Can You See the Future?
By: Randy Wolken, President & CEO

Can you see the future?  As leaders, we are often asked to “see into the future” so our companies and teams can be more successful and remain competitive in changing markets.  As individuals, we want to be prepared for the future so we can be happier, healthier, and “ahead of the game.”  An entire industry of writers offer us an insight into what it will look like 20 or 50 years from now.  Because it is so tempting for us to know, we will pay attention – and sometimes pay top dollar – to know.    So, how can we see the future?

Believe it or not, the future already exists – right now.  Yep, it exists right now – but it is not widely distributed.  Some have the future while others will only experience it later.  Therefore, if we can discuss the future with those who already understand it – we can time travel to the future.  We can also have it now if we have the courage to bring it to life in our own organizations and our own lives.  If this is so, why don’t we do it?  We don’t know what it looks like, how to find it, or how to execute the changes required.

We often walk right by the future.  In manufacturing and technology, we drive by it every day.  Our friends and colleagues are experiencing the future but we don’t ask them about it.  The future hides in plain sight and we miss it.  What does the future of business look like?  It is success that does more, costs less, and uses technology and the elements of Industry 4.0 .  What is a lot better for some will, with some time, become the norm for all.  In today’s world, that may be a matter of months or years.  Change no longer takes decades.  Look for what is different – and successful.  That is the future.

Now we know what to look for, how do we find it? We all must make it a priority to find it and create a plan to do so.  Anything important must be completely committed to in order to succeed.  Most innovations today will actually come from outside your industry which means those who can and will share it with you are not competitors.  Also, given the need for speed today, companies within the same economic cluster share insights because we grow faster together than we can on our own.  Crowd sourcing – even with total strangers who are not even in the industry nor have professional credentials – is growing leaps and bounds.  If you are open to learning and assessing, you will catch a glimpse into the future.  Pretty exciting.

The final requirement to having a grasp on the future is that you must adopt the change now.  If you wait, you are likely to miss the benefits of what could have been used.  Markets are dominated by those who get there early.  Think Google, Amazon, and for a long time, Carrier, Kodak, and Xerox.  Change is hard – especially when most everyone else is not yet doing it.  But, change is the key.  You must do more than look for and find the future – you must actually adopt the future.  In fact, most failures occur when adoption is forgotten.  Did you know that Kodak first discovered digital photography?  They just failed to implement the future.  It literally cost them their business.

So, can you see the future?  If not, what are you going to do about it today?