When you hear the words “visionary leader,” who comes to mind?
Chances are, you imagine larger-than-life personalities like Steve Jobs or Sir Richard Branson. You might picture leading public figures like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Winston Churchill. The person you probably don’t picture, however, is yourself.
Most of us wouldn’t classify ourselves as “visionary,” for one simple reason. We think visionaries are heroes; they have the ability to see into the future and predict, with uncanny accuracy, what lies there. Most of us don’t fall into that category, right?
Before reading Rob-Jan De Jong’s new book, “Anticipate,” I had the same assumption. I certainly didn’t see myself as a visionary, and I spent little, if any, time trying to peer into the future to anticipate changes in my industry. I believed vision was something other people had.
However, nothing could be further from the truth. Vision is a skillset just like anything else, which means that all of us “ordinary mortals” can join the ranks of the thought leaders and heroes we so admire. If, that is, we put in the time to develop these skills.
Visionary thinkers have several habits and skills that help them anticipate future trends. But, according to the author, there are two traits that are particularly important.
First, you need the ability to see things early. Then, you need to be able to connect the dots, to make sense of what you see, and create a plan to take advantage of early trends and opportunities.
Developing the ability to see things early takes time. And De Jong outlines a unique approach, called FuturePriming, which helps you learn how to spot upcoming changes.
FuturePriming relies on a concept called priming. The audio clip below, from our Book Insight on “Anticipate,” explains what priming is.
In essence, priming trains your brain, and helps you develop the habit of searching for the clues that might signal a future opportunity. But where do you look for these clues?
De Jong has some good suggestions.
First, look at your fringe competitors. Not your main competitors, but the competitors that you’ve probably paid very little attention to because they were “too small.” These companies are a signal that the bigger players in your industry have gotten complacent. It’s highly likely that these companies are approaching business in a different way, so pay attention to what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.
You can also turn to your customers to help you anticipate future changes. Don’t talk to your best customers – talk to the ones who have left and are looking for another supplier. This could be an early indicator that your customers’ needs are changing.
Another suggestion is to look at your rogue employees. These are the employees who don’t really fit in, who challenge the rules, and who always stir up trouble. They probably have some unconventional ideas about how things need to change, and they can be a great source of inspiration for your organization if you use them productively.
You can hear more about De Jong’s recommendations in our full Book Insight, here.
What I liked most about the book is that the author takes the concept of the “visionary” off its pedestal, and puts it on a level that’s accessible for everyone. The ability to look ahead and spot future opportunities and changes is really valuable, whether you work at home like me, you’re part of a team, or you’re leading an organization. And, in this book, you learn exactly how to develop this important skill.
Question: How do you anticipate upcoming changes in your industry? We’d love to hear your tips and insights.