Gene Therapy for Business?

I wrote recently about business life cycles and our unwillingness to accept them – in particular the death end of them. We get really attached to current success, or even just acceptability, and look to defend it. We resist ideas that might upset the balance, or indicate radical change as anomalies, when in reality they offer huge opportunity.

There is a great article just published by BCG. It argues, cogently, that there is no such thing as “Corporate DNA”. Businesses don’t just evolve naturally, they need confident action. They cite businesses like GE, Siemens and Apple who have forced change in their business, abandoning obsolescing business models before they became a liability. They anticipated (but had probably not identified) the likes of Lenovo, which in 30 years has gone from a $25,000 start up in a Guard House, to a $39 billion business operating in 60 countries in 30 years.The article emphasises the inevitability of increased volatility as technology continues to have it’s way, and the corresponding need for business (R)evolution if companies are to survive.

What it does not say, but I think is implicit, is what this does to the business / employee relationship. I suggest it makes it far more honest, even if far more challenging.

We have been used to employers as “guardians”, where we develop a tacit relationship where we bring our skills and perform, and they look after us. This has not been the case for many years (although the memory lingers, fostered by Job Ads and HR speak)

Today, it is simple, and honest. Employment is a relationship of convenience, forged by matching needs of skill and requirement, for as long as it lasts – which is getting ever shorter.

For those of us who sit in the wake of corporates, it is a real wake up call. As businesses, or individuals, we are as healthy as our ability to match emerging requirements makes us.

Success yesterday, and today, is comforting, but seducing. As the rate of change accelerates, we become obsolescent quickly unless we learn and develop on our own terms – not other people’s.

As individuals, we need to adopt different mindsets. Of curiosity, “constructive paranoia” and adaptability. We need to manage a paradox – to be great at what we do today, secure in the knowledge it will soon be redundant.

Our futures are a function of mindset, a business or career model that knows what to do next, without necessarily knowing where it will lead, and the motivation and purpose that will drive us through the challenges these changing conditions will give us.

The time for being a business or career tourist – going where others have already been, is past. It’s time to be an explorer.

We need to find out how to modify our business and career DNA.

The Asynchronous Business

“We note that the use of unstable business processes is on the rise. Unstable business processes are those that may change their execution from moment to moment — ones that cannot be relied on to operate the same every time. Some call these asynchronous processes or ad hoc processes, but whatever the name, they can be unstable and very agile. And make no mistake, this instability will be deliberate.” Top 10 Strategic Predictions for 2015 and Beyond: Digital Business Is Driving ‘Big Change’

As I work with businesses to look at what lies beyond their immediate comfort zones, the more compelling it gets. As we have considered some of the scenarios, and the predictions, the more two things become really clear:

  1. That the predictions will be specifically inaccurate, but generally right.
  2. Their combined potential is changing everything we rely on today.

The range of well informed predictions, from the view that by 2018, digital business will require 50% fewer business process workers and 500% more key digital business jobs, compared with traditional models, to the prediction that by 2017, a significant and disruptive digital business will be launched that was conceived by a computer algorithm are more than food for thought.

The part that most caused me to pause was the text at the top of this text. Technology is giving us the capability, now, to create processes that change for each iteration. They do not follow the same process twice – each process is adapted to reflect incoming real time data. An example would be sending a text message to a person who has just walked past the store front for the third time offering a personalised discount.

When we combine this with the rise of the intelligent algorithms that are forecast to replace the vast majority of routine professional processing, from medicine to underwriting, representing around 90% of the jobs by 2020, our assumptions about our futures – as individuals and businesses, needs questioning.

The reality is of course exciting. Providing;

  • We home in on those things that we do that cannot we replicated by automation – relationships, imagination, creativity, connection, and purpose; and secondly. Understanding and leveraging the individual genius each of us possesses.
  • We are prepared to improvise and adapt in real time. To move away from dependence on scripts, roles, processes and the like to be able to use our own genius “in the moment” to react generatively to whats happening.

It’s like the best improv comedy – you have to deal with what you’re given, add to it, and pass it on.

It will require whole new approaches – from leadership, to learning, and for many the end of management as we know it today.

And of course, like the best improv, choosing who you’re on the stage with.

We’re in the middle of the transition from industrial mindset economies, to connection, growth mindset economies. From Linear, to Fluid.

If you’re ready, it will be a laugh………

Not Knowing – a critical business skill

There’s an interesting, and I think important theme emerging. As we tiptoe out of the caution of the last seven years, and entertain the idea of ambitious business growth, rather than survival and incremental growth, the rules have changed.

We are discovering the limitations of expertise.

Expertise and knowledge are great in relatively static conditions, and we come to rely on the “schemata” – ways of thinking, built on experience, that govern what we take notice of. Expertise gets us promoted, makes our businesses work and allows us to train people to do things. And that is now a problem.

Almost all of the clients I work with are trying to deal with a paradox. How do they make the most of today, knowing that it is becoming obsolescent – but not knowing with any precision what is coming next.

We like certainty (uncertainty, unless it’s nature is properly understood, generated the same reactions as fear), but in order to thrive tomorrow we need to develop confidence in “Not Knowing”. (If you want more, Google “Flawed but Willing” by Khurshed Dehnugara, and “Not Knowing” by D’Souza)

When we can lean into not knowing, we can lose the fear of being wrong, and fully engage the real capabilities we need going forward – imagination, creativity and collaboration. We can find allies in adjacent areas. We can reimagine.

“Experts” are useful for what you do today, but a liability if they are relied on to guide you into tomorrow. they don’t know either. Your best guide to tomorrow is you.

We are in the middle of massive change that will see that majority of routine accounting, legal, insurance and medical skills replaced by technology. Accountants, Lawyers and the rest will not disappear – we’ll just need fewer of them, with deeper understanding of and imagination regarding the field.

Success tomorrow will be driven by real purpose, joy in what we do, creativity, and the ability to imagine and explore with the confidence of a four year old.

At GrowHouse, we are working with clients on how to explore and profitably occupy this emerging territory. If you’d like information mail me  and we can talk more.