According to a Harvard Business Review survey, the quality that most distinguishes a leader from a non-leader is how capable she is of forward-thinking. In other words, a leader is someone who envisions a unique view of the future — and can enlist others into that shared vision.
What’s your vision for your organization? If it’s not as forward-thinking as it could be, run it through an exercise called One Year From Now. It’s a strategy-shaping technique that helps leadership articulate how innovation will shape their org twelve months from now — and what steps need to be taken to make that vision a reality.
Along with your fellow senior leaders, take twenty minutes to answer these questions:
- What’s a recent news headline about our company?
- What are the key topics our company’s thought leaders are speaking about at conferences?
- What emerging social issue is our organization associated with?
- What are customers or clients tweeting about us?
- What’s the word on Wall Street about us?
- What are the sales teams at our competition saying about us?
- What’s the CEO of our top competitor saying about us?
- Why are our employees excited about coming to work here?
Once you’ve got your future-thinking answers, imagine yourselves a year from now. It’s 2019 and your company has achieved the vision of success it just articulated. To reveal how you got here, take another twenty minutes to answer the following questions individually or in small teams.
- What one decision or action put us on the path to success?
- What was our biggest barrier to change?
- How did we successfully overcome that barrier?
- What exactly compelled us to make those changes?
- Who exactly was the driving force for those changes?
- How did we get buy-in for the changes we made?
- What would have happened if we had just maintained last year’s status quo?
When time’s up, everyone’s answers should be shared with the room, and any common themes or ideas should be captured. Discuss the feasibility of the most strategic ideas and tactics, and then agree on your top three immediate priorities. Reconvene monthly to track the company’s progression toward its goals for next year and keep people accountability.
Imagining your company twelve months from now can replace hazy or lazy plans for innovation with a clear roadmap for achieving success.Whether you’re a hot start-up or a global brand, this simple technique can put you on track for becoming synonymous with 2019 round-ups of innovators of the year.