Business agility is a concept that has been around for a while. Agility is good. But it has a heat of the moment reactive feel to it. Agile fighters will always outperform sclerotic opponents. Though it is not usually a good idea to wait until the opposition is throwing punches at your head before responding. This has prompted the notion of the anticipatory organisation.
Such organisations look out for threats, so they can take action in anticipation of an encounter. However, whilst looking out for angry pugilists (a known threat), they get bitten by a snake (an unanticipated threat). Thus, it is not enough to be anticipatory, we need to be attentive to both known and unknown threats.
Attentive leaders are attuned to weak, and even preposterous, signals (see world events 2016). So, sensitivity is required. Try rock climbing wearing boxing gloves. It’s difficult to sense what you are engaging with, when there is a layer (or two) of fabric between you and your environment. This lack of sensitivity can have serious consequences for both climbers and business leaders.
Business leaders thus need to develop their market attentiveness and sensitivity. Business analytics, machine learning and technologies such as IoT have an important role to play.
In many respects, the digital business environment has a Whac-A-Mole feel to it. Though there is a twist with the digital edition, which is somewhat more of an immersive experience than its industrial predecessor. In the digital version, your business is situated on a Whac-A-Mole landscape, and the terrain is mountainous. What’s more, the moles are trained in ninjitsu and modern warfare. Think shurikens and AK-47s.
Warfare, both militaristically and in business, has moved on from the ‘good old days’. Back then, the enemy stood at one end of the battlefield, and wore an easily identifiable uniform. Today it is cell-based guerrilla warfare. The enemy is neither ‘over there’ or easily recognisable. This is akin to a chaotic barroom brawl. Smart leaders, and their organisations, will not expend their valuable resources flailing at everything that moves, but through highly developed attention and sensitivity will navigate the chaos to achieve their goals.