How can you future-fit (rather than future-proof) your business?

future fit your business growth
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We are living in an age of paradigm shifts more than ever.

Well, you might not feel the nudge yet so let’s just pause for a moment and think about this.

Whatever your business is onto these days, it can be irrelevant not in a few years time, but perhaps in months!

Kodak, which incidentally created one of the world's first digital cameras, was slow to commercialise it (partly out of fear of cannibalizing its core film business) and to reinvent its business model, and was quickly made irrelevant. In 2012, Kodak filed for bankruptcy protection and while it has emerged from bankruptcy, it had sold most of its units, including film.

According to a recent study by Citigroup, automated banking could replace 30% of bank jobs over the next decade. Financial advisors and analysts are due to be quickly replaced by robo-advisors that render them moot -- with big data in the wings, robo-advisors have the data needed to make split-second, uber-informed decisions.

Picture the rise of artificial intelligence, innovation and automation!

And these are just a few of the many examples that commercial revolution is exponential in this digital economy.

What’s more paradoxical is that these changes are often so elusive to our senses because they are happening at a paradigm-shifting level.

future fit your business growth

What are some of these “ninja” paradigm shifts?

Here are some of the observations:

  • Nothing is secret anymore! Even copyright protected materials are often freely available. Open access journals are on the rise. Even state secrets are leaking through the public domains! Which means, the “secret formula” pitch is losing its effectiveness in this open source network economy these days where real value is creating momentum through sharing.
  • The boundaries are loosening up more. Hierarchical and proprietary structures are facing the threats of collapse as we now live in a more hyper-interconnected world. With the rise of network platforms, we now have more means and access to leverage on open source network for a collaborative culture of living, communicating, working and socialising.
  • Power and control are decentralising. Today and in the coming future, the authority is shifting from organizations and government to the people and consumers more than ever. Local groups and movements have more autonomy over decisions than ever through the leverage of social media technology to generate conversations and start a movement. That is also the difference between cult and culture. A cult is a rudimentary, unsustainable culture that fades away when the personality that creates it departs. A culture is much more durable and robust than a cult, because its sustainability and power do not depend on the presence and personality of a single individual. It is shared and distributed, rather than imposed and centralised, by rhetoric and charisma and can remain influential long after its creator has been forgotten.
  • You do not need permission or approval from others. Allow yourself to leapfrog, create and disrupt! You now have the access and capacity to get your message out there. The barriers to entry to do the things you love and thrive is getting lower. This means, the customers has the ability to easily find you. The advantage has shifted from big brands to small local businesses with the passion and ability to add value, provided you know how to position and market it, that attracts the right people to you!
  • You do not need to sell your time for money. Exchanging time for money is a linear and limiting process. With the advent of collaborative platform like Kickstarter and Thunderclap, these days, you can massively scale your message and your offerings to reach many people internationally in a short period of time!
paradigm shifts ninja

That said, there is still a deadly paradigm that is keeping people stuck!

And that is the fear of survival.

So how is this paradigm playing us out?

In a survival mode, when comes to seeking for jobs, you will most likely be thinking of securing the one that pays you well and has better benefits based on your work experience more than identifying and communicating your unfair advantage that attracts the right companies to you instead.

In a survival mode, winning an argument comes first more than growing your relationship with people through understanding, embracing vulnerability and humility.

In a survival mode, curing diseases and illness and preventing them becomes your top priority than putting yourself in a state of wellness.

In a survival mode, when there is a downturn of business, the first few reactions would probably be to cut costs. Not only will it creates stress within the company, it also compromised on the integrity of the business as customers have to get lower quality treatments or substandard service as an unintended side effect.

This downward spiral is exponential as it creates more bottlenecks in the delivery and quality of the company as a whole.

While the management might celebrate the fact they have helped the company save unnecessary costs ahead of time before the demand drops further, what they don’t realise is that their “wise” decisions may be driving the company out of business very soon!

Most people find themselves stuck by reacting to events through this paradigm of survival than to thrive by adapting to fundamental paradigm shifts.

Staying ahead of the curve

As we can’t really know everything about anything, we can’t really future-proof ourselves but we can become more future-fit by being more robust in our way of communicating, making decisions and adapting to disruption.

Instead of adopting a fire-fighting mentality against symptoms(a typical survival mode thinking), cultivating a WE modus operandi gets us to look at the system as a whole and to make decisions from that space. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

In a WE modus operandi, you are deeply connected.

build a network and community

What it means is that you are much empowered to act with wisdom and compassion. You are able to focus on the deepest meaning of things, to stay dedicated on your mission, purpose and values and to live in such a way that nourishes your body, mind, heart and spirit - while making a profit, delighting customers, making fulfilling contributions to your family, organizations, society and collaborating on a larger scale to bring good things to the world.

This is what created movements, collaborative networks and a thriving community like Zappos, Airbnb, Uber, Kickstarter and TED.

Cultivating a WE modus operandi empowers you to:

  • Be able to think big by considering the big picture.
  • Recognise the need to act as networks, with openness and transparency.
  • Embrace fears and vulnerabilities.
  • Develop strong degree of trust in the relations and in the web of no “perfect” information.
  • See the value in helping others see their worth and highest distinct value.
  • Actively engage with others.
  • Lead with a questioning spirit of innovation and growth.
  • Include diversity.
  • Promote self sustaining and self organizing relationships than hierarchies and control.

When you cultivate the WE modus operandi, you won’t be shopping for the next best customer service training program or team building workshop for your service staff, hoping to raise service standards and morale. Instead, you will be creating a culture and developing a different set of performance metrics that see your service staff as ambassadors for the brand, allowing their true personalities to shine during every interactions with customers, without using scripts!

When you cultivate the WE modus operandi, instead of coming up with solutions tackling the issues of capacity and quantity, what if the company implement innovative growth hacks to improve productivity, strengthen the positioning and be a market leader without additional burden or excess?

All these growths can’t come from a survival mode mentality, but through paradigm shifts and adaptation on a different level.

This would mean constantly innovating your offerings, branding and positioning to keep your offerings relevant.

More importantly, it is about mastering your relationship with your stakeholders and ecosystem - partners, suppliers, society, environment and customers, which raises your company at all levels.

Until you work on these different levels of what makes you human; challenge your status quo; develop new perspectives; to shift from groupthink to collaborative culture, growth in this new industrial revolution is just a dream.

If you find your current business and your passion stuck at where you are and can’t seem to move it forward despite all methods you have tried, you might want to look into the existing paradigms you are holding onto.

Paradigm can be as subtle as: “I have tried this before and it doesn’t work, what makes you think this time it will?”

  • Are you defined by the past? Roger Bannister is a great example of this who broke the paradigm defined by experts and from the past failures of people who tried to break the 4-minute mile.

Or “This has worked so well before, let’s give it some time and do more of it, for it to work well this time round.”

  • What got you here today won’t necessarily get you there tomorrow (by Marshall Goldsmith). Your customer and audience may have outgrown your methods in this disruptive and uncertain technological age.

How we deal with paradigm usually has to do with this: Are your solutions based IN the problem or ON the problem?

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When you are working IN the problem, you are just utilising what you know and familiar with or what you have been sold by the experts. You are simply reacting to the problem. Here’s the thing, if you keep doing the same thing hoping to get a different result, that is how insanity has been keeping you a prisoner.

When you focus ON the problem, you get yourself out of the way. You break the rules, you re-evaluate your current role and relationship with your audience. You connect with a higher purpose that get you to establish a different dynamic with the problem. You look at the problem from a higher leverage perspective or a macro view.

Meanwhile, what growth challenges are you faced with, that you have been pondering for a while?

Let’s discuss by leaving your comments below.

About the Author

Alfred Chung helps entrepreneurs and professionals develop a robust human brand ecosystem, future-fitting their growth in this disruptive digital economy. While many brand strategist and marketers emphasize on tactics, outer techniques and strategies, Alfred goes beyond the surface and help his clients leverage on their hidden value and unfair advantages, making it work as their secret weapons at their best. In another word, to constantly expand oneself as highly robust humans to thrive in complexity.