I’ve spoken with best-selling author and Columbia Business School professor Rita McGrath once or twice before, but given the complexity of the day, we haven’t spoken nearly enough. Too many businesses are taking a wait-until-the-storm-passes approach to these changing times. Too few are taking advantage of today’s changes to practice real innovation.
How do they do that? McGrath suggests investing in “discovery-driven planning” — planning that recognizes you may have to make major changes six months, or three months, or two weeks from now. “It’s planning to learn, basically,” she says.
In other words, plan for the future … but be flexible enough to realize that those plans will inevitably change. All the strategy in the world won’t do you any good when some groundbreaking new technology forces you to throw your plans out the window and wing it.
That brings us back to the most important skill any of us can hope to possess today — the ability to learn new skills.
“It’s crucial on a business level, but also on an individual level,” McGrath said. “In my new book, I devote a whole chapter to the question, ‘What does a career look like in this transient-advantage economy?’ It’s things like, ‘Are you exposing yourself to new networks? Are you meeting new people? Have you developed new skills? Have you associated with new organizations?’ Chances are one organization is not where you will spend the rest of your working life. So how do you build a career in which you move from advantage to advantage, in which you create value that’s unique to you? How to you build a career in which other organizations can appreciate that value?”
Good questions. Listen to my interview with McGrath in its entirety, then tell me: How are you out-learning the pace of change today?