Shifting your focus from the past to the future

- January 31, 2014 4 MIN READ

Business is becoming more multifaceted and changing at a faster pace. Making decisions and taking action have become more complex for entrepreneurs in all industries and in all markets. So, how well are you prepared for the challenges of operating in the 21st century? How can you enhance the chances of your ventures being truly successful?

The world has always been in flux, but the increase is now truly exponential. This can be a devastating experience for entrepreneurs who are slow to distinguish and take care of the elemental changes in economic and societal demands. Many entrepreneurs we talk to are still focusing on the next 12 weeks or the next 12 months.

As a result, they focus almost exclusively on short-term situations, which mean their business practices and reactions are often immediate, and often racing from handling one crisis to the next. These entrepreneurs may be placing their success at risk if they only structure their businesses to deal with immediate present and fail to create strategy for the future.

Not adjusting to the new environment or simply being unaware of other possibilities accounts for many start up failures. Organisations and ventures are crippled by leaders who refuse to be aware of the new hyper-change world and continue to manage their business as usual.

In this rapid time and hyper-change environment, you must be able to make decisions efficiently, quickly, and strategically. You must develop the ability to consciously and effectively deal with uncertainty and risk. Besides being versed in the basics of finance, marketing, strategic maneuvering, and so on, today’s entrepreneurs have to develop an awareness of all of the future possibilities that surround their businesses.

Preparing for the longer-term future is essential if you are to take full advantage of the myriad opportunities that lie ahead. To seize these new opportunities and possibilities, you must be willing to challenge traditional perceptions.

As an entrepreneur, how do you ensure that your business can be ready for the future? How is your business keeping up with these future possibilities? While daily demands keep you focused on this week, this month, or this quarter, these trends are irreversibly shaping your business. Stop and consider what your business might look like in, say, the year 2025.

In other words, I encourage you to learn what you can know about the future, while increasing your flexibility and agility to respond to the inevitable changes and transformations that will occur.

Here are five tips that entrepreneurs should know to be ready for the future.

1. Keeping an Eye on the Big Picture

In the 21st century, the boundaries of business are not precisely defined, and the rules of the game are vague, ambiguous, and often fleeting. Entrepreneurs who maintain a strategy and management approach based on the past will not be able to thrive in today’s environment.

As trade barriers between nations and regions diminish and as information becomes instantly and globally available, you must constantly keep an eye on the big picture.

But since the big picture keeps changing, you must cultivate an ability to be aware of future trends and how these trends may affect your ventures. Rather than closing your eyes to forewarning indications and hoping that things don’t change too much, you must be willing to break with your own successful conventional practices and discover different ways of seeing the world.

2. Expand strategic awareness

Strategic awareness is a space where new ideas and innovation are constantly generated from a heightened non-contextual awareness. With this awareness, you will operate beyond the goal of competing to actively seize new and different possibilities.

With advanced strategic awareness, you will be able to capture new opportunities, conceive new ideas, and develop strategies to bring those ideas into existence. You will be more likely to see trends outside your industry that could affect the positioning of your business, and generate new growth opportunities.

Strategic awareness is all about functioning from the space of curiosity (never answer), taking a conscious leadership role in your life and business ventures, and functioning from choice, possibility, question and contribution in every facet of your life and business.

3. Be agile, nimble, resilient

To be ready for the future you have to be able to act quickly, make decisions during uncertain times and adapt quickly to changes.

As we head further into the uncharted waters of the 21st century, it is becoming increasingly apparent that a new set of skills and attitudes is required to be successful in leading an organisation. Agile, nimble, resilient—these words describe the skills and attitudes you must develop to succeed in the future.

If you have these skills and attitude, you will be able to quickly adapt to changing circumstances. You can respond instantaneously to fast changing business demands and you will be ready for anything.

4. Be open to change

Commit yourself to change in every aspect of your life and give up defining yourself in any way, shape, or form. Be willing to stay open to the new, the unfamiliar, and the unknown. Choose to be ever aware and mindful, ready to shift strategy and tactics as the situation requires.

Most vital, you must cultivate the ability to change and transform on a dime. The ability to change and transform on a dime comes from the capacity to adapt as needed and to create flexible structures that are appropriate and suitable for that moment.

5. Challenge traditional perceptions

Since success will require doing new things in different ways rather doing the same things better, would you be willing to perceive, know, be, and receive a new way to look at business? Doing new things in different ways is doing what is unexpected and unpredictable. It’s going beyond the norm.

You must be willing to challenge traditional perceptions, assumptions and points of view. You also must have a willingness to venture into uncharted territory. Be open to all possibilities and be willing to look at what you can do that will generate different possibilities.

Image source: Shutterstock.

You can connect with the author Steven Bowman on No More Business As Usual and Pragmatic Futurist Blog.