Nextsensing is fundamentally about finding a different way to think about the future of society, its organisations and businesses, and all the people who make them go. A dozen years ago, Richard Foster and Sarah Kaplan in Creative Destruction: Why Companies That Are Built to Last Underperform the Market-and How to Successfully Transform Them (Crown, 2001) talked about an “assumption of continuity” that afflicts tired leaders of organisations sliding backwards. Beware, they said. Their point: sticking to what’s worked in the past is no guarantee for future success.
Okay, you say, but that was an idea from a book published a dozen years ago. Agreed: assuming that what you have been doing will continue to hold your competitive advantage, retain your value proposition to customers, and keep hold of the key resources and capabilities of your firm seems naïve now. No one thinks that way today. Well, no one who is not already recognised as a dinosaur thinks that way.
Yet many companies and their leaders, even those who have accepted the inevitability (and wisdom) of creative destruction, find themselves struggling with how to create the future of their organisations. Which is why so many are in awe of Apple. The iPhone 5 just came out; it was introduced as a “new” product for Apple, “revolutionary” even. I’m not buying that. Seems to me Apple is becoming like the big car companies of the 1960s that rolled out every 12 months (just like clockwork) a brilliantly fashioned, incrementally improved version of the previous model line. Good business, absolutely. The old selling-like-hotcakes cliché surely applies here. According to one source: “The iPhone 5, which features a bigger screen, faster chip and a lighter body, sold 2 million units in first-day orders, more than double a record set by the previous model, Apple said.”
But is the iPhone 5 transformational? Absolutely not. The iPhone 5 is deeply embedded with that dangerous assumption of continuity, despite the new features and marking spin on display by Apple and its pundits. I agree with the editors of The Economist who just reported that “The iPhone 5 is hardly a great leap forward.” They give the phone a “five out of 10” rating.
No one here is saying Apple is washed up. Who knows what those Cupertino, California geniuses are planning to replace the iPhone someday. Maybe we should get ready for the “communications aid” (instead of hearing aid) that inserts in your ear and does everything the iPhone now does only transmitting it to a companion screen that doubles as a contact lens. Who knows?
But perhaps it is high time we started a conversation about the critical need we all have for an “assumption of opportunity” and remove continuity” from our organisational dictionaries? Reinvent education anyone? How about health care? And the newspaper? Dare I suggest that even Facebook needs reinventing? Seems to me like there is much work to be done.