Is Your Business Ready for “What’s Next?”

It doesn’t seem that long ago when many business leaders were talking about their strategic plans and how it fit into their “2020 Vision” – that pithy twist on a phrase that implied everything would be in clear focus when arriving upon this distant but magical year.

Well, we’ve arrived.

And so we must ask ourselves: how clear and innovative was that 2020 vision? And what’s next?

To be transparent, I’ve spent a lot of time in the last year thinking, planning, and preparing for what’s next for our business. And I must admit that it also has come with a fair amount of questioning, hand-wringing and maybe some second-guessing. I’m sure I’m not alone here.

But the thing about strategic planning and vision statements and goals is that in order for them to mean anything – and ultimately to be measurable – these lofty drafts demand we take action. We have to throw our darts toward the target. We must balance plans and goals with action.

I get the privilege of working with a team that includes engineers who are analytical and process-driven, as well as industrial designers who are creative and non-linear in their approach to the work. In many businesses, these diverse working styles just don’t mix well together – if at all. But because we apply a human-centered design (HCD) process to all that we do, we’re intentionally melding and balancing our team’s left- and right-brain expertise to solve complex challenges. It’s how we can talk about leading businesses through the art and science of what’s next.

We know we need this balance, and specifically the HCD process, if we’re going to help companies realize what’s next, and make them believe that innovation is their business. And that’s the dart we’re throwing toward our target: lifting up and transforming more businesses that want to innovate, but don’t know how. 

If your inclination is to ask why questions such as: Why must we innovate? Why should we embrace AI? Why do we need to pursue IoT connectivity? – consider your legacy as a leader.

Either you are committed to being an innovator, one who is bent toward progress and offering something new, better, or different with value to the world – or, as a CEO and leader, you are simply an overseer of existing systems, a superintendent of the status quo.

It begs the question – which type of leader do you want to be known as? Will you innovate or will you simply uphold the old invention until it has lost its utility?

You’re likely going to see and read a lot of aspirational content for the next month or so – about the promise and potential of a new year and a new decade. It’s what we humans do: we look for natural reset moments to help us recalibrate. We also have choices: in believing that tightening down on process will reap marginally better results, or that challenging our teams to rethink and innovate what we offer the world can redefine the trajectory of our companies. Arguably, I think there’s room for both.

For every business, there needs to be an urgency that surpasses aspirational thinking; an unwillingness to accept the marginal uptick as the best we can do. The potential for growth, new markets, new products, new services – it’s all there for the taking if we’re willing to get outside of our comfort zones, embrace new processes, and do the work we are capable of achieving together.

This idea of what’s next, is something I’m going to be talking about a lot in the coming year. Actually, it’s not an idea, it is the action of what’s next that I believe matters, and I want to invite you along for the ride – perhaps to take action that you never thought was possible or could imagine taking with your business. 

Visions and plans with 2020 end dates are expiring. That means figuring out what’s next needs to be the work of right now. Will your plan be to innovate or uphold the old invention? What’s next for your business?

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