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.

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