Creating the Future

Peter Drucker, the father of modern management theory, said “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

“To create the future”? That sounds a little strange. It may be that in your management philosophy as a CEO, you think, like most people, that the future comes at its own pace: the world changes; the needs in the market change; technology changes. You feel as if all these changes are happening naturally or in a way that is out of your control. And you, the CEO, must navigate your company in the optimal way so that when these changes become reality, your company’s products and services match the needs of the market. If you work in that way, you will be successful at building a good company, but no more than that. You will not be able to build an outstanding company or reach phenomenal success. You won’t be able to be ‘number one’.

The truly good companies “create the future,” are first in the future market that “they created,” and if they lead as necessary, they take full advantage of the benefits of being the first and most innovative, in contrast to their competitors who get to the market after them. Companies who “create the future” are those that develop a unique product or service that never existed. Their customers often say – after discovering the new product – “Why was this not invented sooner?” Such companies, if they act wisely, are able to indelibly link the company name with a particular product. So that, when their competitors enter the arena with similar products, those secondary products are seen as copies, unoriginal and not as good. So for companies who created a new market, there is a substantial advantage over the competitors, which is then translated into a big chunk of the market. In practice, this becomes higher gross profit, the result of a higher cost to the customer and lower cost to the company, which comes from mass production. These profits, invested cleverly in developing other products and services, allow a company to preserve its stance as a leader over the long haul.

Often, a company who we perceive to have “created the market” was not really the first to bring the product to the market. It may be that another company preceded it with an inferior product that was unsuccessful. However, thanks to brilliant management, an outstanding product and a “groundbreaking invention,” the second company is successful at reestablishing the market, dominating it and creating the perception that they actually created it, thus winning all of the advantages inherent in that position. Google didn’t invent the first search engine, but who can remember the names of the leading search engines before Google? Apple didn’t invent the smartphone, but that’s the general perception, and it turned them into market leaders.

How do you invent the future?

Jewish sages said: “Last made, but first planned.” By this, they meant that every future event begins with a thought in the mind of a lone person. Do you, the CEO, have such a thought about an innovative product or service? Is there someone in your company who has the winning idea? I am sure that the answer to both those questions is positive. Many people go through their day with ideas for product and patents. An idea for a product is just the seed. However, in order for the seed to sprout and grow plentiful fruit, you have to plant it in fertile soil, water it, cultivate it, allow the sun to give it energy and warmth, and allow time and nature to do their part. So too with great ideas. People’s desk drawers and brains are full of excellent ideas that haven’t been realized and have been lost in oblivion. In order to turn an idea into an innovative product that creates the future, you have to provide it the means and the fertile soil for its success. These include: enthusiasm, belief and action.

Enthusiasm is the most important part. Enthusiasm is a kind of internal energy that motivates people and causes things to happen. As a CEO, your level of enthusiasm for the new product that you are about to develop will decide your success and that of your company as it creates the future. You say “That’s not possible! There are so many factors that influence the success of the product in the market!” My answer: correct, but the most meaningful factor in success is your level of enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is contagious. Your excitement about the product will spread to the deputy director, the engineers that are developing the product, the marketing professionals that are building a marketing plan and your directorate that will approve the budget for the project. Enthusiasm will bring a smile to the lips of everyone and will give your managers and employees the energy and drive to try more and go the extra mile. Enthusiasm will spread to your customers, who will want to acquire the product. Enthusiasm will spread to journalists who will review the product and use superlatives to describe it. Enthusiasm will cause a feeling of unity and the sense that “Together we are going to be successful/ save the world.” This will lead to cooperation, to breaking down walls between employees and departments in the company and to an eruption of creativity. Enthusiasm is a kind of energy that no matter how much of it you expend, it does not dry up or thin out, just as the small flame of a candle can light a thousand candles without being diminished.

Enthusiasm is the primary and most necessary element in success, but it is not the only one. Belief is also a crucial factor. The importance of belief is especially pronounced during hard times. When hardships show up, and they always do; when you have doubts on the road to success; when there is a flickering in the flame of enthusiasm; when others “explain” to you and try to persuade you that you will not succeed, that many tried before you and failed, that you are a small company, that you don’t have the knowledge, resources and technology to succeed, the only thing you have left is belief that you will succeed. Your belief includes a sense of trust in the product development, belief that the market will like it, and belief that the world needs the product and will be the better for it. You believe and “see” the product with your own eyes and “see” the company’s success. Your belief is so powerful that it becomes a sense of knowing. In other words, you not only believe, you “know” that the product will succeed. Knowing is more powerful than belief. Knowing is based on facts.

Knowing describes something that has happened, and when you see it, you know it occurred, meaning that you have no doubt it occurred. That’s the awareness at which you must arrive.

From your perspective, as a CEO, despite the fact that these events will be only occur in the future, you actually “see” them in your mind as if they already happened. For you, the product has already been developed, was introduced to the market, created a new demand and succeeded beyond all expectations.

You “know” it already happened. With your state-of-mind firmly focused on the future, the accomplishment is not something that has yet to occur. It has already happened. Therefore, when others try to weaken your resolve by saying that the chances for success are low, you negate this because you “know” that you have already succeeded. You are sure you have succeeded. When technological difficulties come up, you encourage and push the engineers to find a solution because you “know” that the product has already been launched successfully. The solution to the technical problem has already been “found” and the product has been realized. When a funding problem arises, you know the difficulty is just a temporary obstacle. You “know” you have already succeeded. You are not worried and the creative solution is right there before you.

Enthusiasm and belief are spiritual elements. They are expressed in thoughts, feelings and words. The way these are executed is the link that connects the abstract ideas to the physical product sold to the paying client. In order to turn these abstract ideas into tangible things, specific knowledge and action is necessary. When I say knowledge, I am referring to specific technological knowledge needed for product development, information about the market, etc. During this stage, managers and employees in the company come together to develop the product, and to manufacture, market, and advertise it, together with all the other activities necessary to bring a product to a satisfied client. You may notice that I am not expending many words on a description of this stage, although I am not minimizing its worth. In order to succeed in this practical stage, you need excellent managers and employees who are well managed, working within a system of departments with clear procedures and all the rest of the elements necessary for a good company. I will not elaborate on the execution stage (I will do this in other articles) because the elements that are necessary are available and existent in the market and you can acquire them with money. Enthusiasm and belief have no price and you can’t buy them. On the one hand, they are extremely valuable; on the other hand, they are free.

Enthusiasm, together with belief, which becomes certainty and knowing – create the future.

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