Continuing the Credo for 21st Century Management from Liquid Leadership:
A Liquid Leader Supports Reinvention of the Organization
When Doug burst into our office at K2 many moons ago, he announced to me that we should become an Internet agency. I stubbornly resisted at first (it was a very small market in 1994), but once I said okay, we went from being one of four thousand design firms to one of ten Internet companies in the United States. Overnight we were a leader in a small, but growing, market. Today the Internet is the rule for doing business, not the exception—but don’t think for a moment that we’ve reached a plateau. Change never stands still, and a Liquid Leader must be more willing than ever to move and dodge according to the marketplace.
Technology has given more and more start-ups the ability to compete head-on with larger companies. These start-ups are interested in one thing: disrupting the status quo. Their survival depends on proving themselves to be right. And they take leaps to do so. Many of the top corporations today were started because the original founder didn’t like how things were being done. They had a better way, and built a company around it.
The key is to stay open to new ideas and methods, to entrepreneurial startups and their ideas, and to new fads that could become trends. Look high and low for big ideas. Actively support the fact that although you make widgets today, you may be a completely different company doing completely different things within the next five years, and you may be doing these things for companies located on the other side of the globe.It may seem strange, but the best lessons in managing change come not from twenty-five-year-old newcomers, but from companies that have been around for a while. And when I say “a while,” I mean hundreds of years— like Sumitomo, the Japanese keiretsu, or “business group,” founded circa 1615 as a book and medicine shop in Kyoto by a former Buddhist priest, Masatomo Sumitomo. By adapting copper refinery and advanced smelting techniques, the family began using the spiritual principles of its founder Masatomo and began to grow with each unique idea—integrating it into their mix of product offerings.
Today Sumitomo is parent to companies in such industries as electronics, insurance, banking, shipbuilding, automotive, and more. Sumitomo survived one disruptive new technology after another, transitioning amidst great upheaval from one era to the next. It and companies like it around the world endured, emerging stronger than ever despite radical changes that destroyed entire business sectors and left their competitors to the pages of history.
How did they do it? By seamlessly moving into completely new sectors or adding new sectors to their existing mix. They didn’t do this because they “had” to. That would have been merely reactive thinking. Sumitomo is proactive and creative, actively seeking out new ideas and emerging markets, because it is part of how they do business—and has been for almost four centuries!
Ironically executives at Sumitomo are still using the Founder’s Precepts to guide Masatomo’s company to this day. These principles keep them at the cutting edge yet adaptable to change. For them, change is not a problem to overcome but an integral part of their culture.
Organizations that think for the long term pay close attention to the world around them for ideas, technologies, and sectors that can add to the bottom line. They don’t get caught up in the idea that they’re the leader and that’s that. They stay open to possibilities.
To think like this yourself, you must avoid becoming attached to hard beliefs or steadfast rules. Better to stay nimble and quick, to participate in the future by staying flexible about new ideas and methodologies—even those that at first seem disruptive.
Surround yourself with people who keep their eyes open for new markets to explore and new ways to think about those markets. Pay attention to the entrepreneurs. Wherever there are emerging markets, there are new avenues for products and profits and acquisitions. Jumping into the fray of commerce and all its chaos will help you discover a brave new world of ideas—and companies that just might need a parent company to write them a check.
Don't forget to watch for happy accidents in your business sector...
Global Management Consultant
Millennial Expert, Cross Generational Leadership Development & Workforce Performance Strategies, Executive Coach
TEDX Speaker, Web pioneer and the author of the award-winning, bestseller Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia, Brad is a former C-level executive of a publicly traded company that he cofounded that went from entrepreneurial start-up to IPO in three years; the first Dot Com Agency to go public on NASDAQ. His company K2 Design, experienced 425% hyper-growth, due in part to a unique management style that won his company the Arthur Andersen NY Enterprise Award for Best Practices in Fostering Innovation.
Today the world’s leading business publications seek out Brad’s insights on Millennials, and he has been featured in Forbes, The Huffington Post, New York Magazine, Inc., Advertising Age, The International Business Times, and The Hindu BusinessLine to name a few, along with television, radio and podcast appearances on CBS and other media outlets.
Brad's programs have transformed a new generation of business leaders, helping them maximize their corporate culture, expectations, productivity, and sales growth in The Information Age.
* 2011 Axiom Business Book silver medal winner in the leadership
* #1 Amazon Best-Selling Author
"I just had my mind blown..." - A.S., Vistage, New York
Liquid Leadership by Brad Szollose is available at all major bookstores and for Kindle, Nook, iPad and Sony ereaders. Internationally published in India and S. Korea.