In our growth inspiration last week, we introduced our vision of Innovating Beyond Borders. I thought of taking this opportunity and speak about an aspect of our vision that is close to my heart – innovating across the often invisible border, between today and tomorrow.
To many of us, there is a clear and differentiating line between the present and the future. In our financial statements, for example, it is clear which numbers represent a period of the past and which reflect a point in time, such as the present. In managerial decision-making, it is made clear which time period we assign a decision to allocate capital, deploy resources, focus the organisation.
Taking a closer look, the border between the present (Today) and the future (Tomorrow) is a rather imaginary line. The future, in part, is already here and it is playing out today. Possible futures already reflect in our current reality, whether we choose to pay attention to them, or not. They signal new possibilities as well as risks which we must give our attention to. The saying ‘The future is already here, it is just not equally distributed’ does come to mind. It is where we apply our attention that determines what role does the future play in our current reality and so whether we play with a firm border in place e.g. the future is ‘There’ and we are ‘Here’ or whether we play across a more open, porous and dynamic, shifting border, where we can play on both sides, sometimes observing, learning… and sometimes stepping into the future…deliberately bringing the two together.
Here are three things we can do to practice innovation beyond borders – that of today and tomorrow:
- Invest in your leadership potential – Despite the many distractions of today’s environment, and to Prof. George Wasserman’s point (of the MIT Sloan School of Management), the best place to invest… is leadership! Investing in deep leadership, the kind we have come to call Vertical leadership development provides some of the essential tools and practices to see with a new pair of eyes…across borders. From the present into the future and from the future, back-casting to today’s world. I have yet to come across an investment offering higher returns over the medium to the long-term horizon (and as an investor in Innovation, we have come across some pretty good ones). Investing in our leadership potential is something that has personally empowered many leaders whom we have come across and had the pleasure of working with – to lead effectively across this border, building future-fit organisations.
- Form connections with people who are capable and have a very picture of the future than you. Approach these conversations, not with an inward mindset, of who is right or wrong in their predictions of the future (the world’s best futurists – and we work with several of them, would all tell you that the future cannot be predicted). Rather, approach these enlightening conversations with an outward mindset, with the intentionality to learn. Be curious about their logic about how today’s events might unfold and what signals are they paying attention to, in informing their perspective of the future. You may be surprised by how willing they are to form these connections and learn from you!
- Practice Foresight and bring it into your strategy process – while we cannot predict the future, we can become anticipatory, and in the dilemmas which the present playing into the future makes visible to us, innovators often find pockets of opportunity. This form of anticipatory and adaptive strategy process is something we practice regularly and find quite powerful.
Shaping our vision of Innovating Beyond Borders has been a journey that has taken us far beyond our comfort, into tomorrow and back. It made us observe the current restlessness and uncertainty with a newly-gained perspective and apply a different mindset and some very handy tools, to anticipate and proactively find new value, which can be unlocked – when willing participants, from across (and beyond) an organisation in transition are able to come together, willing to step across this border of Today vs. Tomorrow and unleash their innovation potential.
Have a good weekend everyone!
Saar Ben-Attar (A Connector Beyond Limits)
"To have a successful and flourishing business, you have to have an engaged population of employees."