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Where are the visionary pilots of our great corporations?

Where are the visionary pilots of our great corporations?

Nicolas Kozakiewicz

Head of R&D and Innovation

To quote Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are a–Changin’”. We are all witnesses of it, and somehow also all its victims.  It comes from a drastic change in our environment, habits, “needs” and overall geopolitical context. And if change can’t be stopped, Humanity always found a way to adapt.

So, where are tomorrow’s Fords, GE, Kodak, HP, Coca-Cola, and IKEA?

There are, of course, some big corporations created in the past decades, but a fair share of them happened more out of “luck” than out of “having set a visionary plan and executing it in the (long) run”. Did Mark Zuckerberg plan Facebook? Did Uber or Airbnb have any clues of the tsunami they would generate?

Most of them spurted out of the “bubble”. It does not make them any less good on the contrary; it is not the intent of this article. Here we are analyzing which business success comes from “having set a visionary plan and executing it in the (long) run”.

And this becomes rarer and rarer for the following reasons:

Increased innovation pace;

Shorten product/service lifecycle;

Broader and more intense competition;

The number of new ventures/startups has drastically increased, making that competition very sharp (sharp people, starting from a blank page, without history, existing customer to support or backward compatibility, with a precise focus and the money to do it properly);

Consumers’ increasing need for novelty;

Enlarged (public) participation in the stock market;

Short-term financial drivers set to meet the expectations of shareholders.

What is therefore noticeable is that business drivers are more financial and capitalistic as well as more short-term rather than mid to long-term.

This could be explained with a wine metaphor. Nobody wants to buy a bottle, make it age in one’s cellar and taste the result of this “neatly executed planned vision”. Yet best wines are only obtained that way… but people, for now, prefer to buy expensive non-naturally aged wine and avoid the hassle of buying a more affordable, better, wine and let it age. It is the Age of Immediacy… probably not the best side effect of the Digital Age.

Analysts adapt and evaluate companies’ potential and value based on this and no more, not to mention the capacity to have this “visionary plan and its execution in the (long) run”.

Yet, what makes people dream is:

Apple… or how a company had the vision to change and “force” the evolution of an old business like the music industry in order for it to be in sync with its century, by planning the creation of nomadic devices (iPods) only to be able to sell per title music through iTunes. This is a brilliant “visionary plan executed in the (long) run”.

Tesla… or how a John Doe (i.e. an unknown person) in the car industry “shoved” the industry in the electric era and invested immensely in the battery, which is the cornerstone of being a major actor in the global car industry… Battery is the only thing, with tires, than can be exactly the same on every car if it is the best. This is also a brilliant “visionary plan executed in the (long) run”.

IBM… or how a vision of tomorrow’s world has unlocked hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of investment to make AI a reality in our world.

So yes, there are some other examples like Google and Oracle, but are they enough? Do we not spoil a great potential by not “looking forward enough” globally?

Nowadays, “visionary plans” come more from smaller companies that quickly get acquired by medium-size companies that get eventually acquired too… And once ingested, those “visionary plans” get replaced by quarterly short-sighted plans… and die slowly…

So, besides those few and rare examples, we sadly notice that the small fishes get eaten too early by other fishes… and the vision is clearly decreasing.

So where are the visionary pilots of our great corporations, who can still set a course in the real future, with the associated means to turn their vision into history?

They are a dying breed and we need to save them to save us.