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Posted on Dec 7, 2018

How Leaders Drive Their Anticipation of the Future

How Leaders Drive Their Anticipation of the Future

Have you ever wished you could go back in time, say 10, 20, or even 50 years? What if you could be the one to invent many of the technologies we use today? Maybe you’d become the successful – and wealthy – leader of a multinational company that many celebrate today.

The reality is we all stand in the same spot looking forward, with equal opportunity to see the future.

Who will be the next generation of leaders in the rapidly expanding industries of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), experiential reality (XR), and others? Today, these leaders are busy honing their skills around the differentiating value of anticipation.

Anticipation means an expectation; considering something beforehand.

Note the two key components of this value:

  • Expectation. In 2001, there were lots of MP3 players on the market. Steve Jobs and his team at Apple didn’t want an Apple version of an MP3 player. They anticipated something different. They expected something small and sleek, with a well-designed user interface. Did Steve Jobs know what it would look like before the iPod was created? Of course not. But this expectation was already established such that he was looking for it before he even knew what it would look like.
  • Considering something beforehand. In 1995 the World Wide Web was still in its infancy. When Jeff Bezos turned on as an online bookstore, he carefully considered where this new phenomenon was going. Did he know that someday he would also be selling consumer electronics, apparel, sporting goods, food, and more? Of course not. But he did carefully consider beforehand the online relationships he would be forming with consumers and the trust he needed to earn for his future success.

The value of anticipation worked for Jobs and Bezos. It can also work for leaders today.

Successful leaders spend little time looking back. They invest their precious time today gathering insights that drive their anticipation of the future.

Driving anticipation through insights

Successful leaders leverage three types of insights to drive anticipation.

  • Category Insight. This is the outward macro view of a leader’s world. Such leaders consider all of their competitors (both direct and indirect) and the sandbox in which they play today. They look at how they can change the game to their advantage. They contemplate the categories they should be playing in. They assess what drives the most passion within their own team. They carefully consider which elements of their business (or product/service), if they were missing, would cause it to be treated as a commodity.
  • Customer Insight. This is the outward micro view of a leader’s world. Here, such leaders go on a journey of amazing discoveries of the small things that matter. They look beyond normal sources of information. They talk to customers one-on-one to obtain a clearer and deeper understanding of a specific problem or need. They learn to ask better questions.
  • Creative Insight. This is the inward view of a leader’s world. Such leaders know that revolutionary creative insights come from the inside. They possess and encourage in others the ability to think deeply. They continually practice various aspects of thinking, as outlined by John Maxwell in his book, Thinking for a Change, including reflective thinking, focused thinking, and creative thinking.

These three different types of insights provide the fuel that drives a leader’s anticipation, and the vision for a better, brighter, smarter future.