Forward thinking companies are the ones that outshine the rest and become well-known brands in their respective industries. They are the ones that are first to put innovative products in the market, to adapt to new technologies and to try out different styles of marketing. They are positioned for the long term win – they want to leave a legacy for future generations.

Focusing on the future sets leaders apart. The capacity to imagine and articulate exciting future possibilities is a defining competency – perhaps the most important one next to honesty.
In The Leadership Code by Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood and Kate Sweetman review leadership theory and distil leadership competencies into five overarching roles:

•    Strategist – Leaders shape the future
•    Executor – Leaders make things happen
•    Talent manager – Leaders engage today’s talent
•    Human capital developer – Leaders build the next generation
•    Personal proficiency – Leaders invest in their own development

How future orientation differs across the globe

The GLOBE project surveyed over 17 000 middle managers in 61 societies to see how cultures vary in relation to a set of factors that are important to organisational management and leadership. One of the factors, “Future Orientation”, looked at how different cultures value things such as delayed gratification, planning and investments that will pay off at a later date.

The study showed that Singapore was the most future oriented of cultures, followed by Switzerland, the Netherlands and Malaysia. Countries that were the least future oriented were Poland, Hungary, Russia and Argentina. It is interesting to note that the more future oriented a country is, the higher their average GDP per capita. Levels of innovativeness, happiness and confidence also rose along with future orientation.

In an article for Harvard Business Review, Mansour Javidan says there are certain ways to inspire and work with cultures that are less future oriented. Indigenous workers, for example, may value long-term planning but not really think that achieving planned goals is possible because of their perceptions of current practices. One way to change this perception is to start by setting smaller, three month goals. Changing the way people think about their future will change their ability to work towards larger future goals.

How resilient is your brand really?

Deloitte published a book called Brand Resilience: Managing Risk and Recovery in a High-Speed World, that looks at the speed both true and false information spreads and its impact on both strong and vulnerable brands. According to the book, brand risk is at an all-time high as a result of brand saboteurs.

In the book, Jonathan Copulsky, Principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP, provides tools and frameworks to make brand risk intelligence a core competency within a company. In a discussion on Insights, Jonathan says it is vital that companies know how to manage their risks and how to recover rapidly and effectively if they are affected by any risks.

Marketing is no longer just about building a brand. Marketing is also about brand defence and brands are much more valuable than they have ever been before, but at the same time they are also more fragile, which means that business owners have to be mindful of the risks that brands face every day. “Saboteurs” need to be thought of as insurgents because you don’t know who they are or what they are going to do next. Every time you think you have closed all the gaps, they come up with new ways to attack you.

Some examples of threats inside a company’s borders include a brand ambassador losing credibility; an employee creating a viral video or blog that puts the company in a negative light; repeated deep product discounts and boorish executive behaviour. Exterior threats that happen outside a company’s borders can include social media impersonators, deteriorating quality of an outsourced supplier; scathing blogger reviews and irate customer feedback. The only way to manage your risks intelligently is through active and consistent defence.

Seven steps to brand resilience
According the book, there are seven steps to brand resilience:
1.    Assess brand risks
2.    Galvanize your brand troops
3.    Deploy your brand risk at the earliest warning signals
4.    Repel attacks on your brand
5.    Learn and adapt your brand defences
6.    Measure and track brand resilience
7.    Generate popular support

Managing a brand’s resilience is like fighting a war on counter-insurgency. Learning and adapting is the most important step because you need to proactively change your tactics and focus to future-proof your brand.

Five steps to formalising forward thinking in your organisation

Globally recognised innovation leader and futurist, Lisa Bodell, says that forward thinking is both an essential and achievable exercise in all companies. In a recent article, Lisa listed five specific tactics that companies can use to capitalise on future trends:

1.    Go micro
Designate a team member to represent each specific department within your company. Have a monthly meeting where microtrends that are observed from vendor partners, industry magazines and relevant blogs are discussed.

2.    Conduct annual scenario planning
Discuss and plan for “what if?” scenarios to consider a range of plausible futures and how this could impact your company and industry. Other scenario-planning exercises include mapping key trends, driving forces in the industry, looking for uncertainties and wild-card factors that could upend your current plans.

3.    Make the future tangible
Consider future technologies as well as environmental, political and economic forces that will become reality within the next decade or two. Get your internal teams to discuss these changes and come up with forward-thinking ideas at large.

4.    Retain a technology scout
A technology scout identifies up and coming technologies and applies established technologies in new ways. If you can’t retain scouting services, identify an imaginative employee to keep track and record new technologies and make unexpected connections.

5.    Tap into academia
Only a small fraction of universities have partnerships with the private sector, but establishing an academic partnership that is focused on innovation within your industry can put you ahead of your competition.

How leading companies are using the 7 P’s to shape the future

The 7 P’s of marketing is a very well-known strategy tool that helps companies review and define key issues that they face. As part of our forward thinking companies supplement, we’re going to look at a few examples of how some local great minds and entrepreneurial spirits are using the traditional P’s to shake up the industry and pave the way for future generations.

*More information about the companies listed here can be viewed at www.voicemap.me, www.easyequities.co.za, www.wearemonsters.co.za, www.offerzen.com and www.passmarked.com.

Product
Creating a completely new, one-of-a-kind product in an established industry may seem virtually impossible, but it’s something that South African startup VoiceMap has achieved. The company’s audio tour app allows users to explore neighbourhoods, sights and cities at their own pace. This way, a tourist can move through town and have the appropriate tour guide information delivered to them at exactly the right moment. How could you make a facility manager’s job easier if you were able to take them through the process of optimising their smart building remotely in the same way?

Place
Working in South Africa and neighbouring African countries comes with a range of challenges. Not only are projects often in remote, hard to reach places, but many African countries and regions still struggle with power as well as connectivity issues. Narroband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) is a low-power wide-area radio technology that will connect objects that need long battery life in remote locations. It’s stronger and more penetrative signal will use telecom bands to connect and power devices such as smart fridges, smart water meters that connect industrial devices and provide big data-, flow- and consumption analysis.

Price
As many architects and designers know, a large number of project decisions are price focused. Many experienced professionals still find it hard to convince a client that investing in a more expensive product will definitely save them money in the long run. Coming up with new strategies to address pricing issues in the flooring industry is an opportunity that is simply waiting to be exploited.

A local company that has taken a completely new approach to addressing how people plan their personal finances is EasyEquities. Their new assessment tool called RiskAlyze enables users to refine their investment options based on the amount of money and the time period they have at their disposal. Imagine what a tool like this – showing the full life cycle of flooring materials, products and construction methods – would do like for a client who is only focused on the bottom-line?

Promotion
New technology can be scary and staff as well as customers will need assistance. We are Monsters, a web and development agency that develops campaigns and apps specifically for the South African market and makes sure that apps are promoted in ways that are needed most: through education and training. After an app is launched, their Adopt-a-Monster programme combines in-person training with ongoing support for as long as their help is needed.

People
FLOORS in Africa magazine recently published a feature on the skills and training gap in South Africa and how the professional development landscape in this country continues to change. A unique startup that is empowering local people to further their careers is OfferZen, which has dramatically reduced the time and effort involved in finding software development jobs. The founders have flipped the traditional recruitment model and instead of software developers applying for jobs, companies looking to hire specific software development skills will send candidates interview requests with upfront salaries. Instead of having to apply for individual jobs, a job seeker creates a profile and is then contacted by companies. Imagine what something similar could mean for designers, contractors and other professionals in the built environment?

Processes
Many times it takes an innovator to realise that the way we have been doing things for years simply isn’t working anymore. Passmarked.com is a startup that is changing the way that people test website risk areas (namely performance, security, compatibility across devices and content) to pick up errors in code and suggest possible solutions before they become a problem for website owners and users. Consider some of the traditional processes that flooring professionals have been following for years. What idea could identify future problems before an installation occurs and suggest solutions that would benefit the client and the design team?

Physical evidence
Sometimes we need to reassure customers that what we are selling will in fact work and benefit their businesses. An example of a local product is Hituri’s Technovera. This medical startup allows people to use a device called a smart locker to collect their repeat chronic medication without having to stand in queues in public healthcare facilities. Instead of waiting for hours, many of the users who have started using the smart locker wait less than five minutes for the chronic medication they need.

While some people are comfortable doing things the way they have always done, showing them how they can save time and effort is a sure-fire way to get them to switch to a new way of working. Consider how visual models produced by Building Information Modelling tools, for example, have shown clients how much energy and money they can save with suggested building alterations. Providing physical evidence of how you can improve anyone from a facility manager to an end user’s life can put you ahead of your competitors.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to www.fastcompany.co.za, Lisa Bodell, Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood and Kate Sweetman for the information contained in this article.