People like Roger Martin, Tim Brown and Matt Ridley, have it absolutely right when they talk about the fact we need to fundamentally approach problems and think differently. All of them have suggested, in slightly different ways, that our success as leaders in the future will be determined not by WHAT we do but by HOW we look at the future and whether we can genuinely open our minds to the opportunities rather than shelter behind convention and the status quo.
This extends to the material successes seen in modern innovation. The biggest breakthroughs in history have not been in the ‘What’ we do, but in the ‘How’ we do them. People have always travelled; by foot, horse, carriage and even boat. But now we can travel to places faster by car, train and plane. The act of travelling hasn’t changed; but HOW we travel has!
There is a distinct emotion that accompanies the arrival of a great business opportunity. It is part adrenaline, part fear and part excitement. It is the same emotional high that comes with being close to inevitable victory in a season ending hockey game. It is the point at which everything around slows down, your vision becomes crystal clear and things seem to be effortless, because you can taste victory. In business, moments like these are all too rare. They may be found, from time to time, in the thrill of concluding an acquisition, the inauguration of a new manufacturing plant, the opening of a new store, (or a Game 7 overtime win) but seldom are they part of an organization’s day-to-day experience.
One of the many transformational leadership competencies required to successfully navigate the future is contextual intelligence. Contextual Intelligence is the ability to sense subtle shifts in the environment, to become aware of those changes before anyone else and to predict their likely implications going forward. It is the ability to put things into crystal clear perspective and then accurately frame the picture so others can understand it. Naturally, there is then the need to communicate the picture in a way that others can grasp and comfortably relate to.