Can You Learn How To Become A Business Genius?

If you want to make your business a roaring success, studies suggest looking to the future

learn more about Vaibhav Joshi

By Vaibhav Joshi • Oct 11, 2018

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Who do you think of when you hear the words "business genius'? Maybe Steve Jobs or Bill Gates come to mind. More recently, these words could make you think of Elon Musk. Even those who don't keep up with the latest happenings in the world of business and entrepreneurship can appreciate the success Gates, Musk, and several others like them have achieved with their respective business ventures.

Ever wondered what makes these business leaders so special? A recent research paper claims to have zeroed in on the secret of their success. What's more, they are of the opinion it's not a one-in-a-million quality that sets them apart, but an image that looks to the future as opposed to the past. Budding entrepreneurs, read on for some helpful tips.

More About The Study

The paper was written by Luis Martins, director of the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship at The University of Texas at Austin's McCombs School of Business and co-authored by Violina Rindova of the University of Southern California. Entitled "The Three Minds of the Strategist: Toward an Agentic Perspective in Behavioral Strategy,' it was published in Advances in Strategic Management in September 2018.

The authors argue that the key to formulating a business strategy that's successful across the board lies in thinking about the future rather than playing out the past again and again. They also claim that this kind of thinking can be taught, and they call on other business academics to test and validate their theory and methods.

The Importance Of Future-Focused Imagination

Martins played up the role of forward-thinking imagination in making your business a success, citing examples of well-known business success stories. "If Whole Foods were a replication of the past, it would be one more small health food store. It required a different image of the future to combine an organic farmers market with a big grocery store, and a strong focus on conscious capitalism. That's the kind of thing that changes the mould within any given industry and comes up with a whole new space. You couldn't get a Cirque du Soleil by just trying to make another circus," he said in an official press release.

Martins says design thinking—the process of using design to create new offerings and improve the user experience—also has the capacity to revolutionise a business. Citing the example of tech giant Apple and the attention it pays to the design of its offerings.

Changing The Curriculum

Can this sort of mentality be instilled in the minds of young business professionals while they're in the classroom? Martins seems to believe so. In his opinion, strategic imagination can be learnt by exploring the techniques of anticipatory thinking, analogical reasoning and design thinking. Thinking about how established business models can be used in new market spaces is another possible route to success, according to him. He practises what he preaches in his own classes at the university, where students follow technological, economic and social trends that may come together in the future and brainstorm about new goods that could lead to entirely new markets.

Unfortunately, the same example isn't being followed elsewhere, he explains. The current standard curriculum doesn't place enough emphasis on strategic imagination, even in the top-tier business schools. The accepted methodology simply teaches students how to analyse the past and adapt to the present. Although Martins agrees these are crucial components of the strategy, he doesn't see them leading to breakthrough business achievements without future-focused imagination.

What Does The Future Hold?

Martins believes the importance of future planning will become evident in due course of time. "I think we are running out of runway for mass market thinking and just low-price thinking," he said. "So, increasingly, as markets fragment and as people desire something more than just low cost, I think strategic imagination will become an ever-more-important aspect of the strategist's job."

Vaibhav Joshi

Entrepreneur Staff

Features Writer, Entrepreneur Asia-Pacific

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