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Staying relevant in everchanging environments requires leaders to have foresight

by | May 22, 2020 | Coronavirus Lockdown, People, Strategy | 0 comments

The environments today are constantly and rapidly changing. Life today is vastly different from the 1900s. So why are leaders still using many of the management and strategic thinking techniques developed during the 2nd industrial revolution? Instead of finding ideas which, are not useful nor relevant to today’s environment, leaders should instead create new ones. After all, the ideas which were ‘found’, belong to someone else and were fit for a purpose in the past. The secret is in learning about the future and developing a new logic through new ideas to maintain relevance (Obeng, 2012). By applying foresight when developing a strategy, a leader can ensure than an organisation can continuously find new and unexpected ways of creating value (Zenger, 2013).

Leaders are always juggling the past, present and future (Govindarajan, 2016). The risk of opting for ways to solve problems, based on solutions brought forward from ideas of the past and present is that they are likely not to work in the new environment of the future as it will change faster than our rate of learning (Obeng, 2012). A leader with foresight is able to use available insight from the world today, pair it with past experiences using their hindsight, and ultimately make a calculated guess about where to create value, essentially pulling the future towards the present (Zenger, 2013). I completely agree with this statement because the only way to know where we are headed is to fully understand where we have come from and the situation we are in today. That way we can create unique and immense value to help people in a relevant way in the future.

Oftentimes as a consultant at MDR Solutions, I encounter owners of companies which have paused in this way of thinking. Initially, as entrepreneurs, they used this approach to find a gap in the market and start a business based on value and competitive advantage. However, over the years those successes became comfortable and led them to believe that what worked before will work again. Unfortunately, their customers have moved past that and now perceive value differently.

I was inspired by an image depicting Walt Disney’s corporate strategy in 1957 (Walt Disney Productions, 2015). It illustrates perfectly how a leader should tackle strategizing for success. Walt uses the power of foresight to fully understand the environments around him, how they came about, and what consumers of his creations would perceive as valuable in the future. I believe winning is built on being able to predict the unknown and the capacity to change. To achieve this, a leader must use their foresight and at the right time, switch swiftly to the new logic to win.


Govindarajan, V. (2016). The Three-Box Solution: A Strategy for Leading Innovation. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.

Obeng, E. (2012, June). Smart failure for a fast-changing world. Retrieved from TED: https://www.ted.com/talks/eddie_obeng_smart_failure_for_a_fast_changing_world?language=en#t-726096

Petrie, N. (2011). Future Trends in Leadership Development. Greensboro: Center for Creative Leadership.

Walt Disney Productions. (2015, July 17). This 1957 drawing reveals the brilliant strategy behind Disney’s lasting success. Retrieved from Business Insider: https://www.businessinsider.com/1957-drawing-walt-disney-brilliant-strategy-2015-7?IR=T

Zenger, T. (2013, June). What Is the Theory of Your Firm? Retrieved from Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2013/06/what-is-the-theory-of-your-firm Zhu, J. (2020, March 6). What is Self-Awareness and Why is it Important? Retrieved from Positive Psychology: https://positivepsychology.com/self-awareness-matters-how-you-can-be-more-self-aware/

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