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Rethink Your Future

Updated: Apr 13

image of a chess set and chess pieces

Victor Hugo said, nothing is so great as an idea whose time has come. For over 20 years I stood on the edge of the world, looked out to the future and said

“This is the year! The time is now!?”

I thought every year would be the one when the world would come running towards us saying "teach us how to think". I convinced myself that the benefits of teaching thinking would emerge, become self evident, and people would see what I was talking about. With the exception of a few enlightened clients, I was wrong. In 2007 I saw some green shoots, mostly driven by fear and need, rather than insight. It was when banks were scrambling for relevance and desperately seeking ways of doing business. Without that small interlude, for the most part, I have failed to convince people that teaching thinking was of value.

Thinking Really is Now

As you can imagine it was with great fanfare that I read the World Economic Forum’s Future Skills list. Right at the top, there it is, in broad daylight, Creative Thinking. This trainable skill is now anticipated by the WEF to be the No.1 skill required by leaders in 2025. Finally, the time has come. And perhaps at the most perfect time.

We live in paradoxical times, calling us to think and act differently. Challenging conventional wisdom, we are looking at the impact of artificial intelligence on humanity, we struggle to balance climate change and carbon emissions with business efficiency and productivity. We need to balance value creation for customers versus value creation for shareholders. Most leaders are being called to do more with less. The speed of change would see Alvin Toffler (who prdicted this in 1970 in his book FutureShock) celebrate his right-ness, the way I was celebrating the WEF 2025 Future Skills list.

The impact is clear. Business leaders around the world are living in a state of flux as they rapidly respond to change, It's as if the concept of change management is an oxymoron. How can you manage something so unpredictable? It's becoming increasingly hard, if not down right impossible, to get ahead of the change curve. Chances are you won't and never will, which means change isn't something we need to manage, but is a muscle we need to build. We are moving from change management to change capability, where leaders need to anticipate change and be prepared with options, and responses, to avoid the resistance and reactions that are becoming part of our cultural norms. Learning to get ahead of the change curves reduces stress, increases innovation and ceases opportunities. This is a call to all leaders to take some time out and learn how to Rethink the Future, without attacking the past.

Why Bother?

We have all heard of the dramatic fall of industry giants such as Polaroid, Kodak and Blockbuster Video which made the fatal mistake of resisting change. At the peak of its success (2004), Blockbuster had a $5.9 billion revenue, employing over 84,000 staff in 9,000 stores. Six years later, the movie giant was declared bankrupt. What happened?

In 2000, Blockbuster was approached by a barely known start-up co-founded by Marc Randolf and Reed Hastingshad. The pair pitched an acquisition for a meager $50 million to the movie rental empire. Suppressing their laughter, Randolf famously recalls this encounter as awkward at best, and painful at worst.

History teaches that the tickling proposal turned down by Blockbuster would revolutionize the movie entertainment industry. It recommended steering the movie rentals towards online streaming, an idea that eventually pushed Blockbuster out of the market. It has missed a golden opportunity.

The rookie start up they rejected was none other than Netflix, the world’s biggest movie streaming service today with over 274 million subscribers, employing close to 13,000 people worldwide, with a $4.2 billion profit margin (2022).

What to do?

Questioning the past is necessary for progress. The way we do things around here might not be the best way for the future. Yet, questioning the status quo is often seen as a personal attack, challenging what can be perceived as a rookie error, and upsetting the apple cart might lead to career limiting comments. In short, it's hard to question things without sounding like you’re attacking. I generally say it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. There are also tools to help you question what is, without attacking, or getting the knee jerk reactions out of people.

The Challenge tool is at the center of the Rethink process. It provides thinkers with a process for questioning the past and rethinking the future, moving you through a process of clarifying and defining your focus statement, through to unpacking what exists and questioning what is, to see if there is a new, different or better way.

The result might not always be a change, but rather a sense of confidence that you have really thought things through. At the other end of the continuum, there may be the seed of a great idea, one that might catapult your business, team or model into new levels of performance, 10X’ing your future.

Challenge encourages us to list assumptions and to question them, asking if this is unique, why we do things this way, and even questioning the uniqueness. Surely there are other more efficient ways to do things.

Be a Driver not a Responder

Whatever the change, it’s likely to happen to you if you haven’t thought about where you are going, what you want and what is possible. Change interventions live on a continuum from minor tweaks to gradual transitions, from urgent transformations to crisis turnarounds. Imagine getting ahead of the change curve, imagine taking time to rethink your future, and unlocking potential that you never knew existed.

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If you are keen to learn more, join us at our webinar on November 7th, 2023 for a transformational discussion. We will unpack the highlights of how to Rethink Your Future, and share some tools and tips to get you going.

Nicola Tyler & Zintle Magazi

Rethink Your Future | October 2023

The Thinking Company

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