"Take time away and look at the big picture," is how Tim Reed, CEO of accounting software firm MYOB, describes his strategy to keep on top of rapid business and technology changes.
He then asks a series of questions: "Are we doing the things we need to do in five years? Are we doing things we need to have done in two years time? Are we doing things that need to be done in two months time?
"For me, it is thinking in time frames," says Reed. "What we will need in the future, and then bringing it back and say, 'What will I do today?' That helps me generate that 'edge' thinking."
"I think of the edge as the future, the things that are new, that are changing. Absolutely, technology is a big part of that. But I don't think it has to be universally about technology."
A discussion with futurist Tim Longhurst at the MYOB 2014 Roadshow last February, prompted Reed to take this concept further.
In the conference, Longhurst highlighted the need for business leaders to focus on the core and edge thinking at the same time. Longhurst said one of the ways businesses can manage and benefit from online trends is to "find your edge, and an edge advisor". Find your 'personal futurist', he said. "Meet for coffee once a month or every quarter and talk about challenges."
This insight resonated with Reed. "I always make sure I am looking at things from different lenses."
Two months later, Reed says he has found not one but two such advisors -- MYOB chief technology officer Simon Raik-Allen; and a personal friend Kishore Rao, who is based in the United States.
With Raik-Allen, he says both have committed to go offsite once a month to talk about both future trends and "normal business agenda".
He says the discussions with Rao will be less frequent, and over the phone. He says Rao is into economics and the way society is changing. "He has always inspired me in trying out new things and ideas.
So what are the qualities of a good 'edge advisor' or a 'personal futurist'?
"Somebody who is an active brainstormer and is willing to think outside the box and has a natural curiosity in the future," says Reed.
The edge advisor does not necessarily need to be tech savvy. "It depends on your business," says Reed. "If you are in the technology business or leverage technology heavily, then having someone who is tech savvy is a good thing.
"If you are in a business that is predominantly about client service, let's say you are a manager in a hotel or restaurant, the 'edge thinking' might be around the way in which you bring people back to your business," he says. "It may or may not involve technology."
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