We cannot be mere compilers of trends. Running a company is more than just collecting futures invented by or for others. Our future must be ours. Genuine. It is not enough to know the trends cool by memory. All hints about the future are few and welcome. But the future must be built every day. There is nothing more tedious than listening to people emphatically proclaim borrowed futures. We cannot delegate the future. We can ask them to help us create it, but we cannot delegate it. It would be like delegating your soul.
The only sustainable trend is to learn to think for yourself. And of course prospective has value. And of course Gartner’s Hype is inspiring. And of course one can collect the newsletters from all the big consultancies and learn. But managing is not cooking trends without rhyme or reason. What for some may be a successful and inspiring trend, for others may be something distant that does not enable any relevant decision. There is nothing more natural than trying to build your own future. Neither innovation nor planning are important in and of themselves. All our planning and innovation find their reason for being in the future that we wish to share. The future is what is really important and requires thinking. He benchmarking It will come later. What good is it for us to define a strategic plan that perfectly reflects all the trends, but does not reasonably differentiate us in the eyes of customers? Piling up commonplaces is the least strategic thing there is.
Trendsetters do their job well. They argue the anticipation of the future. They create mental perimeters for us to work on. Some revel in the disruptions they see everywhere. If we had believed them at face value, we would already be traveling en masse in driverless cars, our companies would be inhabited only by robots and we would spend our holidays in the metaverse. Trends must be sifted with our thinking. Anyone has access to trends. In itself, collecting trends is not a competitive advantage. What gives us competitiveness is our ability to think on our own, to act and to be able to make changes gradually. Everyone has access to the trends and ChatGpt gives them to you in good order. But knowing where the future is going does not mean that we are heading towards it. The difference is not in knowing the trends, it is in knowing how to build a difference with them. The same thing happens with the famous SDGs, which can be inspiring, but without their own thought and without real commitment they end up decorating websites and powerpoints. Facing complexity requires more than compiling trends, it requires thinking and determination when acting.
The value of talent
You can have purpose, know-how, know trends by heart, but without the right people to make it something tangible, the future will be a dream.
I have nothing against trend lists. They can inspire us a lot. But all trends should have a luminous label that warns of the need to think before using. It is not that difficult to know the future in broad strokes. We know that our future will be determined by vectors such as climate change, migration, the emergence of data technologies, new generations of biotechnology or new materials, we know that we will manage our health in a very different way or that geopolitics walk into a new world of blocks. We know these things and many more. We also know about each sector its future ins and outs. I have attended and led many trend sessions. They fuel our inspiration. The difficult thing is to go from trends to our decisions.
Building a genuine future means bringing together a set of factors in a radically practical way. It is thinking about what value proposition will allow us to survive in the future to serve those we aspire to be our clients. It is contextualizing this value proposition with the general and particular trends of each sector. Think about what uniqueness our positioning holds. That is, how in the eyes of customers, we are going to distinguish ourselves from the competition. And if our future positioning does not coincide with our current capabilities, how are we going to transform and how are we going to finance it. What innovations are we going to promote? But above all the strategic question is who are we going to do all this with? You can have a purpose, a value proposition, know-how, know the trends and emerging technologies by heart, but if you don’t have the right people who must turn this strategy into something tangible, the future will be a dream. The key success factor of the strategy is people.
Talking about the future with ease is not difficult. Finding the right people to build the future we want, yes it is. Millions of strategic plans sit expectantly on comfortable shelves waiting for someone to turn them into reality. I’ve seen it many times. A company knows what product or service line it should promote, what markets it should mobilize, and what innovations it should promote. But they have no one who can lead them with guarantees. Or they do not have the resources to bring someone with proven talent to transform their need into a reality.
Facing complexity requires more than just compiling trends: you need to think and determine to act.
The exciting thing about management is that there is no single solution to create value, to provide results, to grow. The exciting thing is that people who live with the same trends, the same technologies, the same identified customer needs, can give different results. And the only reason is the people and how they cement their relationship in corporate cultures that identify them. Making strategic plans based on trends, having innovation challenges, fine-tuning digital transformation, are sensible initiatives, but the obsession is having the right people. You can live without plans, but not without talent. The big trend is to have companies that are communities of people who think for themselves and know how to convert general trends into concrete value. We can all rent borrowed futures. What no one is going to lend us are the right people to make those futures a reality, uncertain, imperfect, but genuine, from which we intend to live.