“Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window.” These are words coined by Peter Drucker before the pandemic, before augmented reality, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, 3D printing, computer vision, touchscreen and infinity displays, cloud computing, crowdfunding websites, TikTok, and Meta. I wonder what the good doctor would think about trying to predict the future now.
Yet here I go, predicting the future.
1. People will continue to print, or they won’t.
2. Workers will return to the office, or they won’t.
3. The pandemic is reaching the endemic stage, or it isn’t.
4. One day everyone who has been vaccinated will grow a third eye, or they will not.
OK, those were just for fun. Writing them felt good, a bit like George Carlin preparing his version of a television weatherperson. “Weather forecast for tonight: dark. Continued dark overnight, with widely scattered light by morning.”
Taking my cue from the only accurate weather forecasters I know (the ones looking out the window), here’s what I see for the balance of 2022 and beyond.
My 100% guaranteed predictions:
1. Supply chain issues will continue, both in terms of delays and costs.
2. Government prop-up support is ending.
3. Inflation will continue to be a challenge.
4: Big labor problems continue with labor shortages and war for talent.
5: The political landscape will continue to be a mess.
Since offering up predictions without application seems like a colossal waste of time for you, the reader, here is a hit list of the top applications:
Learn to Lead Well
How we learned to lead is based on a world that no longer exists. The “command and control” model is out the window — get over it. Your top reps are not coming back in the office every Monday morning for a rally. Why? Because they do not have to. Because they have realized it does not serve them. The same goes for your CFO; she does not need to be sitting in the office 9-5 (did she ever?). And guess what? Try to make her and she is moving down the street to another employer who “values her.” I know, I just upset 50% of you reading this. Before half of you run away all mad at me, ask yourself, “Do I produce my best results when I am managed or when I am led?” Yeah, I thought so. Want to lead well? Learn to coach and mentor. Learn to develop real relationships with your people — relationships that prove you know their desires, their fears, hopes and dreams, and that you care about them. Who was it who said, “Nobody cares about you until you say you care about them”? No one. No one ever said that! They said, “… until they KNOW you care about them.”
Major in the Major, Not the Minor
Apply energy and effort where you have some degree of control rather than where you have none. Embrace the change. Do deep versus shallow work (see Cal Newport’s Deep Work). Create a compelling vision. Not a perfect vision, but a vision of success that inspires others to join in and contribute to your crusade. Values, vision, and a path others can see and share in.
Get Comfortable Living in the Tension of Not Knowing.
Nobody has a perfect view of the future, so quit listening to what others think and tell you to do. And that includes me. They (I) do not know any more than you do. Which leads me to the biggest point.
Don’t Be Too Quick to Pivot
Don’t be in a hurry to re-engineer or transform your product/services offering based on some supposed trend you are reading about. I know, everything is in flux, and what you have been doing is not working — at least not as well as before. You have to do something. Right? You have to make some changes. So, where do you run off to? The industry event where somebody who made some changes tells you they have found the magic way? Amen, preach it brother.
Look, first off, by the time they tell you about it (if they have a history of it working), it is too late. Yes, attend industry events, listen, learn, and share. But, if you are really serious about making significant shifts (note I said “shifts” – evolutions not revolutions), you need to focus anywhere but inside your industry. You need — no, you MUST — focus on the market (people who pay you). Secondly, learn from other industries and leaders.
Find and Serve Your Fans
None of us are meant to serve everybody. The harder we try, the less successful the efforts. Why? For the same reason Carhartt, a company known for heavy-duty workwear, does not sell athletic footwear. Take a lesson from one of my favorite businesspeople, Jimmy Buffett who began singing in honkytonks, evolved into beach music, developed a passionate tribe and now sells them everything from food to booze to vacations to retirement lifestyle communities! Oh, and some music as well. Maybe I’m wrong about Carhartt. And speaking of being wrong …
Maybe I am wrong about supply chains. Maybe supply chains will be in great shape by Q2 or 3 or 4. If I am wrong, and based on my prediction you went ahead and created a strategy to deal with the delays and rising costs and things turn around more rapidly, well, you have a plan now for next time. Remember the old adage, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” P.S.: I am not wrong. Buckle up. As I am writing this another group of factories is on shutdown due to increased cases of COVID, and a major OEM is shifting away from chipped cartridges for supply reasons. Stop and think about that! You can bet that was a decision not made lightly.
Maybe I am wrong, and the government does continue to print those big checks to keep businesses up and running and invent more schemes that incent people to stay home instead of work.
Maybe I am wrong, and inflation does suddenly dip, home prices return to rational levels, gas prices fall, and shipping costs miraculously drop.
Maybe I am wrong and the 40% of today’s employees (usually the ones we do not want to lose) presently in search of new employment decide to stay put and the war for talent ceases. (Note: The billboard I passed less than 20 minutes ago was advertising $70,000 a year jobs at Dominos.)
All leading to one single Big Idea:
“The relevant question is not simply what shall we do tomorrow, but rather what shall we do today in order to get ready for tomorrow.” — Peter Drucker.
And a final Big Prediction: “Going forward there will be winners and losers.” — Captain Obvious.
More relevant, winners will be those who ask the most important question each and every day: “What will I do today to be ready to earn the rewards from serving my customers, my team, and myself well tomorrow?”
What will you do?
is executive vice president of InkCycle Inc. He is an industry veteran with more than 25 years of sales and marketing experience. He is an active member of the imaging industry as an author, trainer and speaker. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.