How to Be Future Smart? First, Ask the Right Questions


Business and IT leaders never seem to catch a break. Continuous change at ever increasing speeds has become the norm. The move from ERP to dotcom, and now to digital, cloud, automation, and cognitive computing has not only been rapid, it is accelerating. And hovering in the background, but ever present, is the topic of security. All this, and the constant pressure of always needing more for less.

Then there’s the question of what’s next? What do we need to worry about today for tomorrow, and tomorrow for the future? To see new possibilities, to get it right, and to succeed, we must challenge ourselves to ask new and different questions about what we see today, and how things might develop in the future.

Breakthroughs are not born inside boxes. It’s only when one’s field of vision is expanded beyond the possible that powerful new ideas take flight.

What many do today, and certainly did in the past, is to look around, extrapolate from what they see and respond in ways that are consistent with their world view. Without asking new and different questions—and seeing the world differently—they miss out on the disruptive and innovative business ideas that created the likes of Nike, Apple, Starbucks, Amazon, Google and Uber. Instead, they’re left asking themselves, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Most often, our extrapolations are reinforced by the compartmentalization of our work and by the siloed thinking that follows. All but the most progressive enterprises are constrained by this habit. Many, in retrospect, will tell you that they never asked the right questions. Even with all the marketing research they may have conducted, they sought answers that often reinforced what they already believed to be true.

In our work as advisors, researchers and consultants, we gain insights into where our clients are now, and where they may be headed. With this unique perspective, however, comes unique responsibilities. Our job is to help them expand the questions they ask, deploy our heat-seeking sensors, filter incoming information and help them find new opportunities—and new ideas—about how to realize them. We help them recognize the next big thing and position themselves to make it happen.

At ISG, we believe being successful in today’s dynamic business environment depends largely on being Future Smart—on having a full appreciation for where you are and where you’re going. Business leaders who can anticipate the changing expectations of customers and who fully understand the capabilities of emerging technologies are best able to imagine new solutions, see potential growth where others may not and act on the promise of possibility.

I am delighted to be kicking off this year’s ISG Sourcing Industry Conference, September 28-29 in Dallas, where we’ll be discussing the new questions and new possibilities that come with being Future Smart. Contact me directly to discuss further.

About the author

Todd Lavieri is responsible for ISG’s largest region, encompassing the United States, Canada and Latin America and representing more than half of the firm’s revenue. He also is responsible for the Pacific subregion, including Australia and New Zealand. He joined ISG in July 2014 with 24 years of experience in the global services industry. 

Previously, Todd was with IBM, where he served as general manager of IBM Global Consulting and more recently as general manager, Global Business Services, IBM Canada. Before joining IBM in 2010, Todd was president and CEO of Archstone Consulting, a strategy and operations advisory firm he founded in 2003 and sold to The Hackett Group in 2009. Earlier, he was a partner at Deloitte Consulting and a member of its Global Management Committee during a distinguished 13-year career with the firm. 

An expert on business transformation and growth strategies, he has personally advised Global 1000 clients across such sectors as manufacturing, retail, life sciences, healthcare, energy and consumer products. Todd is a graduate of Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, and holds an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.