Have you got the vision of a mantis shrimp? Business leaders need better vision, to see the future and shape it to their advantage

December 31, 2017

If you want to pick a favourite animal that will surprise even the quirkiest first date, you can’t go wrong with the mantis shrimp. The foot-long, coral reef-dwelling crustacean has a rainbow tail, and punches its prey so hard and so fast that it creates underwater shockwaves.

But even more significant is the mantis shrimp’s vision. Within each large, roving eye, mantis shrimp have twelve types of color-sensitive cells called photoreceptors. That’s four times as many as we humans have, enabling more depth and contrast, as well as distance and width.

Vision matters if you are a business leader.

Not because you are supposed to be “visionary” as the text books sometimes say, but you do need to have a better view of the future than most. A future that comes at us faster than ever, and is more complex and contradictory too. You need more depth and contrast, as well as distance and width.

The best leaders create the future in their own vision.

Like Abraham Lincoln said, the best way to see the future is to create it. This is the real trick of the mantis shrimp. It is not only good at using its roving eyes, but at interpreting the signals faster and more decisively too. Vision means power. A better view of the future becomes your competitive advantage.

For business leaders this means decoding the megatrends, combining analytical knowledge with intuitive foresight, and making smarter choices about where to go, and how to get there.

Where will growth come from?

  • Growing locally … as social tensions rise, localism becomes more important than trying to be global
  • Asia matures … tapping into the new billion-person markets of ICASA (India, China, Africa, SE Asia)
  • New business models … exploring new revenues streams, new price models, new value equations

What will be most disruptive?

  • Technological fusion … connectivity of new techs, AI and automation, networks and devices
  • Customers in the driving seat …digitally empowered customers C2B, and together C2C
  • Network revolution … from value-chains to network-based platforms, asset heavy or light

How will we win differently?

  • Rebuilding trust … finding a new social value equation, authentic and relevant
  • Overcoming fear … working together to outwit cybercriminals, terrorists and fake news
  • Positive impact … embracing a sustainable circular economy, that shares value responsibly

Satya Nedella, CEO of Microsoft, recognised the need to think differently within the business he inherited from Bill Gates and  Steve Ballmer. His new book “Hit Refresh” is a manifesto for seeing our old challenges, assumptions and prejudices, in new ways. By taking a different perspective, often inspired by small companies and marginal operators, he sought fresh ways of working inside Microsoft, and new solutions for personal and business customers.

The best leaders have the courage to create a better future … to think bigger and smarter, to shape the future to their advantage, to drive innovation across the business in a way that reinvents markets and organisations.

The best opportunities for business – to find new growth, to engage customers more deeply, to stand out from the crowd, to improve their profitability – is by seizing the opportunities of changing markets. The best way to seize these changes is by innovating – not just innovating the product, or even the business itself – but by innovating the market.

In the old world we accepted markets as a given – the status quo – and competed within it, with slightly different products and services, or most usually by competing on price. Most new products were quickly imitated, leading to declining margins and commoditisation. Most companies now receognise that this is not a route to long-term success in a rapidly changing world.

Fast-changing markets demand fast-changing businesses.


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