A 21st Century imperative – reflection and collaboration amongst leaders

24 Jan 2013

With change occurring at an overwhelming rate, it is essential that leaders and businesses reconcile short-term success with long-term goals and planning. Although we can’t provide definitive answers as to the best ways to do this, we can say the following – reflection and collaboration are essential.

Environmental crises, political turmoil, social unrest, the financial crisis, growing unemployment, and rising food prices. Now, more than ever, it is of the utmost importance that organisations reflect on how the world is changing, particularly as they are being watched more closely by consumers as distrust in institutions prospers. Indeed, as people lose more and more trust in government, they are looking to companies and not for profit organisations to do the right thing.

Organisations must shift their mindset if they are to stay ahead of the game.  Unprecedented change where the social and virtual worlds are concerned means that business leaders will do their organisation a disservice if they maintain a traditional focus – sticking to the status quo these days means a stagnant outlook.

The challenge for organisations and systems is that they are working in two time frames – the present and the very long-term. According to the Global Trends Report 2013:

In the first, businesses- and their leaders are judged on the short-term financial results that have come to define success today. The second acknowledges that markets consumers, and societies are changing so significantly that organisations that wants to thrive in the future must start preparing for it now, even if results may not be seen for some time. We refer to the challenges of uniting the often conflicting demands of these two time frames, and the mindset associated with the each, into one coherent agenda as the gap.

How can leaders and organisations best work in the short-term whilst planning for the future? How can they most successfully compete in an environment in which companies are competitively trying to secure a stake of the future through innovation and the creation of new capabilities and platforms?

There is no easy answer but two things are essential: reflection and collaboration, both of which are being understood as imperative for growth across various industries. Leaders and systems must dedicate time to reflecting on current and future challenges and change and do so in a collaborative manner in which insights and perspectives are shared.

There are informal and structured ways to do this, one of which we feel is enacted in our Executive Learning Sets, which allow leaders to work together towards deciphering and dealing with system and leadership-specific issues, crisis management and future strategy.  Taking time away from the office to think, reflect, and problem-solve allows leaders a space in which to openly share with like-minded industry leaders, take on different viewpoints and engage in discussion about issues that may not seem pertinent in the short-term, and which therefore do not get enough airtime in the day-to-day life of a business.

Are you and your organisation thinking constructively and dynamically about reconciling short-term success and long-term development? Are you thinking about how your organisation responds to global concerns? Are you thinking ahead about what sorts of obstacles your system/organisation might face in the future as the sorts of changes discussed come to the fore? Are you working with others to do this?