Innovating when the old rules don’t fit the new environment

anticipating change

A few weeks ago, I wrote about future-proofing yourself by asking questions that anticipate great challenges. Why am I bringing this up again? Because, like you, I still get to engage companies that are disconnected from “what is” and “what could be”. There is a huge gap between how they perceive their environment, and how these changes might make their products and/or services obsolete.

They, like others, say: if all is going well inside our four walls, why break it. Right?


This is tunnel vision at its finest. Breaking from what your know well is a daunting task that most organizations acknowledge after disaster has struck. Overcoming this tunnel vision is a leadership and management challenge.

But, leaders must understand that what worked for you in the past, won’t work again. Sure, there are principles/guidelines we all follow that are just common sense for any point in time. But, there other rules that become irrelevant with time, either because of external change, or because some company is pushing the boundaries and changed the game.

What do we do in situations like these (which is happening this precise moment)?

Well, first, you must accept and become aware that there is change happening around you. Most likely, your organizations is at odds with the future. That is the external part of change. Also, consider the change that you are creating in your daily activities, as well as the change that you are not creating.

It is the first type of change (external) that I want to focus on here. How do you become aware of external change?

Preparing to innovate means becoming sensitive to what is changing around you. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to develop a sense of awareness:

  1. What is happening in the world today?
  2. What does it mean for others?
  3. What does it mean for us?
  4. What would have to happen first (for the results we want to occur)?
  5. What do we have to do to play a role?
  6. What do we do next?

Great. Now, in practical terms, how do you prepare/anticipate change?

Here is a short guide:

  1. Network with people outside of work/industry. Where all think alike nobody thinks very much. So, get out of the office and talk to people from other industries. Not to find leads, but to create your “idea network”. This is where social media can come in handy, as its very nature is of an knowledge network.
  2. Start a Brain Bank. This is either a small notebook (Moleskine), or anywhere you can keep notes about what you see, hear and listen. The point, is to get smarter about what’s happening around you. Use it with your idea network, it will be filled in a week 🙂
  3. Find and unleash the Heretics inside your organization. No matter how boring your company is, there are always people who wish things were different. These are your heretics. You know who they are. They are the ones who make you uncomfortable. Let them speak their mind. Ask them this simple question: What do you think sucks about the organization? And, what would you do about it? Then, get out of their way.

There you go. Start with these and you’ll get some tone.

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