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According to Larry Page, the founder of Google, “Lots of companies don’t succeed over time. What do they fundamentally do wrong? They usually miss the future.” If paying attention to the future is a critical skill for the CEO of today, my premise is that it should also be a critical skill for the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO). In an excellent article on LinkedIn, CEO advisor Ken Gosnell, gives four steps to CEOs on how they can become better futurists. I think these are critical for the CHRO as well. Here is my adaptation of Gosnell’s steps in terms of the CHRO.
Step 1: Experiment
Gosnell uses the example of the Wright brothers, who constantly tinkered and tried a variety of things and businesses, until ultimately flight was achieved. Thomas Edison is famous for always tinkering as well. The CHRO should work hand in hand with the CEO to experiment with new structures and methods to keep searching for the best way to do work and deliver product and service. The work is not over, however, when you find this “best” way because the marketplace, the customers’ tastes, is always changing and the company has to change with it. The key is to always be experimenting on something.
Step 2: Pay Attention to the Trends
It is easy to just let life go on day-by-day and not really pay attention to the trends that are developing. A good futurist CEO and CHRO will pay attention to those trends. The CHRO should be attuned to trends happening around people, education, talent, training, and ways of living. The CEO may be more likely to be attuned to trends in the industry, the financial arena and with competition. Together they can become a powerful team. Both need to become adept at environmental scanning. Fortunately, technology can aid in that process.
Step 3: Dream Big
Gosnell points out that most people in a company are paid to focus on the present job. The CEO however, should be focusing on what could be. The CHRO should also have this focus. Envisioning what tomorrow could be has been the hallmark of many of the great CEOs. They are not satisfied to let their business happen; they dream about what it could be and work to make it so.
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Step 4: Make Bold Decisions
Being the CEO or CHRO is not for the faint of heart. To achieve greatness one has to be willing to make bold decisions. There has to be a willingness to fail in order to achieve success. Without boldness new worlds are not discovered, new methods are not tried.
If you have a CEO who is headed toward the future, then plan on taking the trip together. Support them by becoming a futurist CHRO.