I hardly need the (alleged) prophetic powers of Nostradamus to tell you that 2023 is going to be a year of volatility, disruption, and economic uncertainty. Forrester’s Predictions dig into what we expect to play out in more detail. What’s more important is not what’s likely to happen but what you do about it.

It would be easy for leaders to default to defensive behaviours in tough times: Cut budgets, downsize, take less risks, and go slower. But I’m going to argue that this is the wrong approach. And I’m going to do it through the medium of sword fighting.

Wait, what?

Indulge me … if you’ve read my blog before, you’ve probably worked out that I have a keen interest in history — a strong enough interest to get dressed up in various historical costumes, attend reenactment events, learn random phrases (mostly insults) in Old Norse, and, more recently, to study the long-forgotten art of historical fencing.

Much of what we know about the art of medieval fencing comes from a limited set of Italian and German masters who wrote down and even illustrated their teachings. One such master was a German by the name of Johannes Liechtenauer. Far form being the clumsy, brutish brawl that Hollywood would have you imagine, Liechtenauer’s art is bold, focused, subtle and precise. One piece of advice he gives is summarized as “Seize the vor.” The vor is the “before”; it’s the first move — what you do as you approach your opponent to claim the initiative. It’s often a bold move to position yourself as advantageously as possible. It requires that you read your opponent and respond to their movements; executed with intent, it sets you up for success.

I’m usually wary of too much Sun Tzu “The Art of War”-style business advice because, let’s face it, we aren’t actually at work to fight battles. But in this instance, I feel that the metaphor stands. The pandemic showed us that, in many cases, businesses that understood their customers, seized the initiative, and acted swiftly were rewarded with strong customer loyalty.

We are in the early stages of planning CX EMEA 2023, and this concept of taking the initiative, of targeted innovation as the answer to tough times, is core to how we are building out the agenda. We’ve called it “Bold Focus.” Our keynotes will explore three linked topics:

  • First, act with empathy to deeply understand your customers’ needs.
  • Next, bring cross-functional teams together to design and build compelling experiences.
  • Lastly, be bold enough to pivot when your KPIs show that things aren’t working.

Our tracks will build on these concepts, with speeches, hands-on “learn a skill” sessions, practitioner stories, and networking for CX, B2C marketing, and digital leaders to delve deeper and meet both Forrester analysts and peers.

Save the date: 10–11 May 2023. I hope to see you there.

PS — The “super early bird” rate expires on January 6. Book your seat now to take advantage of this great discount.