Imagine the most significant positive change you can possibly think of. Could be in your business, your finances, even in your relationships…
Achieving that kind of transformation is possible, but not by working on the goal itself. It’s possible only as the result of conditions or systems you put into place. Those systems are more important than the result itself.
2007 saw the iPhone launch, the Dow Jones close above 13,000 for the first time and Beyonce’s song Irreplaceable was top of the music charts. And the group I sold my first company to right out of college, a company I started with my Dad, had raised over 550 Million dollars.
We are building the first biometric payment system, kind of like what Apple Pay is today. It’s going great and we’re having a blast, everyone knows that biometric payment is the “future.” 700 employees. Offices all over the world. Something like 4 million people registered and investors throwing money at us. We’re working with, or talking to, some of the largest companies out there like Walmart, CVS, and Procter & Gamble. We have to be at least one of the hottest startups in the US, multi-billion dollar valuation. This is the “future”.
We’re raising more money and one weekday afternoon I’m sitting in our main conference room and the CEO walks in and says, “the deal” — the 350M dollar new investment deal that we were all counting on to keep going — “is dead”. Within hours, news that Bear Stearns is crashing was out on Wall Street. 2007 is also the year beginning the collaspe of the global housing market. Within months, the company I was now a part of went bankrupt. Who could have predicted so much carnage?
Sitting at that conference room table, what would you be thinking if you were me? I can tell you what I was thinking… overwhelmed with the feeling of failure, I thought how could something so certain, something everyone was so sure would be the future, not happen… We didn’t see that coming. For those of you in business in 2007, you probably didn’t see it coming either.
So why did we fail? The answer wasn’t immediately obvious. But I looked at our company and hundreds of others and discovered a critical misstep. We weren’t sharing possibilities, we weren’t sharing failures, we weren’t creating a culture that made transformational growth possible.
From spending a career in innovation and transformational growth, I’ve noticed that we spend a lot of time planning, predicting and preparing for the “future.” We try to find these make or break moments that look like they determine our success, or our failure. I think that’s the wrong approach. At least if we’re exclusively trying to achieve that future, because what’s around that next corner is literally impossible to know. It’s inherently unpredictable. So unpredictable, that massive exponential changes can take place overnight.
How many of you were 100% prepared for the pandemic? How many of you know when your time on this planet is up? It’s impossible to know.
I work in innovation so the car driving analogy is an obvious one. We’ve all heard it a million times. It goes something like, stop looking in your rearview mirror and look out the front window. Look at where you’re going. You know that. And I think that’s true. It just leaves our focus on getting to the destination. We try to get better at predicting what technologies, what tools, what moments might make or break us down the line. Spending all this time, money, effort, over-analyzing, worrying, and then wondering why anxiety medications are through the roof.
That prediction work is needed. Understanding your goals, your roadmap, working on getting where you’re going is necessary. It’s just missing something. Something that has been at the root of governments being overthrown, industries being disrupted and companies growing exponentially. It’s so blatantly obvious it’s easy to overlook. Yet so fundamentally important, it’s more important than the destination itself.
The car. The car you are riding in.
Think of the car as you, and by extension, your culture — your business culture, the being of your company. Culture is the set of collective beliefs, values, ethics and attitudes you have in and around your organization, whether you’re a sole proprietor talking with friends and family, or a Fortune 500 company with thousands of team members. I’m not talking about the value or mission statement posted up on the wall. I’m talking about the lived realities of how we interact. The invisible barriers that make it ok to do some things and not even notice others.
You’ve seen it, you walk into meetings with some groups and there’s silence. You walk into others and it’s overflowing with energy and contribution. Which company would you want to work at? Which company do you think has faster growth?
Whether we’re driving a car, a business, or your life, it seems like we’re always going somewhere. We see our competition has a new technology, so we “drive” to buy, build or partner with a similar tool. But, all now have is that technology, a linear improvement. More important is the car, or systems. The steering, the GPS, the engine…
In business and our lives, it would be things like:
How do we handle dissenting opinions? Do we listen to them? Or harass those think differently?
How are our conversations? Is everyone contributing? Or are people silent?
What do we do with failure? Or roadblocks?
We’ve been looking at what there is to do almost exactly backwards. Trying to get to some innovation… let’s go “do” transformation… or try to arrive at some end result.
Transformation is not a destination. It is a place to come from. The exponential potential is embedded in repeated actions as systems in your business culture. It’s the culture that gives the opportunity for expansive growth; the technology, the tools the processes, even the ideas are simply the result. Culture systems enable us to be ready for the future, no matter what the future holds. In other words, your future is here. Right now. We can not predict the future. We create the future. We create the future with the culture systems of how we treat each other, what we share, and what we all believe is possible.
Rich and effective culture systems enable us to constantly and consistently improve every day, and that is REAL risk reduction. The literal ability to be future proof.
In 2007 as the company was falling apart, every moment where I thought I could have done something about it came flooding back to me. Could have, would have, should have… You know the feeling. Now I realize none of those individual moments were what this was about. There was no single moment or single action. It was about our teamwork, our collaboration, effectively our culture was the only thing that could have steered us in a different direction. We failed in doing that. You can use these systems here so you don’t have to repeat the same mistakes.
There’s no way to operate within our current status quo and expect to win big. Your future is here. Defined by the work you do on your car: you and your culture. Not the other way around. It’s that perspective, that position, that’s going to lead the day. Not just thru the pandemic, but always and forever. The future isn’t out there; it can’t happen without you.
Abraham Lincoln said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it”. And today, I invite you to take that on. No matter what title, what position, what legacy you have, the world today is calling for you to be something else. Something in addition. Something more. Becoming the kind of person that looks at the status quo newly, that doesn’t accept “good enough” as a direction, and does something about it. If OUR future is here, just imagine what’s possible.
The views expressed in the article are that of the author and not of the publisher nonnewz.com or its management.
This article is authored by Sterling Hawkins. Sterling is an internationally-recognized thought leader and top-rated keynote speaker on innovation, transformational leadership and exponential growth.
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