Strategic Intelligence And Visionary Leadership

An overview of Strategic Intelligence
The last post on visionary leadership introduced Michael MacCoby’s Strategic Intelligence and his five core elements: Foresight, Systems Thinking, Visioning, Motivating and Partnering. Here’s a brief overview of the first three.

Foresight
The ability to identify trends and opportunities – the winds of change – based on deep knowledge and intuition.

  • Trusting your unconscious to process and make meaning of the knowledge you’ve built up.
  • And then following through on those instincts. Creating value and capitalizing on ‘what doesn’t exist now, but will in the future.’

For example:

  • Henry Ford took the idea of a car – initially perceived as a toy for the rich – and saw the potential for universal ownership. If he could bring the price within reach of the average consumer. He realized his vision by using mass production to achieve an affordable price.

Foresight is having the ability to see ‘down the road and round the corner’ over time. And most visionary leaders have this critical element – it’s often why we call them visionary.

Who had the foresight here?
Did you know that audio cassette technology was developed by engineers at Philips Electronics? Or so the story goes … and for whatever reasons, the company decided the cassette technology wasn’t worth keeping. So they sold it to Sony!

One can only guess why
Perhaps their audio and home entertainment division was focused on high end, quality sound reproduction? Could Philips have passed the technology to another of their own divisions? Did their ‘portable products’ division exist at the time? 

Sony had the foresight in this story. Some would credit the cassette technology and the products developed around it  – from boom box to Walkmans™ – with making Sony a household name. And when you think about foresight, you might wonder if Sony’s leaders were seeing ‘down the street and around the corner’ quite literally!

Yet foresight is only one of the elements MacCoby believes are needed to sustain long term growth.  The real challenges come into play when the other elements are missing.

Systems Thinking

Standard business thinking tends deal with complexity by dividing things –dynamic systems – into parts for the purpose of making them easier to manage and control.

As an illustration, take the question “How do you eat an elephant?” And the classic answer “One bite at a time.” That’s one bit, or bite at a time thinking.

Systems thinkers look at integrated (whole) systems, seeing and evaluating inter-dependent parts by how well they serve the overall purpose of the system. Focusing on the relationships between the parts that make a system function well, or not so well.

Back to the elephant …
Systems thinkers would ask questions like:

  • What’s our purpose for eating the elephant?
  • What critical events led up to the elephant? 
  • What relationships can we see between those events and other behaviors overtime? And how did they affect each other to create the elephant? 
  • What/who else is going to be affected by how we eat the elephant?
  • What happens to everyone if we make changes to anything?

System Thinking ‘Tools’ provide processes and archetypes for scenerio planning, managing change, innovating and problem solving. And equally important, avoiding unintended consequences, or fixes that fail. More on Systems Thinking.
 

Visioning
Combining Foresight and Systems Thinking into a holistic vision that uniquely positions your organization in the marketplace. And making it happen in the real world by selling the vision to others, while you constantly re-vision and adapt to changing circumstances.
Here’s a simple example …

  • Henry Ford’s Vision of ‘one model, one colour, one size’ worked initially. Yet it was a vision that failed to grow and adapt! It stopped working as soon as the competition matched Ford’s mass production techniques … and then forged ahead to meet the market demand for colors and other options.

On the other hand …

  • Microsoft’s Vision evolved from ‛a computer in every home’ pre 1999, to ‛empowering people through software, anytime, anyplace’ and in 2002, ‛to enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential.’ So far, Microsoft continues testing, evolving and adapting new ideas.   

Up next …
Motivating and Partnering. 

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