4 Ways Agility Protects the Status Quo (And 5 Reasons Anticipation is Better) by Daniel Burrus
Organisations that have adopted an anticipatory mindset and culture enjoy a variety of powerful advantages over those that rely on strategies that simply aren't as effective as they once might have been. Agility is one such strategy—the often vaunted capacity to react to change as quickly as possible to address problems and changing market conditions.
Does that make agility an extinct dinosaur? Far from it, so long as you understand its strengths and weaknesses.
Why Agility Is No Longer Enough
Countless organisations have long prised agility as the best way to deal with the speed of change and disruption. The prevailing mindset was: the faster and more efficiently you were able to react—be it to address challenges or shift strategy—the quicker off the mark you would be with regard to beating your competitors to the punch.
The increasing number of organisations, including agile ones, being disrupted by digital technology clearly indicates that agility is simply no longer as useful as the key strategy it once might have been to protect and defend against change. Given the ever-increasing speed with which technology is driving change of all sorts, agility in many cases can only slow down the speed with which you fall behind. It's like being a tightrope walker who sees that the cable is about to break. You can be as agile as the day is long, but you're still headed for a fall!
Further, being agile doesn't lend itself to innovation, particularly the sort of game-changing innovation that every organisation strives for. For example, one of Time magazine's choices for great innovations was an adaptive device that, once connected to a stethoscope, automatically transfers data to a smartphone for ready analysis. The device can identify health issues that a human ear often can't detect.
Did the developers of that innovation use agility to come up with their breakthrough idea? Being agile would not have helped. Agile innovation is good, but it will position you as a follower and keep you from jumping ahead.
The Place for Agility
So, given the stage of exponential change we are currently in, one that I have referred to as a profound tipping point in human history, does the reactive nature of agility provide enough value for organisations and individuals, or should we give it a decent burial?
Not at all! The ability to be agile is a key strategy in both an organisation's and an individual's toolbox. After all, there are always going to be unpredictable problems that demand rapid solutions, unforeseen situations that mandate fast decisions, and other shifts and challenges that require quick analysis and response.
But it's important to keep agility in a proper context. Agility is the ideal strategy for:
- Unpredictable change.
- Reacting quickly after a change occurs.
- Solving problems quickly after they occur.
- Creating a competitive advantage over slower rivals.
In other words, agility is a reactive strategy, and you should be using it as a key strategy, but don't treat it as the panacea to change and innovation that many organisations assume it still is. After all, reaction is all well and good, but reaction doesn't allow you to leap ahead in both your thinking and action. At the very least, it's just another step in the dance that protects the status quo.
Anticipation—The More Powerful Option
Let's be clear: I want you to be agile, and no methodology will allow you to accurately predict everything. But, agility needs to be balanced with a new key strategy—becoming anticipatory if you want to become the disruptor and turn change into game-changing opportunity.
It may seem the stuff of science fiction to some, but our Anticipatory Organization Model has proven itself over time and is geared toward showing both organisations and individuals how to anticipate the future and make bold moves with the utmost confidence. It's the ideal strategy for:
- Turning disruption and change into an opportunity.
- Identifying and acting on change before it occurs.
- Identifying and pre-solving problems before they occur.
- Driving exponential innovation with reduced risk.
- Jumping ahead of competitors with the confidence that comes from certainty.
One of the keys lies in the proven methodology of identifying both Hard and Soft Trends. Hard Trends are based on future facts; they will happen, they are those future events we can all bank on, from the increasing number of retiring baby boomers to digital technology that is becoming more sophisticated and useful at a predictable, exponential rate. By contrast, Soft Trends are based on assumptions and represent future possibilities—things that may or may not occur but which are open to influence.
Leveraging those two concepts—those things we know are going to happen as well as those that carry less certainty—allows organisations of all sorts to plan and carry out strategy with a newfound level of confidence that fosters rapid growth and accelerated innovation.
There will always be a place for agility in the most successful and prosperous organisations—provided that a focus on agility doesn't preclude the far more proactive ability to be anticipatory whenever possible.
The ideal would be to consider agile and anticipatory as synergistic strategies. When used together with strategic intent, they can accelerate innovation, growth, and results. By adopting an anticipatory mindset and culture, change and disruption become your biggest competitive advantage.
Enjoyed this opinion piece? Check out Daniel's last piece here.