Footprints_stay_strategically_ahead_of_competitionBeing a step ahead of your competitors is a great place to be and gaining that extra step requires that you focus on the future.  General Motors understands that better than most and it shows.  GM operates in a highly competitive market where the ability to think ahead and strategize accordingly are vital to the company’s continued prosperity.

Every year, General Motors invites top college students to intern in their design center where behind tight security the auto maker develops its future models.  This year the discovery channel has gotten involved, creating a reality-TV series called “Future Cars” that will showcase the interns’ bright ideas.  Their task was to envision the year 2030 and design personal transportation for the needs of GM’s customers 20 years from now.

The interns were told to dream big and think of the possibilities that the future might hold.  They talked about designing the car for “Generation I”, those born after the integration of the internet.  As they designed the cars, they had to imagine how new technology, materials, and social situations would affect how cars would need to be designed in the future.

Leaders at GM viewed this experience as a reverse mentoring process.  Larry Burns, VP of Strategic Planning for GM, said, “I think we ended up with a lot of great ideas, and it’s going to help the business leaders of General Motors stretch their thinking about how far we need to be pushing innovation into the future.”

Most businesses today may not be thinking 20 years into the future, but if you are not thinking strategically about what the future may hold, your competitors will.   Similar to the concepts the interns were exploring; future technology, new materials, and social situations, to name a few – companies across all industries need to be considering these ideas as well.   Gathering and understanding information on what the future could hold can help company stakeholders make smart strategic decisions – and propel these companies to the top of their industry.

Greg Page, CEO for Cargill, once quoted in one of our strategic learning events, “You have to be more effective and strategically minded than the person in the same role who is working for our competitors.”  To gain the step ahead, employees at all levels of the organization need to spend time thinking strategically about their position, their job responsibilities, and how to improve efficiency, and where they might find strategic opportunities.

All it takes is one strategic idea to get a step ahead.

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Brian Miyasaki

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