Daniel Burrus' Strategic Insights Blog

The Power of Certainty

Probable ResultsWe all know that we live in an amazingly uncertain world full of doubts and reservations. Questions and misgivings about all manner of things, big and small, race through ourheads constantly.

On the global stage, we wonder: What does the future hold for the economy — what’s going to happen with Greece’s financial crisis? Will it damage the European economy at large? How will this and other struggling member nations affect the euro and the dollar’s standing against it? How will the dollar fare against the Japanese yen or the Chinese yuan? Will it perform against Brazil’s strengthening real?

As Americans, we ask ourselves what will happen with Social Security in the future, and whether our retirement savings are truly secure. Let’s face it, last week hackers were able to break into a Social Security database and take key financial information, including Social Security numbers, from a good number of U.S. taxpayers. We fret about whether our government will ever be effective again, and who will win the next general election, and if it will even matter.

Uncertainty is present in every facet of life, and how we process and deal with it determines how successful we are. Whether in business or your personal life, any strategy based on uncertainty is inherently high-risk — and that risk decreases as certainty forms.

Increasing certainty about anything you’re unsure of is categorically beneficial, and you can do this by discerning the certain elements of any situation from the uncertain ones. I’ve spent the past 30+ years developing a proven methodology of doing this, a Science of Certainty. This science hinges around my principle of Anticipation — that is, making sure you’re ahead of the game and predicting future trends instead of simply reacting to disruptions, be they in your industry or in your personal life. The Science of Certainty is all about separating the Soft Trends, things that might happen in the future, from the Hard Trends, things that will happen.

Wherever we can feel a true sense of certainty, we can use the resulting high level of confidence to our advantage by applying this science. For example, while we may not be sure of how the economy will look in a few months, let alone a few years, we know stocks will continue to fluctuate, and by discerning Hard Trends based on what we know, we can capitalize on these certainties in our business practices.

Based on linear, one-way change (one of the two major types of change, the other being cyclical), we can conclude our increasing dependence on the use of technology will continue to increase, representing a Hard Trend within an uncertain economy. More people and businesses than ever are buying smartphones, using cloud computing, and engaging big data with high-speed data analytics. This pattern will not reverse or cycle around — obviously, few people with an iPhone 6 would want to go back to using an iPhone 3 or a flip phone, just as organizations that are using high-speed data analytics would not go back to using their old, slower analytics system — meaning their increasing use is a Hard Trend, a predictable pattern of irreversible linear change. In addition, the Three Digital Accelerators I identified way back in 1983, the exponential growth of processing power, digital storage and bandwidth, will continue to drive the one-way linear change curve to predictable, exponential levels. That’s a Hard Trend that will continue to cause digital disruption.  And clearly, the most anticipatory businesses and leaders have realized this and are capitalizing on these accelerating areas of growth.

Now, these are just a few examples, but they demonstrate that with certainty comes empowerment and strategic confidence. And while you can’t be sure of everything, any added certainty can make a difference and give you the confidence to make bold moves — while those failing to utilize the Science of Certainty and the Anticipatory Methodology are left scrambling to react to changes in their industries.

This is especially important from a business standpoint, where trying to simply keep up with the pack is a fool’s game. There’s no advantage in keeping up, but trying to jump ahead of your competition is risky unless you use the Science of Certainty to figure out what Hard Trends will impact and disrupt your industry in the future, and acting on it before your competition does.

From a sales standpoint, uncertainty can be a tool to open the door to a sale, but certainty is one of the best tools for closing a sale. If you can guide a prospective customer or client from a place where they feel uncertain to where they’re certain and therefore confident in what you are saying and the product, service or concept you are selling, you’ve not only come that much closer to closing a sale, you’ve also built an essential level of trust with your customer.

For example, if you’re looking to build a home but are unsure of the designer or construction company you want to use, you’re unlikely to sign a contract — but a confident professional can increase your certainty by supplying you with key details, like building plans, a scope of work, and a guaranteed completion date.

At the end of the day, everybody’s selling something. Babies cry, selling you on paying attention to them because you’re certain there’s something wrong; teenagers act out for the very same reason. As adults, we sell ourselves, by virtue of our skills, to our employers. We sell products to customers and clients when they have a high level of certainty. In our personal lives, we deepen our relationships with friends, and colleagues, and build new relationships by increasing their level of trust thanks to their level of certainty in who we are. We do all of this, whether we know it or not, by using the Science of Certainty — and the sooner we understand how to use this, the more successful we’ll become in any endeavor we undertake.

©2015 Burrus Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

What Makes A Good Leader Today — And Tomorrow?

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What makes a good leader?

Things like integrity, honesty, and personal responsibility immediately come to mind. While those are all vital traits, they’re not the leadership traits I’m addressing right now.

There’s a new leadership principle leaders must embrace if they want to be relevant and effective in today’s world of technology-driven transformation and move forward into the future.

You sometimes hear people refer to managers and leaders interchangeably. In fact, they are crucially different. Managers control what tasks people perform and how they go about it. They can enforce this through policy, staff guidelines, rules on best practices, and by example. You’ve heard the word “micromanage,” but nobody says “microlead.” That’s because leaders don’t work the same way.

Teach A Man To Fish: Training vs. Education

thumbnail-1Given the transformational changes taking place in every industry, if you received a Ph.D. ten years ago it means you used to know a lot.  The need to learn new things, regardless of your age or position in an organization has never been more important and represents a powerful key to unlock both personal and business success.

As you consider both classroom and on-line training options, even those that are using the latest educational methods and tools, it’s important to keep in mind that there is a difference between training and education.

Who’s Afraid of Big Bad Data?

thumbnail-1Perhaps you’ve heard the saying that a tool is only as useful as the person who wields    it. I believe that’s true for a lot of things — including high-speed data analytics.

The term “high-speed data analytics” refers to the leveraging of raw data and converting it into actionable knowledge and insights. The most prized data comes from customers and from the products and services customers use, data that businesses have begun to accumulate in unprecedented amounts in order to improve and innovate in ways that better suit customer needs. This accumulated data — big data, as we’ve come to know it — is stored in servers and captured by a rapidly increasing number of connected sensors and machines making up what we are calling the Internet of Things (IoT). 

Your Working Future

thumbnailMore and more companies are going virtual, whether it’s to save money, attract talented employees, or benefit the environment, The extinction of the physical office is a Soft Trend – it is not a future fact – but the increasing importance of the virtual office is a Hard Trend, and it will continue to rapidly increase on a global level.

This presents some exciting opportunities for Anticipatory Organizations™ and it goes far beyond advanced cloud applications.. I want you to look past the obvious and think about the implications that aren’t on anyone else’s radar yet. That’s where opportunity lies.

Transformational Planning

mail_image_preview-1Whenever I think about the subject of planning, a quote from Benjamin Franklin always pops into my mind: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Successful people, and successful businesses, all know how important planning is. But in a world of accelerating technology-driven change, what kind of planning are you doing? From a results perspective, there are basically two types of plans, and it’s important to be able to distinguish between the two in theory as well as practice.

First, there’s incremental planning. This is the type of planning most large and small companies do. Growth is forecasted to rise in a rational and incremental way. Innovation is focused around logical extensions of current product and service offerings. There is an ongoing focus on reducing costs by implementing new lean strategies and there is a heightened focus on being agile so businesses can react more quickly to changes in the marketplace.

The Anticipatory Organization™

thumbnailA few weeks ago, a Fortune 50 CEO shared with me that “The pace of change is now faster than our organization’s ability to respond to it.” I hear this observation quite often as I travel around the world working with executives from some of the largest companies on the planet. And you might find it interesting to know that many of them are technology-focused companies that create, manufacture, market, and sell various types of hardware, software, or both.

It is no secret that the world is changing at an increasing rate, but in the past few years the increased pace has surprised most. Yet it was all there to see long ago; the problem is that most have not learned how to separate the wheat from the chaff.

The Coming Workforce Crisis

mail_image_previewThis may be counterintuitive, but we’re running out of trained talent. I’m sure you noticed that I inserted the word “trained” before the word “talent”. When my brother’s son was a young boy, he had a talent for drawing, but without the skills and insights that education and training can bring, his talent was undeveloped.

I’m happy to report that he will be graduating from college with honors in a few months as a graphic artist, Now that his talent has been developed, and he knows how to use a wide pallet of tools to bring his visions to life on a page, or on a screen, with or without 3D animation, he can go out into the world and make a difference, and a living.

12 Trends To Grow Your Business

mail_image_previewThe following is a list of technology-driven trends that will require action on your part if you want them to work for you, and not against you as the future unfolds.

1. Brands Seize Mobile Moments

Mobile computing technology has already changed how we order food, chat with friends, and make transactions on the fly. In order to profit from consumer mobile use in 2015, brands will have to focus on seizing mobile moments on apps that already have consumer’s attention.

For example, rather than expecting consumers to download your company’s own app, it will become increasingly important that your company embed your services in an existing app that has a strong user base. Don’t just rely on consumers to seek you out; go to them.

Anticipating Digital Disruption

thumbnailWhy didn’t a cab driver think of Uber? Why didn’t Barnes & Noble think of Amazon?  Why didn’t Blockbuster think of Netflix? Why didn’t Marriott think of AirBnB?

The answer to all four, and the myriad other companies displaced by digital disruption, is that at some point, you established a cash cow—a product or service that generates the majority of your income and profits—and you spent years and even decades building a successful business around it designed to not only grow, but also to protect and defend it. The fact that most of us are all so busy and so focused, coupled with the ongoing need to meet or exceed your quarterly numbers will keep you from looking far enough outside of your business and industry to see the disruption ahead.