To start a business going, you need entrepreneurial vision. To keep it performing at a high level day to day, you need constant operational focus. However to survive for the long run, you need a different kind of skill, a sixth sense. It is this skill that creates trues high performance leaders.
Most leaders aren’t very good at this. When new threats or opportunities emerge on the edge of their usual business environment, they fail to notice or misinterpret them.
As a business owner, you always face the temptation to focus on managing your current offering in the immediate business environment. Someone in your team has to do this but giving excessive focus to operations will only affect change in the short-term and ultimately threaten your company’s long-term survival.
Having a sixth sense means that you monitor what is happening around the edges of your business. You track other industries, distant markets, new research, emerging business models, and remote demographic data that may seem to have little relevance to your portfolio. However, this sixth sense is about much more than simply anticipating change. It is about sensing where to look more carefully for clues, understanding how to interpret weak signals, and having the confidence to act when the signals are still ambiguous.
So how do you master the art of anticipation? A recent study highlighted the following key factors that high performance leaders do well:
- Look for game changing information at the edge of their business
- Search beyond the boundaries of current, prevailing views
- Recognise potential changes before the competition does
- Connect the dots of incipient trends by triangulating weak signals
- Entertain multiple hypotheses about causes of change
- Encourage mavericks in their company to say what they really think
- Organise “paranoia sessions” to tap wisdom inside their company
- Build wide networks inside and outside the organization
- Remain vigilant and curious about signals from many spheres
The good news is, failures of strategic anticipation aren’t always fatal. However it would be much better, if you anticipate the changes before they are imposed on you.