Is your business ready for the future? (The FUTURE series: Part 1)

    By Lauren Kress, The Business Scientist | Blog, Article |

    Are you sick of a revolving door of consultants with extravagant fees and piecemeal solutions?

    A recent survey from Deloitte found that keeping up with the rapid pace of technological change was difficult for a number of business leaders.

    In fact it's pretty tricky for consultants too.

    One of the biggest advantages that consultants have when it comes to problem-solving for long term sustainability and profitability is that we have the advantage of being an outsider.

    BUT we don’t have magical fortune-telling abilities.

    "Anyone who tells you they can reliably predict your business performance more than 3-5 years into the future is kidding themselves or conning you."

    As consultants, when we are diagnosing problems within an organisation our job isn’t to worry about what colleagues think of us, sharing an idea that nobody likes or asking a “dumb” question.

    We are protected by the role we play – we are the questioners, the scrutinisers and analysers, proudly donning thinking hats as the guardians of positive change within an organisation. (And here’s a secret – we ask for external consulting advice too – hopefully from our buddies who can do us a good deal!)

    That’s not to say there aren’t conflicts of interests. Some consultants only offer solutions for which they can earn a commission – a (bad) agent in disguise. 

    And there's also often a desire to prove impact at the outset to demonstrate value and return on investment which means that, like executives and board directors, there can be too much attention on the short term tactics and not enough on long term strategy.

    And that’s what’s funny about this question “is your business ready for the future?”

    "The future is always there – an omnipresent destination that we can never arrive at."

    The future we’ve been talking about for the past ten years (that's probably not an accurate number...it's more like twenty five years, but that makes us all feel rather old, doesn’t it?) – you know the one where robots can “take our jobs”, remote work is part of business as usual, smaller teams have bigger impact, business partnerships across the globe don’t require frequent flying and small companies can compete with larger enterprises…you know that "future"?

    Well...that's already here in the present day.

    Industry 4.0 isn’t something to “prepare for” it’s something that is happening right now.

    Knowing that to be true doesn’t take a crystal ball or a “futurist” title…it just takes critical thinking skills and a curiosity about the world around us.

    This has always been the key for business success – it’s important we look to world’s best practice to improve our own performance and optimise the physical and virtual environments we create for all our stakeholders – staff, customers, contractors, alliances, media, government, shareholders…everyone.

    The problem of course, is that best practice is less clear when there is so much change, turbulence, disruption, advancements, hype, trends and myths mixed with insightful advice on “what’s best”.

    We feel as though we are bombarded with an overwhelming amount of opportunities and threats that we should commit time (that we don’t have) to understanding more deeply so we can do those buzz word things like “innovate” and create a “paradigm shift” and “digitalise” and “automate”.

    (Yes…I’m guilty of using buzz words... like all the time…)

    But what do we mean by those terms anyway - are we all talking about the same things?

    Some organisations just want to get there data all in one place, other companies are looking to launch an entirely new revenue stream from a new line of digital products.

    "The bottom line? Making positive changes within your organisation doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact it shouldn't be."

    The bottom line? Making positive changes within your organisation doesn't have to be complicated - or fantastically expensive. In fact it shouldn't be.

    And if we can’t predict that far into the future, how do we make decisions for long-term sustainability?

    The tough part is the thinking - the execution shouldn't be complicated, if it is, you haven't thought about it enough.

    As a starting point, you just have to ask - and be ready to receive. I guarantee you that each one of your stakeholders could give you one or more ideas for how to improve your business.

    That's all innovation needs to begin - a pool of ideas on how to make things better and some scientific enquiry into which ideas we think will yield the best results.

    We’ll talk about that further in my next article in this series, but for now the important thing to realise is that the solution can’t be a revolving door of consultants who make specialised piecemeal changes within silos and go away to come back again another day.

    The key is to make critical thinking, creative problem solving and change management part of your own business DNA.

    When your business knows how to use the information available to its greatest advantage, you never have to worry about change again. Because making changes within the organisation is a skill you always have at your disposal.

    If you'd like to receive the next part of this series in your inbox, send me a note on LinkedIn or subscribe here.

    And while you're waiting you can also check out our free business diagnostic tool which provides a detailed series of questions to assess how ready your business is for Industry 4.0 across 5 core business domains.

    Lauren Kress, The Business Scientist, is the CEO of The Change Makers Collective, a science-led consulting firm that transforms businesses from the inside out and the outside in.

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