Daniel Burrus' Strategic Insights Blog

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.

A good incremental planner might work best in situations where routine and regularity reign, where everyone knows what to expect and when to expect it based on their past experience. Incremental planners see the future as full of uncertainty and disruption that can come out of nowhere. Staying focused on executing the current plan is key even if the plan is being rendered increasingly irrelevant by new technology and industry disruption.

Organizations don’t think of or call their planning incremental, but in reality, that is what most planning is designed to accomplish — incremental results.

Over the decades, shareholders have learned to expect incremental plans and therefore incremental results. But today, incremental planning and thinking will not position you to thrive in the years ahead, and will likely position you to either stay slightly ahead of flat results, or fall behind a little more every year. Today, it’s very easy to fail slowly like Kodak, Polaroid, Motorola, and many others did throughout the 1990s — or like Sony, Blackberry, Barnes and Noble, and others have done more recently. All of them used incremental planning and thinking, and yet all fell behind as the forces of predictable change worked against them.

It’s now time to consider a new type of planning, transformational planning — which requires an entirely different mindset.

Transformational planning, as the name suggests, is focused on using the forces of change that are shaping the future to drive innovation and accelerated sales. A transformational planner understands that we are now living in a period of unprecedented disruption and opportunity. They understand that reacting and responding to change will not allow them to rapidly accelerate growth. They also understand that while being agile is important and a great way to respond faster to changes coming from the outside in, agility will not allow them to jump ahead. In addition, they know that while it is important to have a lean initiative in place, lean is focused on cost reduction, not accelerated growth and gaining a new competitive advantage.

Before the launch of the Apple Watch, many in the media using incremental thinking predicted a flop. Apple, on the other hand, was using transformational planning, and in all of 2014 there were 720,000 smart watches sold — but on the first day, Apple sold over a million smart watches, and that was only in the U.S.

I know what you are thinking: Apple is big and has plenty of cash; we are small and there is never enough cash; we can’t do transformational thinking and planning. You are wrong!

Transformational planning involves developing and using the new competency of being anticipatory.  By identifying and seizing upon the predictable Hard Trends that will impact your business and industry, you can design a plan to jump ahead with the confidence that certainty offers, and with much lower risk. (I have written extensively about how to separate the Hard Trends that will happen from the Soft Trends that might happen, so in this article I will only cover a few basics and instead keep the focus more on the different ways to think and plan.)

They key to transformational planning, in essence, is using the Hard Trends methodology to make the future more visible, learning to recognize the Future Facts, and choosing to be the disrupter rather than waiting to be disrupted.

You can either sit back and wait until the disruption hits — take a “wait-and-see” approach — or you can get active, what I call being pre-active, taking positive action based on future known events.

Disruption changes our world and keeps its many leaders up at night. For many, disruption is a familiar foe. But realize that disruptive technology will only disrupt you if you didn’t know about it ahead of time. When you’re anticipatory, you’re creating changes and driving disruption from within rather than being disrupted from the outside. And when you’re practicing transformational planning, you can not only see and accurately anticipate those disruptive technologies, but you can use them to create new revenue streams, new products, new services, and new markets. That’s when you drive growth and change from the inside out so others have to react to you instead of you reacting to what others are doing. In this scenario, disruption is your competitive advantage.

©2015 Burrus Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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.

The Reputation Economy: Are You Ready?

Reputation Management

You probably grew up getting lectures from your mom about the value of a good reputation. Well, as usual, Mom was right—and maybe more than she knew. Reputation is about to become a capital asset, and it’s going to be digital. I’m talking about the rise of the reputation economy.

In fact the reputation economy has been rapidly growing for some time now. Before they do renovations, homeowners Google contractors to make sure they’re worth hiring. Consumers look at online product reviews before making a purchasing decision, and 90 percent say they’re influenced by those reviews.

Apple’s Smartwatch Will Launch A Wearable Revolution

Health sport woman with smart watchApple’s smartwatch launch will launch far more than their smartwatch, it will launch wearable technology into the mainstream for the first time and create enormous growth opportunities for both companies that are already in the wearable space, and new companies that will spring up thanks to a rapidly growing consumer demand.

Even before Apple’s launch, there is a growing list of naysayers who are predicting that the Apple watch will fail.  May say they there is nothing on the watch you could not already do with your phone and many go on to say that there is no business case for an Apple watch.

Leadership “Strengths” That Are Actually Weaknesses

What does it mean to be a great leader today?

thumbnailThe triumphant stories of tech moguls, business icons, and successful entrepreneurs have become a popular fixture in films, books, and TV shows — both fictionalized and fully fictional. We can’t get enough of them. And why not? When someone creates a company and stewards it to success in real life, it’s an incredible narrative. And in the capable hands of strong writers and talented performers, those stories become thrilling, dramatic reenactments of our own highest aspirations and touchstones of achievement we can all enjoy and relate to.

Everyday Innovation Can Produce Big Results

thumbnailSo many companies get obsessed with scoring the next Big Innovation. Of course we’re all hungry to find that next giant disruptive idea that will revolutionize our industry. However, how often can you truly expect that big stroke of genius to happen? Once every two years, once a year at the very most? In addition, most employees of large and midsize companies don’t feel they are capable of coming up with the next Big Innovation and assume others are working on this so they go about their tasks failing to innovate. Speaking of mindsets and culture, can you expect such a huge leap to come if you don’t have a culture in your organization that fosters innovation and rewards it? In truth, the type of innovation that we need most is not the Big Innovation that happens in dramatic bursts every now and then. What we need most is Everyday Innovation.

The Privacy Revolt: The Growing Demand For Privacy-as-a-Service (PaaS)

thumbnailThere’s one thing just about every company has in common right now. Without even necessarily meaning to, they have in some way become the proprietor of a new kind of wealth. I’m referring of course to their customers’ data. But the flipside to acquiring that data is your customers now hold you to certain expectations: namely, that you’re taking steps to safeguard their privacy.