You likely already realize that survival in business today requires grabbing hold of tomorrow's opportunities with disruptive innovation, before your competition or a new startup gets there.

The challenge is to create a culture of forward thinking in your company, and avoid the traps of following the paths of least resistance that often appear in mature companies.

For example, Hewlett Packard, the recognized leader in scientific calculators at the time, rejected Steve Wozniak's idea for a personal computer. He saw no opportunity, since they were sure no ordinary person would ever need to use a computer.

Wozniak's ideas were too far outside the company's comfort zone of business and scientific users, but Steve Jobs wasn't ignoring the clues.

I just finished reading a new book, Create the Future: Tactics for Disruptive Thinking, by Trend Hunter CEO Jeremy Gutsche, who outlines his proven methods you can use to break free of the traps that limit future thinking in most companies as they grow and stabilize.

I see these traps all too often in my role as business advisor to small companies, and the larger ones.

Thus I support the following key strategies, recommended in the book, to help your business realize its full potential and keep up with the ever increasing pace of change in the marketplace.

1. Spot the subtle clues that hints of great ideas.

The first challenge is to make time to scan for ideas, filter down to the best ones, and look for patterns. This means talking to your loyal customers, as well as non-customers who are in related market segments. It also helps to bring in outsiders, periodically, to suggest ideas you might be overlooking.

2. Eliminate learned behavior and mental shortcuts.

We are all human, so our creativity gets limited by learned behavior and all the things we do to function as productive adults. One antidote in any business organization is to schedule a monthly "fun day" to foster and reward creative thinking, team bonding, and set the culture for breakthrough ideas.

3. Maintain a sense of urgency and the need to be proactive.

Most entrepreneurs remember the sense of urgency they felt in startup mode, but don't see it in their team today. In stable businesses, you get what you reward, so you must keep up that sense of urgency by establishing metrics for a number of proactive projects, along with expected implementation guidelines, and no failure penalty.

4. Don't allow yourself to get locked into short-term thinking.

In business, you tend to make decisions that get short-term results, not realizing that certain choices can keep you tied to the path you are on and reduce your future potential. You need to push yourself to consciously make decisions that open up options for the future, rather than close them off.

5. Don't let success make you complacent and protective.

Every business needs a balance of hunting for new opportunities, versus farming the results of the market you have won. Too much farming, and you fail to adapt. Many of the most iconic brands suffer from the traps of farming. Maybe it's time to reorder your top 10 priority list.

6. Constantly track changes in your market, and adapt quickly.

As we are bombarded with what's happening today, we fail to forecast tomorrow, because we forget that the pace of change is not simply faster, but accelerating. It helps to track the amount of change in your market, and maintain scenarios to disrupt it or avoid being disrupted.

7. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

New ideas are awkward, because they require you to change. We all have many traps that create discomfort and block us from seeing the potential from change, including unknown risks and hidden costs. Accept that comfort is not a good thing in business, and counter it with the anticipation of success.

Now is the time to be excited as an innovator during the greatest period of change in human history. You, your team, and your kids need to choose to enjoy the enhancements, disruptions, and changes of key technologies that reinvent humanity and business.

You can make it a great time to be alive, or an oppressive burden. I find the former to be a lot more fun and satisfying.

Published on: Mar 11, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.