For a thousand years, no man could run a mile in under four minutes. Everyone believed it could never be done. Then in 1954, Roger Bannister ran the mile in 3:59.4 minutes. At the time, this was astonishing. No one had ever run so fast! But the pace quickened. Since then, runners have gotten faster, and the four-minute barrier has been routinely broken. The current men’s record holder is Hicham El Guerrouj, with a time of 3:43.13—more than fifteen seconds faster than Bannister.
Just like the speeds set by top sprinters, the pace of business is getting faster. The rate of change is accelerating. Disruption has become more intense. In order to win in today’s economy, you have to compete harder and smarter. What kept you ahead a generation ago—or even a few years ago—is no longer sufficient.
For example, consider Moore’s Law. In 1965, Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel, published a landmark article in which he proposed that due to continuing advances in manufacturing technology, the number of transistors in an integrated circuit would double every year. In 1975 he revised his prediction to doubling every two years—still an astonishing rate. He projected this rate of growth would continue for at least another ten years. In fact, Moore’s prediction has proved to be accurate for several decades, during which it has became clear that accelerating advancements in many areas of digital electronics reflect Moore’s law, including memory capacity, sensors, the number and size of pixels in digital cameras, and quality-adjusted microprocessor prices. It’s a manifestation of the fact that change in every area of business, from technology to human resources, is getting faster.
Continuous Disruption Is the New Status Quo
As the race intensifies, for innovation leaders to stay one step ahead requires more speed, more agility, and more stamina than ever before. The technology that was cutting edge yesterday will be obsolete tomorrow. Employment practices are evolving with lightning speed. New rules, new goals, new threats are emerging more quickly than many innovation leaders can handle them.
We live in a time of hyper-consumerism. With just a few taps on their smart phones, consumers can buy just about anything at anytime and have it delivered overnight. Businesses live or die by social ratings on emerging digital platforms including Yelp, Google reviews, Trip Advisor, Angie’s List, Foursquare, and many others. If a business makes its customers or employees unhappy, there’s no place to hide. Even top recruits have become picky consumers: the overwhelming majority of jobseekers will not consider a role until they have researched the company on platforms such as Glassdoor.
The accelerating rate of change in your marketplace makes leadership—your leadership—all the more important in staying one step ahead of the competition.
Why is your personal leadership so important?
Because if you’re not setting the pace, nothing else matters.
Not your team, your technology, your products, or your brilliant business plan. Sustained innovation leadership comes from you and your people.