Do you ever get that feeling about the future? You know the one — like you’re going to get steamrolled by it?

You’re not alone. Not by a long shot.

That much is clear in reading the new Wolters Kluwer CCH white paper, “Charting a Course for the Future: A Report on Firm Preparedness.” Released at the 2014 CCH User Conference in Orlando, the paper finds that only 18 percent of firms consider themselves “very prepared” to take advantage of the biggest trends that will impact on the profession in the near future.

According to CCH, those trends are:

  1. Increased focus on client service
  2. Technology integration challenges
  3. Digital mobility opportunities
  4. Talent management and success planning
  5. Social media as a business tool

The real story, though, isn’t that 82 percent of us feel underprepared to take advantage of these trends. It’s that 18 percent of firms are doing radically different things — and succeeding well beyond most expectations. Consider:

  • “Very prepared” firms invoice clients just 14 days after initial contact — 10 days earlier than less prepared firms.
     
  • Fifty-one percent of “very prepared” firms expect to earn 6 percent growth over the next three years, compared to 44 percent of less prepared firms.

So what are these “very prepared” firms doing that the rest of us are not?

“(They) make a concentrated effort to think ahead, anticipate future needs and use technology to add value for their clients,” the paper reads. “Being more proactive … is fundamental to who they are and how they operate. ‘Very prepared’ firms are fixed in their belief that technology is the key to managing change and driving better business results. Accordingly, they report feeling very well-equipped to shoulder a future filled with changes in people, processes and technology.”

Put another way, it seems as though these firms have have adopted a mindset that’s focused on two key concepts:

Adaption
It’s what Warren Berger, author of A More Beautiful Question, would call “serial mastery.” On an individual scale, Berger says serial mastery means that “(t)he need to constantly adapt is the new reality for many workers.” Fast Company puts it another way: “Few traditional career tactics train us for an era where the most important skill is the ability to acquire new skills,” Safian writes. Entire organizations can feel that need, too. As the CCH report reveals, many do.

Anticipation
Futurist Andrew Zolli says the difference between great leaders and the rest of us is that they are able to detect the weak signals of disruptive change. The sooner we can identify those signals, the sooner we can act on them. “Very prepared” firms have figured out how to do that as a matter of course. Anticipation is part of their DNA.

The good news, says futurist Daniel Burrus, is that anticipation is a skill that can be learned.

“Employees of an anticipatory organization understand that those who can see the future most accurately will have the biggest advantage,” Burrus writes. “They know that you cannot change the past, but you can shape the future based on the actions you take in the present. As such, they actively embrace the fact that many future disruptions, problems, and game-changing opportunities are predictable and represent unprecedented ways to gain advantage.”

In short, quit trying to keep up. Keeping up is a losing proposition — it means someone is always ahead of you.

Anticipation and adaptation are the keys to becoming a “very prepared” organization — and to leaving the rest of us in your dust.

Download the white paper in its entirety.

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