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Thought Thursdays
What is not going to change?


When requested to write an article on innovation for Thought Thursday, I was briefed along these lines: “Make it relevant; however, make sure the article does not become outdated.” This is quite an interesting challenge considering the dynamic and fast-changing environment in which we are currently living. 

Ever keen to follow instructions to the letter, I sat down to think about the task and considered the continuous change that envelopes us in every aspect of our lives and work. Initially, I have to confess, I became concerned about my lack of progress and a feeling of dismay as the elusive topic seemed to be disappearing into a large black hole. Eventually, with effort, an interesting question began to emerge: “In all this change, what is not going to change?” The question slowly grew in significance and, as I asked it repeatedly, a collage of ideas unfolded before me. 

As I have revisited this question over the past few days, I believe I am starting to see a bigger picture. We (humankind) are always going to trade and sell goods and services. How we do this might change and currencies might come and go, but there will always be exchanges of sorts. We have an inherent need to develop ourselves and learn new skills to adapt to our world. How we acquire these skills is changing rapidly, but the need to improve ourselves and continually learn is only going to increase. The bigger picture keeps growing in size as I pose the question: “But how does this link to executive and leadership development?” My sense is that the need to grow and develop is going to increase exponentially at a rate that the current structure and design of business schools are not going to be able to meet, and if organisations which position themselves to be leaders in this space do not start radically altering the way they operate, they will find themselves being marginalised and playing an insignificant role in this vital area.

Roselinde Torres, in her TED Talk, filmed in October 2013, expounds on the revelations of her research on the effectiveness of leadership development. She found that 58% of 4 000 companies researched cited significant talent gaps among their executives and a disturbing trend of poor leadership preparation.

If the perception of business is that executive development does not meet most of its needs, then it is time for decision-makers at institutions to explore alternatives to rectify the situation and respond to the challenging economic climate we find ourselves in.
We, as executive leadership practitioners, need to recognise the changing world that our clients are operating in, and be ahead of them in assessing what this means. We should mitigate their risk by partnering with them and solving these challenges before they arrive, as opposed to providing a reactionary intervention. If we can do this, we become an integral part of our clients’ business.

Are we occupying this position as we speak? I don’t think so, but I do not believe the picture is all doom and gloom. We have Business Driven Action Learning projects (BDAL’s) that if implemented well and correctly, provide a ROI that is measurable and can fundamentally make a difference in our clients business. Has our thinking regarding the BDAL’s and their measurement fundamentally changed in the last four years? Have we assessed the skills required for moving ourselves from a reactive entity to one that can be seen as a true strategic partner with a measurable impact on our clients’ business? Do we have skin in the game with our clients? If I were a C-suite executive scanning the horizon to look at partnering with an educational entity that could assist me in leading my business into the future, these would certainly be the questions I would be asking. In my discussions with clients, the questions above are definitely more commonplace than they were two years ago.

What is not going to change is the need for leadership and executive development. What is going to change is the speed at which this happens and the focus areas that are needed from the paying client and the role that business schools play in this shift.

What is also not going to change is the well-established trend of businesses on the fringe moving in and totally disrupting the industry while rendering the current business educators irrelevant. How are we as present business educators going to deliver relevant content and profits in a constantly changing world that is still built on some fundamentals that won’t be changing?

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Mike Colley has 25 years facilitation experience in the leadership space.As a New Knowledge Market Executive for the Institute for Futures Research (IFR), requires him to  to have a good knowledge and understanding of strategic thinking while being able to  facilitate the complexities of futures thinking and the challenges this presents to executives and the leadership of organisations.

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