How Business Leaders Can Adapt To The Future Of Innovation

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Thai Son Nguyen is a CEO and cofounder who has spent the last 16 years building a world-class e-commerce service provider through SmartOSC.

The current business landscape is turbulent, complex and ambiguous. Of course, although the narrative continues, the biggest influencer of this has arguably been the Covid-19 pandemic, which amplified many challenges and forced organizations to stand face-to-face with the unknown.

For a long time, we navigated a world where historical trends built context and gave us the ability to plan for what we knew as “probable outcomes.” We are now faced with the challenge of preparing for multiple potential futures and balancing the complexity of a world where anything can happen. Business leaders should make decisions faster than ever before while continuously evolving in order to stay competitive within the market. Even though the fear of the unknown has always been present, as we reach new heights of volatility, business leaders need to remember that embracing uncertainty and changing mindsets could be key to success.

Embracing Change

Research Deloitte conducted in 2021 revealed that “66% of CXOs…don’t feel completely ready to lead, and 70%…don’t have complete confidence in their organizations’ ability to pivot and adapt to disruptive events.”

This highlights the need to move beyond an awareness of disruption and shift gears.

To do this, leaders should invest their most valuable commodity, time, to retrain their brains so that they can adopt new mindsets. This will involve letting go of assumptions, increasing the ability to take risks, relinquishing the need for control and ultimately becoming comfortable with navigating ambiguity.

Once this shift in thinking has happened, it will pass through every aspect of an organization, opening up new opportunities that hadn’t been considered before. As a result, businesses could be better equipped to handle future disruptions and uncertainties.

Communicating A Vision

A clear vision is crucial for an organization that wants to succeed. An organization’s vision is its North Star, and building awareness of this vision needs to be treated with the same effort and enthusiasm as any brand campaign.

Interestingly, research by McKinsey showed that 82% of employees felt it was important for their companies to have a purpose.

Lacking a clearly defined vision leads to the fragmentation of departments that, without any other choice, will begin working toward what they believe should be their vision. This inevitably leads to the formation of silos. When this communication is lost, so is any chance of being steps ahead of any crisis inside or outside of the organization.

It is not enough to simply have a vision; leaders also need to communicate it and empower core teams to work in unison toward the same goal.

Becoming Data-Empowered

To anticipate potential barriers to an organization’s vision, leaders should work to find the middle ground between people and data.

As time goes by, more organizations sign up to become data-driven. However, many workers lack the ability to assess data information and make decisions with it. Jumping straight to a commitment like that without a solid strategy is a big risk (and not the good kind).

Often, leaders will presume that technology alone will be enough to set the stage for data transformation to happen within their organization. The presumption is that technology alone can give businesses the insights they need to innovate. However, the best data leaders in the world will likely disagree.

More and more businesses are realizing that data is an asset, and like any asset in a business, they need to manage it effectively. A data culture can allow employees to think about data in their decision-making processes; it can support and add to the value that technology and tools bring to the table and allow for a system of storytelling that gets to the heart of consumer needs. To do this, leaders should give employees access to knowledge and the ability to feel confident with data to make them data-empowered.

Taking Risks

Encouraging risk-taking when survival is a main priority may seem counterintuitive; however, in today’s business climate, it can be crucial.

When it comes to innovation, simply relying on brainstorming sessions with upper management, a whiteboard and sticky notes won’t cut it. Of course, you’ll form some brilliant ideas, but they will likely get lost in a chain of communication and will leave teams trying to make sense of what happened inside a room that they were not given the opportunity to be in.

Once an organization’s vision is aligned, innovation can come in the form of finger-on-the-pulse ideation for imagined futures.

To do this, organizations must create room for risk-taking systems to form, which in turn can generate ideas and build pathways for those ideas to be developed by anybody within the business. This will create a culture that encourages employees to take chances without fear of failure. Our brains are wired for prediction; we predict probable outcomes to stay safe. When we cultivate a community that doesn’t fear failure, we can generate ideas for imaginative outcomes based on a unified vision.

Underpinning all of this is a company culture that has empathy at its core. This is crucial for understanding the evolving needs of customers. When idea generation aims to address real-world problems that customers may face, great and life-changing things can happen.

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