I recently watched a presentation by futurist Daniel Burrus who told the story of an IBM executive who said at one point, about 40 percent of the technology company’s revenue came from products and services that weren’t available just three years prior. Think about that—if you had to replace 40 percent of this year’s revenue in three years’ time, could you survive? Are you thinking about how to future-proof your organization and yourself so that neither is obsolete down the road?
There’s no formula that guarantees success, but there are some things you can do now to help prepare for what’s to come.
Have a clear vision. First, you need a clear focus on why you do what you do, and how you’re working to ensure that vision will still be relevant well into the future. This is no easy task with so many shifts happening in the world and in the healthcare industry—what may be useful services today have the risk of becoming less relevant as needs and expectations evolve. How are you keeping up?
Keep an eye out for disruptive forces and innovations. What shifts in the business landscape would make some or all the products and services that you provide irrelevant in a decade or less? Testing your vision against possible major shifts in the industry can help future-proof your organization, but identifying disruptive forces and new innovations early enough so you still have time to capitalize on them is not so straightforward. One way to get a preview of what’s to come that’s often overlooked is connecting with the academic world. Think about teaching or mentoring students at your local university and you’ll find yourself at the epicenter of new technologies and nascent solutions. There’s also a plethora of books and articles written on the subject. One book that offers a different perspective on change is “The Black Swan,” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, which examines the influence of highly improbable and unpredictable events that have massive impact.
What’s your competitive edge? Identifying your sweet spot is key to understanding what makes you or your organization different from your competitors. It can also be a roadmap, pointing you to where you might want to invest more resources or time thinking about how to leverage that uniqueness.
How do you monetize your strengths? Knowing who you are and how you’re different from others in the industry is only part of the formula. Many great businesses with clear visions and unique talents still fail. Simply put, if your expenses are greater than your revenue or you don’t have the resources to deliver on your promises, you won’t be around for very long. If you can’t clearly and succinctly describe the value of your organization’s work, you won’t last, either. You must be able to clearly articulate your value proposition and develop a process for delivering that value.
Look for tangential sources of business. A complete reinvention is a lot to take on; sometimes it’s better to look for a small shift in your products or services that can lead you to a new marketplace or help you better capitalize on what you’re already doing. Often, solutions from one industry can be imported to another to provide a radically new way of thinking. In the same way healthcare has turned to the hospitality and retail sectors for solutions to some of its problems, there are likely some innovative ideas and products in healthcare that could greatly benefit other industries such as education and residential care.
Read, watch, travel, experience, observe. Some of the most interesting people I know are “human sponges,” seeking out and searching for knowledge everywhere they go. Be curious. Watch TED Talks, listen to podcasts, and read magazines on topics you know absolutely nothing about. Travel as much as possible and, while away, immerse yourself in how others do things. At The Center, we have more than 70 archived webinars on our website on a variety of topics and by some of the most iconic members of our industry. You never know when inspiration will strike, or where you’ll find new insights and opportunities.
Continue to challenge yourself and know that if you don’t, you take the chance of making yourself and your business obsolete. In the words of Albert Einstein, one of my favorites, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
Debra Levin is president and CEO of The Center for Health Design. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.