Lead, follow or get left behind

This is a good time of year to look at trends that may impact the way you do business next year — or five years from now. CEOs and business leaders must be vigilant about what has the potential to be a game changer in the short or long term.
It takes a watchful eye and constant monitoring to keep up with the wave of technological advances as we head into “the intelligence revolution” and the “fourth industrial revolution.” It also requires smart, nimble change, which can be a difficult culture shift for many companies.
Think artificial intelligence, the internet of things, blockchain and decentralized ledger technology, uber personalization, a gig economy, a freelance workforce and so on. It will either get you excited about the future or make you bury your head in the sand. But change is going to happen, and it will happen quickly.
Where to begin
Give someone the task to research leading trends taking place over the next year, five years, 10 years and as far into the future as he or she can find. Cast a wide net. Many leading research firms, market analysts, financial firms and industry groups provide robust forecasts and reports on what is trending. To get a true 360-degree view, include not only industry trends, but also social, governmental regulation and political, workforce, technology, educational, consumer, generational, financial and marketing trends.
Share with your team
Circulate the information among your leadership and management teams. Have each team member complete an independent SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. Then have each person identify the barriers they believe are in the way of the company being able to adopt important, new trending norms. Don’t forget, you are also a part of the team.
Carefully review the information with an open mind. Look for common themes — both in what trends the team feels are important to the company’s future and themes they identified as barriers. Recap what you’re seeing and hearing. Forecasted trends already have some company leaders restructuring their company and offerings.
Schedule an offsite planning meeting
Take time away from the office with your leadership team to review and vet the key themes. Get consensus on which themes are “must do,” “should do” and which ones not to pursue at this time. Prioritize the findings and break them down into short- and long-term concerns.
Gain agreement on what initiatives to focus on over the course of the next year to stay ahead of the competitive curve and gain momentum. Establish an estimated time frame and capital investment for all initiatives, even if they are three years from now.
Knowing where the company must be in the future will impact the way the leadership team makes decisions today.

So, as we go deeper into the intelligence or fourth industrial revolution, whether you lead, follow or get left behind is in your hands.

Kelly Borth is the CEO and chief strategy officer at GREENCREST, a 28-year-old brand development, strategic and online marketing and public relations firm that turns market players into industry leaders™. Kelly is one of 35 certified brand strategists in North America and works with companies to establish brands and build brand value for their businesses.