Look closely at a business with good timing and you will find it is skilled at anticipation. The company muscles seem to act and respond in such a way as to produce maximum impact at just the right moment. This stems from early cues and putting the information to work faster than others can. Anticipation is the action that puts more time on the competitive clock to give your team the advantage.
Businesses must move beyond hesitation to engage in new levels of achievement. For despite the economic slump, the world is racing along at breakneck speed and companies now need to get their “eyes out” for ways to shake up their organizations and generate the next innovation. This anticipation requires people with strong perceptual skills – people who have a high-definition sensitivity to changing patterns in the operating environment and the leadership skills to act upon the emerging information.
Take Kidrobot for example, whose founder Paul Budnitz, started a whole new category in the toy business of collectible art toys for adults. Adults and kids alike can frequently be found standing in line to visit the painted white shop in New York’s SOHO neighborhood, Or consider Hyundai, who anticipated there was room in the market to build an alternative brand to Japanese cars. Now the pressure is on them to continue to actively anticipate where their next phase of business growth will come from.
To have a business competency in anticipation you are going to need people in or around your company with these skills of foresight. Start asking about who has strong intuitive skills regarding the customer or market. Find out who in your company demonstrates a deep understanding or connection to the customer’s wants and desires. Don’t worry about their position or job level – you are assessing talent in a new way. When you find them, ask “What would you change about the business if you could?”
Once you identify people with strong intuition and anticipation skills, here are five recommended actions to tilt your business forward:
- Create an informal work team of “anticipators” that gathers quarterly for a summit on the state of the business so they can exchange ideas and offer perspectives. This team can be internal staff, external thought leaders or a combination of both – like on P&G’s Design Board.
- Embed anticipators into strategic planning departments to inject a balance between formal and situational business evaluations. This balance will help steer the company by magnifying the impact of current conditions on the success of your future business plan.
- Add an assessment of anticipation skills into talent reviews to identify people with the ability to foster the development of this leadership trait.
Ask people to share specific examples of where they personally had a market or customer insight that resulted in value creation. Listen for examples of judgment that went beyond market research data.
- Identify whether incoming hires have this ability, by asking interview questions about how they see the marketplace changing and why. Ask people to describe the areas where they have strong instincts and how their instincts have served them in their past performances.
- Develop a next-generation pipeline of the earliest ideas and make it highly visible to the employees. To do this, the canine company Ruff Wear uses professional athlete ambassadors to develop next generation ideas for dogs that will meet the demands of outdoor adventures. Through these ambassadors Ruff Wear employees are able to better connect to customers’ needs and anticipate product development opportunities.
To anticipate what’s next for your business, your going to have to start to physically stretch more, think more and feel more. Everything in business today comes from the perspective of less than; anticipation comes from the perspective of more than. Lean forward, with an “eyeballs out” approach and anticipate your business in exciting new ways to create value.
Donna Sturgess is the President and Co-founder of Buyology Inc and former Global Head of Innovation for GlaxoSmithKline. Her latest book is Eyeballs Out: How To Step Into Another World, Discover New Ideas, and Make Your Business Thrive