Over the Horizon vision
Roger La Salle
McKinsey’s sometime ago defined what they referred to as the three horizons of growth in business. In summary we may call these Horizon 1, or what we are doing now and in the very near term.
Horizon 2 refers to what are going to be our actions for the medium term and Horizon 3 refers to the long term future. This is what I prefer to call “over the horizon” activities.
Although the first two horizons occupy most of our time in many businesses, Horizon 1 gets by far the greatest attention.
Indeed recent studies have shown that in fact Horizon 3 attracts less than three percent of executive time. In many businesses of course one wonders if Horizon 3 gets any attention at all, especially in these days of tight economies with many businesses literally fighting for survival.
Of course embracing innovation is one way to work to continually move your customers products and services to a better place and the formation of innovation teams is the best way to implement this. However such teams usually focus on Horizon 2, that is what we can be doing in the short to medium term.
Horizon 3 is the one that the senior executives of a business need to pay more attention to; but like it or not the distractions of the office environment are not conducive to Horizon 3 development.
Most businesses of course from time to time have off site executive retreats. In most cases these focus on reports from business units and discussion of the issues and problems of the day and what can be done in the short to medium term to enhance the business and overcome any immediate issues at hand.
Perhaps had KODAK being looking to the longer term several years ago its ongoing business demise may have been somewhat different.
So too with the US auto industry that suffered in the wake of the Japanese attention to quality and cars more appropriate to the times than the oversized, overpowered all too heavy typical US built autos. Of course the list goes on of businesses that have failed to see the longer term big picture and have subsequently gone to the wall or been forced to take emergency corrective action to avoid catastrophe.
Exploration of over the horizon activities at such retreats is however where much of this valuable executive time should be spent. If you are in fact doing this it is quite unlikely your competition will be doing the same.
Use proper tools
There are several tools that can be employed to good effect to explore long term predictions. These are not the abstraction of the so called “Futurist” but deliver quite a rigorous process that can be plotted on a graph and used to good effect to anticipate the future and allow you to best position yourself to be at the right place at the right time.
The bottom line is to recognise that too little attention is paid to over the horizon planning with day to day reactive tasks taking most executive time.
Put your executive team to work and look at the longer term, few business are doing that.
To do so will put you in a commanding position.
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Roger La Salle, is the creator of the “Matrix Thinking”™ technique and is widely sought after as an international speaker on Innovation, Opportunity and business development. He is the author of four books, Director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies both in Australian and overseas. He has been responsible for a number of successful technology start-ups and in 2004 was a regular panellist on the ABC New Inventors TV program. In 2005 he was appointed to the “Chair of Innovation” at “The Queens University” in Belfast. Matrix Thinking is now used in more than 26 countries and licensed to one of the world’s largest consulting firms. www.matrixthinking.com
Roger La Salle
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