Great business leaders seem to look into the future, to perform magic.
But they are not magicians. They simply know how to approach or invent the future.
The nature of curves
When the first sailors of old looked out at the horizon, they saw what appeared to be the edge of the earth. But as their ships improved, they sailed further away from shore only to discover that the “edge” of the world seemed to be in every direction. This lead some to believe there was no edge, and that they were compelled to see past their current horizons.
This is the first aspect of executive forward thinking – knowing that the edge likely doesn’t exist. Ancient sailors were trapped within a box of their own perspective. Only by cautious, piecemeal exploration did they come to learn that there was no box per se – an instance of nautical thinking outside of the box.
How to look around corners
Looking around the corners of your market, your industry, your customers all involves the intertwined notions of exploring and looking past your current horizon. Here are some of the better tactics for looking like a corporate clairvoyant.
Knows the seas as best as you can: Good leaders know most, and sometimes all trade winds. Knowledge is your primary tool. The more knowledge you have, the easier it is to predict the tides and storms.
Hire a Captain: Don’t be afraid to ask someone who has sailed in open waters before. Seek help at all costs. It is far safer and cheaper to ask an experienced sailor how to navigate narrow straits than it is to sail blindly into the reefs.
Slow … way … down: In the tech world, we are always in a hurry. Due to this, we lose a lot of startups. If you don’t know the waters, slow way down. Don’t assume because you have sailed calm seas that you are an expert navigator. Sail for a short distance, stop, get your bearings and begin the next leg.
Watch for danger signs: “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.” This is a statement about signs of pending weather. There are many warning signs as you navigate through markets. But you must learn what the signs look like.
Anticipate trouble: Always assume that bad things are just over the horizon. The nautical charts of old would often have a drawing of a sea monster in the middle of blue water. This was more than mere decoration. It was a warning to sailors to never take anything for granted, especially smooth sailing.
Knowledge and instincts: Listen to your instincts. If your gut says there is a problem ahead, then assume there really is a problem ahead and prepare for it. The more knowledge you acquire, the more accurate your instincts will become.
Be wise: “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” Realistic thinking is your best guard against foolish and reckless choices.