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Gustin Partners | January 11, 2017 |

2017 Lessons for Moving Forward

By Thornton May
Futurist, Senior Advisor with GP, Executive Director & Dean - IT Leadership Academy

2016 was a year of great learning. We re-discovered old truths; jettisoned no-longer-relevant orthodoxies and learned new things. 2017 will be a year for recalibrating assumptions and crafting new narratives. Here are some important “learnings” from the year just past.

Lesson #1: Leadership is a Conversation - Listen to Your Audience
In modern theater, audiences are sic supposed to sit silent and consume the artistic experience as delivered. In the nineteenth century theater audiences were much more animated. They were expected to participate actively. The year-end kerfuffle regarding the Hamilton cast “speaking to” Vice President-elect Pence is an early indicator of what we can expect in 2017. Leaders will need to engage the led in all manner of media.

Lesson #2: Engage the ENTIRE Audience
Pollsters finessed their dismal performance during the 2016 Presidential election explaining their “forecasts were correct regarding the voters they knew about.” The employees you don’t know about [i.e., those who have gone silent]; the customers you don’t know about [those not on the radar screen]; and the competitors you have not imagined [disruptors utilizing different business models] – that is where the surprises in 2017 will come from.

Lesson #3: Involve Yourself In and/or Create High Impact Collaborative Spaces
In early Greece, places where people came together were critically important.  The Olympics convened every four years. There was the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi. Perhaps paradoxically, in a digital era the physical spaces one frequents are just as critically important.

Are you periodically in physical proximity with the people you need to know and who need to know you? Recently president-elect Trump invited Silicon Valley CEOs [e.g., Jeff Bezos, Amazon; Larry Page, Alphabet; Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook; Tim Cook, Apple; Safraz Catz, Oracle; Satya Nadella, Microsoft; Ginni Rometty, IBM; Chuck Robbins, Cisco Systems; Alex Karp, Palantir; Brian Krzanich, Intel] to meet with his transition team.  The hope is that this group might meet quarterly.

Are you actively involved with the leaders in your industry; in your discipline; and in your region?

Lesson #4: Stop Whining and Embrace Human Agency
In the new year, let us celebrate the human agency - the capacity for human beings to make choices and to impose those choices on the world. In late December, the CEO of one of this planet’s major trade and professional associations began her remarks commenting how pleased she was that 2016, which she labeled as Annus horribilis [re-purposing Queen Elizabeth’s 1992 use of the term] was coming to an end. Earlier in the month, the CIO at a Fortune 500 company, while describing his role in leading enterprise digital transformation efforts, opined that “stock price multiple is something outside of my control.” I believe a critical role of leaders as we enter the New Year is to celebrate human agency and recalibrate shared points of view on critical issues.

People living in medieval times did not have much human agency. Their life trajectory was very much determined by and limited to how they started in life [i.e., if you were born a peasant you would most likely die a peasant].

Paraphrasing Jean Luc Piccard of the Starship Enterprise “2017 won’t be awesome unless you make it so.”


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