One of the most common questions organization’s ask is what are the strategic themes that will have the most impact on our business. Those who ask, expect answers like crypto-currency, digital everything or even Donald Trump. But I like to think, it is a much broader answer.
There are three core strategic themes facing organisations today.
Firstly, we are living in times of extraordinary change. No matter where you are or what you do, if you live on earth, you are caught up and are already part of the global revolution. No one can predict this, no one can really understand it, and few can shape it. There are forces at works which there are absolutely no precedent, and I have no idea how anyone or any organisation accurately predict it.
What is distinctive now is the rate and scale of change, which are driven by technological innovation and population growth. Together they’re transforming how we live and work, changing the nature of politics, culture, our society and our environment. Organisations need to understand how change is interconnected and look at the potential outcomes, instead of focusing on specific areas of change.
As an aside, I am constantly surprised about how population growth and the environment never make it to strategy discussions. Other than the World Economic Forum’s recent review, most strategy discussions ignore what the issue of our time is.
We must think differently about an organisations talent and capabilities.
Given the challenges and disruptions organisations face, surely the most profound shift has to be how organisations think about its capability and its talent. In my experience organisations spend more time talking about strategic direction, and very little time talking about its talent or considering what capability is needed. It must be reversed.
I don’t understand why this has occurred, and why organisations seem so reluctant to have this conversation. Organisations seem so eager to understand Millennials, they commission research and read everything published by PWC or EY. Instead, they could simply talk to the Millennials in their organisation and ask them. They hire agencies to drive innovation and creativity when they should nurture and develop innovation and creativity within.
But wait, some will say, we do not have any creative people within our organisation- of course, you do, and perhaps you should see pass your diversity quota.
We must run our organisations differently
Leading a culture of innovation and creativity has radical implications for how organisations are organised, and for styles of leadership.
Surely this must be the case- think about what all leaders know to be true. They know that one of the biggest challenges they face is the increasing complexity of the global environment and that this will only accelerate. They are all concerned about whether their organisation is equipped to cope with this complexity. And they are all concerned about the level of creativity and innovation within their organisation.
If you put all of this together- it must mean that organisations must be run differently.
I think organisations know this; they just don’t know how to do it. Perhaps they rely on outdated 360-degree reviews, or develop leadership courses or even run an innovation forum. But this may not be enough as the underlying thinking, governance or even how the Board works has not changed.
It is no surprise then, the average lifespan of an organisation is decreasing, as illustrated so beautifully below. Life expectancy is increasing; more people are living longer in part due to technology advances. They develop an insatiable appetite for more technology advances, but at the same time organisations can’t cope with this, and they simply disappear. By the way, this graph is out of date; the average life expectancy is now only 14 years.