Future Proof Yourself

Merging Innovation, Strategy, and Future Vision

Daniel Egger

4/24/20202 min read

a wall of tools and tools for a workshop
a wall of tools and tools for a workshop

In today's rapidly evolving world, individuals, organizations, and societies face extensive implications. Instability and shifting paradigms are pushing executives to seek more effective ways to manage value shifts and technological advancements while pragmatically balancing future opportunities with daily strategy execution.

In an article published in HBR online, Alexander Osterwalder proposed the implementation of a Chief Entrepreneur (CE), an executive as influential as the CEO. This executive's role would focus on creating new value options, experimenting with future logic, and developing products and services that ensure continuous Future Value Generation. Osterwalder argues that the CEO and CE have distinct roles within the organization; At the same time, the CEO manages the existing business; the CE leads the company's future.

The article is based on the idea that organizations must be more adaptive and agile in addressing future challenges. In an earlier HBR article from 2015, the authors discuss how the C-suite needs a Chief Entrepreneur to drive growth and create new businesses. They explain that this role is crucial for organizations to stay competitive and maintain a healthy pipeline of new business opportunities. The Chief Entrepreneur would focus on exploring new markets, identifying emerging trends, and building a portfolio of new ventures, thus enabling the organization to stay ahead of the curve.

Osterwalder's article is intriguing as it emphasizes the urgency of integrating agility, experimentation, and practical long-term thinking more assertively into organizations. I firmly advocate embracing the future and entrepreneurial thinking more actively. However, based on my experience, a more pragmatic solution would be to combine innovation, strategy, and futuring into a single function. This fusion makes strategy more agile, provides innovation with funding and focus, and makes the future more practical. This combination generates value while reducing expenses, with the primary objective being to balance present and future value generation. The success of this approach relies on how committed an organization is to exploring new future options and the focus of the innovation process.

Crucially, the newly integrated unit would report directly to the CEO. When crises occur, and budgets become strained, both present and future value generation can suffer. In a scenario with multiple power structures, the question arises: who will make the final decision, the CE (Chief Entrepreneur) or the CEO? The outcome remains uncertain, but it's clear that the CEO is financing the CE; in other words, the present always funds the future.

Innovation, futuring, and strategy alone cannot address the emerging needs of our current reality. Integration and the exploration of synergies are essential. The more turbulent our times become, the more prepared and ready to act we must be. Most importantly, we must ensure a continuous process that supports identifying new value patterns and maintaining organizational sustainability over time. This can only be achieved when we act collectively and collaboratively.

The Chief Entrepreneur's role in the organization is to challenge the status quo, foster a culture of experimentation, and take calculated risks. They bring a unique perspective to the executive team, ensuring the organization remains agile and responsive to change. By combining the roles of innovation, strategy, and futuring into one cohesive unit, organizations can create a dynamic and proactive approach to addressing the challenges of an ever-changing world. Implementing this new unit can lead to a more resilient, adaptable, and forward-looking organization capable of seizing opportunities and driving future growth.