Design your organization so that it always develops new capabilities

What is the main obstacle that stands in the way of sustainable long-term success for any business? I’d argue that it’s culture. A strong culture will recover from mistakes and figure out a way forward; while a weak one will never aim to evolve beyond what it already knows.

With that said, let’s get this out of the way: you must build culture from the beginning.

Unfortunately, many businesses start off with the intent of selling a solution with complete disregard to culture. It’s all about selling, right? Wrong. It’s both, but even all the sales in the world won’t save you if you’re on the path to irrelevance. So, when it comes time to evolve, if they even get there, they will fall flat on their noses because doing so requires new capabilities; not the ones they started off with.

Take a look at the following chart, many businesses are not prepared for the future because they lack the abilities required to operate in the future:

How do you future-proof yourself?

Hire future-proof people

The most important job of any leader is hiring, so getting the right people on the bus is critical. But determining what those people need to bring to the table is even more critical. Again, most businesses start off hiring based on the need to execute specific tasks, it very rarely occurs to them if those people have the ability to evolve beyond that role. It’s not their fault they can’t view people differently, it’s just that the industrial model of how work gets done is hard to let go.

Knowledge is a click away, nowadays. But, organizations need is new knowledge in order to create the future; that requires a willingness to experiment. So, in order to design your organization so that it develops new capabilities you need to surround yourself with people who have a capability for learning, not knowing. Yes, expertise is important but it’s becoming more and more common. Less common is an acute ability to learn and evolve.

What does a culture of innovation look like? It’s one where risk taking and continuous learning is common. It’s also one where future-proof people reign supreme. Why? Because future-proof people will experiment with your business without your permission.

As a leader, that’s what you want.

Why is this important?

In the big picture, innovation requires exploiting and exploring; simultaneously. This requires designing a culture that is on a constant state of becoming

Bottom line: The leaders of the future lead by design, they think about the future and so they hire people who are learning animals, who embrace the unknown, who are excited everyday to overcome new challenges; people who aren’t afraid to figure it out.