TagsAgile Apple ARI Artificial Intelligence BBC Micro Big Data Biomimicry Business Business Models Business Transformation CIO Cloud Computing Collaboration Connected World Data Development Digital Identity Education Enterprise Social Networking Firm of The Future HTML 5 IaaS Identity Security & Risk Management Innovation Linux Management Mobility New ways of working Paralympic Games Privacy Regulation Research SaaS Security Service Service Desk Social Media Social Networking Software Supply Chain Sustainability TechCity Technology Transformation Virtual Avatars Vision VMware Wellbeing @ work Working in IT Zero email
Firm of The Future: Catalysts for Transformation
Make no mistake, the transformation from a Firm of The Past to a Firm of The Future is challenging, especially whilst operating amidst of a ‘perfect storm’ of social, economic and environmental volatility.
Successful transformation requires courage, not fear; it is not for the faint-hearted. The more we understand and explore our own business environments and wider business ecosystems (as well as our own inner motives and values) the more we find pathways for success – learning through doing, growth through experience, success through failure. Looking around us in nature and human nature, we find enablers to assist us; catalysts which aid and optimise the transformational journey.
Four primary Catalysts for Transformation are: Collaboration, Innovation, Education and Inspiration.
Let’s explore each in turn:
There has been much written recently about collaboration and co-operation. In fact, this decade (2010-2020) has been referred to as the decade of co-operation, a time when business executives recognise the power of collaboration and co-operation over competition. It is a myth that nature has evolved over millions of years of combat and competitive struggle; more its evolution is down to networking and partnerships. Of course there has been, and always will be competition in life, yet life’s evolution benefits far more from collaboration than it does from competition. So is the same in our business environment, present and future. We are witnessing a shift in mentality and behaviour from the Firm of The Past approach of ‘dog eat dog’ competition between businesses, business units, and employees to the Firm of The Future approach of collaboration across multi-functional teams, departments, organisations and business ecosystems: interconnectedness rather than separateness, collaboration rather than competition.
Collaboration encourages the transcending of traditional Firm of The Past boundaries used to atomise and separate teams, departments, business units and organisations; it interconnects artificial separations in business, encouraging sharing, creativity, empowerment and innovation. The more we recognise the interconnectedness of the business environment – viewing it as a web of interdependent relationships within interconnected business ecosystems – the more we realise that collaboration (not competition) is key to our resilience and survival in these volatile times. In nature, which has been dealing with dynamic change for over 3.8bn years, we find it is the species that collaborate and interconnect more with their respective ecosystems which are more resilient to changes in their environment; the ecosystem they live in becomes more resilient the more interconnected the stakeholders are within that ecosystem – ditto for business.
‘Cooperation is the architect of creativity throughout evolution, from cells to multi-cellular creatures to anthills to villages to cities. Without cooperation there can be neither construction nor complexity in evolution.’ , Martin Nowak with Roger Highfield, Super Cooperators.
An example to illustrate this shift in business mentality is the evolution of supply chain management > value chain management > business ecosystem resilience.
Rather than treating an organisation as a supplier that needs managing and controlling, we treat the organisation as a partner within an ecosystem where synergises are created that benefit the whole as well as the parts. Rather than viewing supplier management as a linear chain, we view it as a web of interconnected relationships within a vibrant business ecosystem.
Another example to illustrate this shift is the evolution in approach of human resource management > employee engagement > stakeholder empowerment. Rather than treating the employee as an asset to be managed and controlled, we treat the employee as a stakeholder within a community of differing, interdependent stakeholders empowered to create synergies through mutually beneficial relationships with other stakeholders. Such collaboration between stakeholders significantly improves creativity enabling sharing between people with diverse perspectives on a problem. This helps embed a culture more open to dynamic change. It is the openness of connections across, within and beyond the organisation that drive the opportunities for value enhancement and builds strategic resilience from the ground up for the organisation and the business ecosystem within which it thrives. If any stakeholder seeks to undercut, exploit or compete in some way, the value of the relationship is undermined, in turn reducing the opportunity for synergies and the resilience of the business ecosystem and so the resilience of the contributing stakeholders within that ecosystem. Of course, such collaboration requires trust, mutual understanding and shared values.
Increased market volatility brings with it the need to create, develop and adapt new products and services under time-pressured conditions. In short, innovation is a critical success factor for the Firm of The Future – organisations able to innovate effectively, time and again shall win out over organisations which struggle to adapt. Innovation is fundamental to evolution in all walks of life, not just in business, but for all living species experiencing the need to change in times of challenge. The good news is human nature is opportunistic and curious by nature; it is in our genes to seek out new and better ways of operating. The Firm of The Future creates the conditions conducive for creativity by building a culture that facilitates, empowers, unlocks and supports people’s creative potential; an organisation which encourages people to overcome fears and inhibitions, where the work dynamic is of constant evolution, where failure is not criticised but embraced for what it is – an opportunity to learn, adapt and evolve.
Of course, collaboration greatly helps innovation by sharing the burden of innovation on a wider group of stakeholders. As in nature, organisms evolve best within diverse groups of interconnected species, so does an organisation’s ability to innovate improve with collaboration amongst diverse stakeholder groups. Whilst economies of scale may bring the benefits of lower unit cost of production, economies of scope bring benefits of increased synergies through greater connections between diverse stakeholder groups, hence improved innovation. Balancing the benefits of economies of scale with the benefits of economies of scope is crucial for the survival of the Firm of The Future.
Embracing new approaches to ways of operating is facilitated through an understanding and trust in what, why and how change affects the stakeholders and their respective communities. Ensuring all stakeholder communities are engaged, aware and educated in the transformational journey of the Firm of The Future greatly optimises the transformative process. The deeper the understanding, the greater the sense of belonging to the transformation – not just being aware of the changes coming but really empathising with what it means, why it is happening and how it affects the ecosystem of stakeholders involved. This deeper understanding not only helps the transformation within the department or wider organisation, but also across the interconnected network of stakeholders which the organisation is part of – its business ecosystem. We are all being exposed to increased volatility, our suppliers, associates, investors, shareholders, regulators, unions, employees, leaders, customers, etc. By educating individuals to a level of true understanding in the values and direction of the transformational journey, these individuals become proponents for change; they are able to educate other stakeholders they interact with as part of their daily business. The understanding of the transformation, the why and how of it, becomes viral if it is grounded in trust and truth. Hence, the values of the organisation need to deeply resonate with the stakeholders, to strike a chord of belief beyond the goal of short term profit maximisation.
Keeping stakeholders in the dark or only partially aware will only come back to haunt and in turn water down the effectiveness of the transformational journey. This does not mean to say that complete clarity of where the organisation shall be in one year or two years time from now is needed, no it is more that people truly understand the reasons for change, the drivers for transformation, the value-set of the organisation and so understand the general direction it is taking to navigate these volatile times. The transformation is more about the journey than the destination, with plots on the course helping to steer a course through choppy water, whilst remaining open and flexible to changes in wind, swells and tide. A Firm of The Future has a culture that is rooted in values, where leadership is values-based and where the awareness of right and wrong behaviour is second nature. Organisations that encourage the right mentality, by living and breathing their values, ensure that openness, awareness, acceptance and motivation for transformation follow.
We are entering unchartered waters. We are on the cusp of major transformative change, socially, economically and environmentally. Few business leaders have witnessed volatility of the likes we are now faced with. It is as if we are walking in a dark forest at night with only candle light to illuminate a path ahead of us, shuffling forward inch by inch trying to avoid unseen dangers. The candle light allows for vision which brings comfort that our steps ahead are not too perilous. The light and vision it creates act as inspiration that guides us along a sensible path, it gives us a sense of safety as we navigate the volatility ahead; keeping us moving forward even if we are weary and fearful. Inspiration can come from any and all of us – whether it a visionary CEO committing to zero-emissions by 2020, a new sustainable product line exceeding revenue expectations, a neighbouring plant successfully implementing new sustainable technologies, or a colleague taking time out from a pressing schedule to brainstorm with another in a time of need.
We do not have to be inspired by visionaries or great leaders, in these transformational times, we need to inspire ourselves and the ones around us by simply walking-the-talk and being true to the values of the organisations and communities we serve. The culture of The Firm of The Future encourages inspiration through the sharing of inspirational stories and case studies from within and outside the organisation – the more we look for examples of inspiration within our own business ecosystems, the more we find, and in turn the more we inspire ourselves to be the change we want to see.
“We cannot do great things, only small things with great love.”, Mother TeresaTweet