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How can you thrive in a disruptive new decade?

In less than two weeks, the 2010s will come to an end. The new decade promises to be driven by rapid change, rising complexity, mounting uncertainties, and lots of surprises. Most likely, disruption will rule in the coming decade. How can you transform yourself and your business to flourish in the 2020s? Allow me to ask you three simple questions to help you get ready for a game-changing new decade.

Background

Go back in time to December 2009. Ten years ago, did you imagine that ten years later, you have to pay interest rates to banks for keeping your saving accounts? That you can become a millionaire within a few years if you invested a hundred bucks at the right time in a cryptocurrency? That you would stay in a private home of a stranger and not in a hotel room (courtesy of Airbnb) or book a private car ride instead of a public taxi (thanks to Uber)? That a Reality TV Star would be president of the United States? That the United Kingdom would have decided to leave the European Union? 

Clearly, the world has been changing very fast and in surprising ways in the past decade, and will continue to do so in likely even more disruptive ways in the coming decade. That’s why you may want to take some time off your hectic schedule in the coming weeks and ponder three questions that I am about to ask you now.

Look back into the second half of the 2010s

“The stupidity of people comes from having an answer for everything. The wisdom of the novel comes from having a question for everything,” noted the Czech writer Milan Kundera. At Thinkergy, we love to ask people questions when we guide them through innovation projects. That’s why in our X-IDEA Toolbox, we have included a powerful question bank with thought-provoking questions for each of the five stages of X-IDEA.

In the initial Xploration stage, we ask would-be innovators questions that help them find out what they don’t know about their project, to gain novel insights related to their case, and to come up with initial ideas on how to possibly resolve their challenge.

To help set yourself and your business up for a successful decade, find the right answers for three simple questions. Here is the first one:

What has changed in the past five years in your industry and business?

While pondering this question, also consider thinking about some related, subordinated questions: 

What has become easier in your business? What has become more challenging? On balance, are things more comfortable or more difficult than five years ago? Why? And what does it mean for you?

For example, recently, I also asked myself these questions to reflect on what changed in the industry of my company, Thinkergy. Some of the things that changed in the innovation services industry in Southeast Asia during the past five years include:

  • An emerging commoditization of innovation services (many new, inexperienced players offer training in Design Thinking or consulting in innovation at much lower fees and —arguably— much lower quality, and often without being properly trained or licensed to do so, yet find buyers for their services). 
  • Many Multinational Corporations have built up in-house innovation competence on a global and regional level, and now the first large Asian corporations have begun doing so. 
  • An increasing number of Multinational Corporations have centralized the selection process for Learning & Development programs to their regional head office. As a result, local Human Capital teams in these firms cannot decide anymore what innovation training programs they deem best suited for developing their talents and what training service providers they trust.

Look ahead into the first half of the 2020s

“When you are running a business, there is a constant need to reinvent oneself. One should have the foresight to stay ahead in times of rapid change and rid ourselves of stickiness in any form in the business,” recommends the Indian billionaire industrialist and philanthropist Shiv Nadar.

With this in mind, here comes my second question to ask yourself:

What do you foresee will likely change in your industry and business in the coming five years?

Start reflecting on this second question by noting your learnings from what has changed in the past five years. Then, quickly jot down anything that comes to mind about changes you expect to happen in your business in the coming five years. Finally, research and contemplate more broadly on possible trends and discontinuities that may be relevant for your industry and business.

While looking ahead, bear in mind the following factors and phenomena:

  • 2020 will see the advent of a new long wave of technological change. Also known as Kondratiev waves (after the Russian economist Nikolai Kondratiev who discovered them), these waves describe which few technologies propel economic development forward for a certain number of decades. In the Sixth Wave, the lead technologies artificial Intelligence (AI) and digitalization, green & cleantech, and possibly also genomics are expected to drive economic growth and prosperity in the next 25 years. (Learn more about long waves in the article “How cyclicality drives business and innovation”)
  • Historically, periods of globalization and deglobalization have alternated every 3-5 decades. Following the 2008 financial crisis, the pendulum began swinging back towards more deglobalization, nationalism, protectionism, and authoritarian forms of government in many countries. (Check out the article “Does the pendulum swing back?” for more information on this meta-trend).
  • In the next five years, generational shifts in the workplace are also likely to impact your industry. (Learn more about these changes in the article “How generational shifts will impact business and innovation (Part 1 & Part 2)”).
  • When investigating relevant trends for your industry, distinguish between more short-lived phenomena (such as fads, hypes, and temporary fashions) and real trends or even mega-trends that will last for several years or maybe even a decade.
  • Moreover, note that every major trend tends to trigger a countertrend that you can also ride. 
  • A discontinuity is a distinct break from the normal state of affairs in an economy (such as a financial crisis, an armed conflict, or a major recession, among others).  

For example, an emerging trend that I foresee affecting the innovation industry is the following: Initiatives such as the establishment of rigorous innovation certification standards will make corporate innovation more rigid, formal, and systemic, which will lead to a drop in corporate creativity due to the dilemma of innovation management). I also predict that soon, big data analysis and AI will give companies better insights at the front-end of an innovation project. Consequently, corporations will probably bring in an external innovation company like Thinkergy predominantly to guide them towards outstanding ideas in the creative process stages (Ideation and Development in X-IDEA), while conducting other innovation process steps in-house. 

Harvest your learnings

“The best way to predict the future is to create it,” recommended management guru Peter Drucker. The third and final question to ask yourself is as simple as powerful:

So what?

So what do the changes you witnessed in the past five years and those you foresee unfolding in the coming five years mean for yourself and your business? What novel insights pop up when looking at the grand picture of your industry and the big picture of your business? What initial ideas come to your mind on how to possibly ride an emerging trend, or realize the upside of a possible threat? 

For example, as a result of a strategic foresight exercise, we now consider going back to our roots and frame Thinkergy’s services with a much stronger emphasis on creativity (and not on innovation as in the past five years).

Conclusion: Foresight is better than hindsight

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable,” noted the US General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Over the past weeks, I have done a strategic exploration project for our innovation company Thinkergy to set ourselves up for success in the disruptive 2020s. Thereby, I walked through the Xploration-stage of our X-IDEA innovation method, and applied ca. 30 X Tools (such as Strategic Risk Map, Trend & Discontinuities Map, or Who The F@#$ Is…? ). In the process, we also asked a lot of X Questions, and I noticed that the three questions I shared with you in today’s article to help grasp rapid change.

Now, we’re in the process of updating and fine-tuning our strategic company core to reflect our learnings, whereby we may entertain different “Visions scenarios” (see the article “Move from a vision statement to vision scenarios”) to be able to flexibly respond to market changes and possible discontinuities in the market. After the holidays, we will create a strategic road map for the next 3-5 years. We are also considering raising funds from a strategic investor or from venture capital firms to harness the immense upside for our business that we can foresee in the disruptive 2020s.

  • Would you like us to help update your organizational strategy for success in the disruptive 2020s with the help of our award-winning X-IDEA innovation method and X-IDEA Toolbox?
  • Contact us to tell us more about yourself and how we may creatively empower you. 

© Dr. Detlef Reis 2019. The article is published in the Thinkergy Blog on December 19, 2019. It will be re-printed in the Bangkok Post on January 21, 2019.