Last month I attended the annual Leadership Summit sponsored by LeadingAge in Washington. The keynote address was given by Peter Sheahan, an internationally recognized consultant to companies such as Google and Apple and author of the bestseller, FLIP. Sheahan’s primary message was this: Change is constant and therefore we need to continually challenge our assumptions and plan for an unknown future.
Some interesting examples he cited were:
– In 1901 London commissioned a study of the city’s future needs. It predicted that a million more horses would be needed to meet transportation demands, and ignored the fact that 78,000 automobiles existed. Just five years later, London would build the world’s first parking garage — for cars, not horses.
– In 1990, AT&T commissioned a study on the future of cell phones. Their study concluded that worldwide demand would be capped at 900,000 — clearly missing the boat.
– More recently, a study was commissioned by U.S. intelligence agencies to determine the value of social media. Just nine months later, after the study discounted its value, social media fueled the “Arab Spring.” Today, we dedicate more people to making sense out of social media interactions than we have spies on the streets.
– Apple boldly cut its IT support group from 2000 to 6. It didn’t fire 1994 people, but reassigned them to projects. One of the projects that two IT people worked on was iPod product distribution, in which they partnered with SAP and created the phenomenally successful iTunes.
– In 2004, McDonald’s international division was losing significant market share to Subway. They introduced salads in Australia and saw 350,000 new customers almost immediately. The surprise was the new customers were not eating salads, but that offering salads made it more socially acceptable to patronize McDonald’s.
– The top two professions who purchase Harley Davidsons are doctors and lawyers. Harley concluded they are not in the motorcycle business, but in the image business.
As we at Masonicare plan for an unknown future, we do know that healthcare reform will change our landscape, but I believe it will improve the value of our services. So, as we work with our Board of Trustees on strategic planning, we will keep our mission in mind: to improve the lives of those we serve. In spite of the changes and chaos that surround us, this noble cause will keep us on track.