 

As consumers move toward purchase, direct and digital media should dominate. These media provide more opportunity for engagement—that is, direct interaction with a brand idea and its creative expression. Marketers have more opportunity to trigger behavioral change and increase the probability the consumer will buy a product.

Advertising can encourage a limitless range of actions—from clicking through a banner ad and spending more time on a microsite to increasing consumers’ frequency of washing their hair. The arsenal of tools marketers can deploy to encourage certain behavior is broad. Marketers also can use analog media to trigger specific behavior during later phases—for example, by using stunning “product beauty shots” and other point-of-sale material to stimulate trial usage.

 

Start with the Brand Idea

5 Critical Moments to Evaluate Your Strategy

businessman with hat in front of two roads

“To see things in a new way, we must rise above the fray.” -Rich Horwath

 

Not too long ago, I featured Rich Horwath, the author of Elevate: The Three Disciplines of Advanced Strategic Thinking here to discuss the common mistakes of strategic planning.  Rich has helped thousands of managers with the strategic process.

After the interview, I decided to follow up with him to ask when leaders need to abandon or re-evaluate a strategic plan.  I have seen executives stick with a plan and others modify or abandon a plan.  Most leaders don’t want to open up the plan over and over because it shows indecisiveness, a lack of confidence or it creates confusion.  That said, there are times when a major review or rewrite is important.  So, I asked Rich:

When is revisiting the plan the right thing to do?

The ability to modify strategy at the right time can literally save or destroy a business. Here is a checklist of five moments when it is critical to evaluate your strategy.

 

1. Goals are achieved or changed.

 

Goals are what you are trying to achieve, and strategy is how you’re going to get there.

It makes sense then, if the destination changes, so too should the path to get there.  As you accomplish goals and establish new ones, changes in resource allocation are often required to keep moving forward.  In some cases, goals are modified during the course of the year to reflect changes in the market, competitive landscape, or customer profile. It’s important to reflect on the strategy as these changes occur to see if it also needs to be modified.

 

“Goals are what you are trying to achieve, and strategy is how you’re going to get there.” -Rich Horwath

 

2. Customer needs evolve.

 

The endgame of business strategy is to serve customers’ needs in a more profitable way than the competition.  But, as the makers of the Polaroid camera, hard- cover encyclopedias, and pagers will tell you, customer needs evolve.

The leaders skilled in strategic thinking are able to continually generate new insights into the emerging needs of key customers.  They can then shape their group’s current or future offerings to best meet those evolving needs.

 

“The endgame of business strategy is to serve customers’ needs in a more profitable way than the competition.” -Rich Horwath

 

3. Innovation changes the market.

 

Innovation can be described as creating new value for customers.

The new value may be technological in nature, but it can also be generated in many other ways including service, experience, marketing, process, etc.  It may be earth shattering, or it may be minor in nature.  The key is to keep a tight pulse on your market, customers, and competitors to understand when innovation, or new value, is being delivered and by whom.  Once that’s confirmed, assess your goals and strategies to determine if they need to be adjusted based on this new level of value in the market.

 

4. Competitors change the perception of value.

3 Common Mistakes of Strategic Planning

Chess - Bad Move

 

I’m always looking for ways to improve the strategic planning from a dreaded annual activity to a meaningful, helpful process.

Recently, I had the opportunity to read Elevate: The Three Disciplines of Advanced Strategic Thinking by Rich Horwath.  Rich has helped numerous companies and managers with the strategic planning process and evaluating strategic capabilities.  I had the opportunity to talk with Rich about the most common mistakes leaders make.

 

“If your strategic plan isn’t driving daily activities, then you’ve wasted time doing the plan.” -Rich Horwath

 

3 Common Mistakes of Strategic Planning

 

Rich, you’ve worked on strategy both as the CEO of the Strategic Thinking Institute and before that as a Chief Strategy Officer.  What are the most common mistakes you see in strategic planning?

 

There are typically three mistakes when it comes to strategic planning.

 

“The number one cause of bankruptcy is bad strategy.” -Rich Horwath

 

Mistake #1:  Confusing strategy with other planning terms.

 

The first is the group not having a universal understanding of what strategy is and how it differs from other key planning terms such as mission, vision, goals, objectives and tactics. There’s a tremendous lack of precision when it comes to strategic planning and that starts with the fundamental building blocks.

 

“Concepts change thinking and tools change behavior.” -Rich Horwath

 

Mistake #2:  Regurgitating last year’s plan.

 

The second is that most plans are simply a regurgitation of last year’s plan.  This is because managers don’t think before they plan.  I’m a big believer that new growth comes from new thinking.  If you don’t take time and tools to generate new insights, then don’t expect your group to perform any better than the year before, or the year before that.

 

Mistake #3:  Not linking the strategic plan to daily activities.