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By J. Daniel Beckham

Stay focused on the customer. No perspective is more important than that of the customer. In contemplating the future, there's really only one reality you can count on when it comes to making a living for your organization - you can't do it without customers. When Louis Gerstner, Jr., took over as CEO at IBM in 1993, he determined that the company's biggest problem wasn't with its products or its competitors. IBM had fallen out of touch with its customers and squandered what was once a fundamental source of strength for the company. He envisioned an organization once again in touch with its customers and he dedicated himself to setting an example. Shortly after arriving at IBM, Gerstner said, "I came here with a view that you should start the day with customers and organize around customers." In his early days, Gerstner spent 40% of his time with customers - specifically with CEOs. He left customers with the impression that IBM had figured out how the 21st Century high-tech society and economy would unfold. And he built a relationship of trust. "The future is a lot about trust," according to Northwestern University renowned marketing professor, Phillip Kotler, "More and more CEOs have become conscious that they are the CEO of marketing. You're selling trust."

Out of all this effort focused on the future should come context - a thoughtful and fertile field in which to sow the seeds of a desired future. Without an articulated and understood concept of the organization's place in the future, context is just so much fertilizer. Somebody has to wade into the fertilized field to plant and cultivate a future worth becoming.

Originally published in Health Forum Journal

Copyright © The Beckham Company             Future Scanning – Mar. 1997 (Prediction)

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