A recent tweet by 7billCORPORATE (@7billcorp, part of @7billionideas) real­ly nailed the truth about inno­va­tion and busi­ness. On 30 Jan­u­ary 2015 via Twit­ter, a bril­liant graph­ic was added to a post that con­trast­ed the per­cep­tion many peo­ple have about the path to progress and what it’s real­ly like. Here ’tis:

Path to Progress

So many think that inno­va­tion hap­pens quick­ly, smooth­ly, with­out road­blocks or bumps. And that may be true, for a few. If you are oper­at­ing in a busi­ness envi­ron­ment in which there is a rea­son­ably clear — and straight — line to who your future cus­tomers will be and what prod­ucts and ser­vices you need to devel­op for them, first count your bless­ings and then get on the accel­er­a­tor. Assum­ing you have the tech­nol­o­gy and know-how to make it hap­pen, these are pre­cise­ly the con­di­tions when speed is crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant. Start. Go fast. Keep going. Don’t stop.

In these rare moments in the world of enter­prise, get­ting to your des­ti­na­tion as fast and effi­cient­ly as pos­si­ble must be your para­mount goal. The busi­ness world has count­less tools for plan­ning and eking out process improve­ments for such jour­neys, and you prob­a­bly already know how to use them well.

In such cas­es, think of the time you may have watched with envy that shiny red Porsche Car­rera speed­ing off down the high­way with the dri­ver push­ing “ped­al to the met­al”. Recall the roar of all that horse­pow­er as it reached top speed and peak per­for­mance, unchal­lenged by any­thing or any­one on the road.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, such an anal­o­gy isn’t the real­i­ty for most firms. “The future” for most busi­ness­es and organ­i­sa­tions I encounter will be the kind of path that 7billCORPORATE dis­plays. There will be dips, rocks, wob­bly bridges over unknown chasms and deep water where you expect­ed smooth pave­ment. Oh, and don’t for­get the thunderstorms.

For most of those I meet, their future oper­at­ing envi­ron­ment is uncer­tain, ambigu­ous and even (heav­en for­bid) unknow­able. Dur­ing their jour­ney in time, many of the time-test­ed tools and tech­niques at their dis­pos­al will prove to be, well, not very helpful.

That does not mean that what’s need­ed is a new car and a new dri­ver. Think now of that same Porsche, only this time keep­ing in mind its oth­er per­for­mance capac­i­ties, such as cor­ner­ing, shift­ing, brak­ing and speed. This excep­tion­al­ly well-engi­neered auto­mo­bile is both ready for the high-speed straight­away as well as the curves, redi­rec­tions and sud­den changes of speed required to dri­ve the rocky road to tomorrow.

Yet, if you lack the mind­set to pow­er up and pow­er past unpre­dictable obsta­cles, you might as well be on skate­board with only one set of wheels. You’re not going to move far, fast or fear­less­ly. Which is why, as I work with com­pa­nies large and small, I find that what’s most need­ed is a new lead­er­ship mind­set, skillset and toolset. Too many lead­ers have great cars, but they lack ver­sa­til­i­ty. The 21st cen­tu­ry leader must be able to move fast when he or she knows the right direc­tion, be cau­tious when the ter­rain is unknown or threat­en­ing, be will­ing to change direc­tions when new and com­pelling infor­ma­tion becomes avail­able, and be able to stop quick­ly — even alto­geth­er — should the con­di­tions for progress prove impossible.Porsche Carerra

Becom­ing more ver­sa­tile (or ambidex­trous) as a leader is no small task; but, in my expe­ri­ence, it is now an imper­a­tive for sur­vival, and even more an imper­a­tive for growth. Our Nextsens­ing Project is about work­ing with the mind­set of any leader fac­ing an uncer­tain future. No mat­ter what kind of car he or she dri­ves, mov­ing into the future requires an under­stand­ing of the unique chal­lenge at hand, the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the appro­pri­ate tools to use for the sit­u­a­tion, and the build­ing of con­fi­dence that only rough roads tru­ly test the abil­i­ties of the vehi­cle — and the driver.

Porsche image from http://www.porsche-mania.com

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