The Future is Coming...Will You Be Ready?

Monday, 30 January 2012 06:30
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Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky once explained a key reason for his greatness: "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been." There is considerable wisdom in this quote, and it's implications for business planning are profound.

Curious to learn more? Read on, dear friends....

The Future is Coming...Will You Be Ready?

How much of your business and new product planning considers and embraces a future state, versus simply extending "now" by 1-5 years?

I have been reading and enjoying the thought provoking novel "2030" written by comedian and filmmaker Albert Brooks. The book is about, as the title suggests, life in the US in the year 2030. It describes a future that is sufficiently close-in so as to be quite plausible. Brooks not only describes the future, but also its social and economic significance. For instance, he describes a successful and popular restaurant concept named Charge n' Eat. It was developed to service hungry customers during downtime while they wait for their electric automobiles to recharge on premises. To what extent could this type of concept be anticipated even today?

Mike Docherty, a business colleague of mine, pointed out in a recent Venture2 blog posting that companies that correctly anticipate the future can be well positioned to capitalize on it:  In reviewing Ron Adner's book "The Wide Lens", Docherty writes: "Better Place is a battery and electric vehicle charging start-up that has contemplated the importance of the ecosystem from the start. They've carved out an interesting approach and unique business model for battery swapping that removes much of the upfront cost and may accelerate adoption of EV's". Could Better Place serve as an inspirational foundation for a nascent Charge n' Eat concept? Quite possibly.

Whether your company produces health and wellness products, industrial products, skin care products, or whatever, is it anticipating the future states and conditions that will define your industry, your customers, and in turn, your reality? Are you seeking to capitalize on this...or will you ignore it at your own peril?

I still vividly recall 12 years ago speaking with a VP of Handelman, the company responsible for merchandising the music sets (e.g. CD's, cassettes) for major retail chains like Walmart, Meijer, K-Mart and the like. I was discussing with him the company's prospects for future growth, especially in light of the emerging, but still (at the time) tiny phenomenon of music downloads. He acknowledged the behavior, but severely downplayed its significance and probable impact on their overall business operations. In 2008, Handelman exited its U.S. music operations. 

The future is coming. Will you be ready?


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