AKINYEMI: The future belongs to those with flexible dreams

Thursday September 19 2019

An “EQ Silver Arrow” electric concept car of Mercedes.

An “EQ Silver Arrow” electric concept car of Mercedes on display at the International Auto Show in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, on September 10, 2019. Technology moves so fast it’s impossible to predict the future. PHOTO | AFP 

WALE AKINYEMI
By WALE AKINYEMI
More by this Author

When in 1976 the Apple dream was birthed in the garage of the Jobs family, little did anyone know what it would become. And that is a good thing. If you have the future all figured out and planned, the likelihood of you being relevant in that future is slim. The future belongs to those whose thinking develops as it progresses.

Overstructuring a dream could kill it. How do you take into account events and technology that could make your dream obsolete?

Many CEOs are suffering from this today. They have it all figured out and they can tell you with accurate precision where they will be and where the company will be in the next few years.

Let us look at two companies that have truly rocked the world and how they have done it. First is Nokia. They started off in 1865 as a single paper mill operation. If they had it all figured out, then they would have remained a paper mill. However, from that humble beginning they ventured successfully into cable, paper products, rubber boots, tyres, televisions and eventually into mobile phones.

We are living in an era where the future has no regard for the success of the present and those who do not know this become victims of the future that they so looked forward to. That future will either make you or break you depending on your preparedness.

The first GSM call was made using Nokia equipment in 1991. By 1998, Nokia had become the number one selling phone in the world, kicking out Motorola. When you experience such success in a short time, it is easy to get giddy. It happens to the best of us. From a simple idea to the top of the world in just eight years. Nokia brought Finland to the centre of the innovation map globally. They churned out phone after phone, and it did appear that they had attained a position that no one could contest.

Advertisement

Just like Nokia, Apple had a long history of innovations. They had come from computers, from servers, from the iBook, the iPod, the iMac, the Power Mac, the Apple Mouse, the Apple Keyboard and then finally, in 2007, the iPhone hit the market. We have also seen the evolution of the Apple watch as well as Apple music, one of the largest music streaming platforms in the world.

In 1976 in that garage in Palo Alto, do you think they had a future figured out that included streaming music? Do you think they knew they would be spending billions of dollars to create TV content?

Clayton Christensen is the author of The Innovators Dilemma — a book endorsed by Steve Jobs. In the book, the author reviewed many companies that had done well initially, and that had lost their positions over a period of time.

The findings showed that good management was the biggest reason companies failed to stay at the top in their industries.

They had invested heavily in the technology of the day and had the future all figured out. When times changed, they were too rooted in the now to proceed to the next step. It is for this reason that companies have deep pockets and great brains yet still become irrelevant.

What is captivating is not so much the gadget Apple just released — the iPhone 11 and 11PRO — but that Apple is transforming itself from a gadget company to a service company.

Who knows if in 20 years the iPhone will still exist? Who knows if phones of any sort will still exist? Who knows if cars will still run on oil? Who knows if there will still be a disease called cancer? Who knows if we will still use e-mail to communicate? Who knows if air travel will still be the way it is?

A lot of investment has gone into the present. Enjoy it. But as you do, prepare for the future by having the imagination of a child, the expectation of a soon-to-be mother, and the adventurous streak of an adrenaline junkie. When tomorrow comes, will you be a citizen of tomorrow or would you have been left behind by your today?

Wale Akinyemi is the chief transformation officer, PowerTalks

Advertisement