In 2017 the World Economic Forum identified four main concerns that are keeping leaders awake at night.
One of them was... "Being ready to flex in a world of flux "
That's quite a catchy slogan I thought, though I did have to reassure myself that I knew what 'flux' actually was, one definition being...
"continuous change, passage, or movement"
Yep, that sounds like today's world, so there must be a lot of leadership teams lying awake at night trying to work out how to create a sustainable businesses when it’s "only getting tougher to see what is coming around the bend".
Call it flux, crisis, chaos, or disruption, everything we know about the world of work and the leadership required to navigate it, is being turned on it's head. So much so that according to a study from the John M. Olin School of Business at Washington University in 2015...
“In the next 10 years, 40% of the Fortune 500 companies will be gone”
That is a phenomenal figure and is echoed in How long will your company live for? Considering the size of the flux we face, I find what's shared in this free e-book from TrendHunter profoundly relevant to anyone in a leadership position. Exploiting Chaos - 150 Ways to Spark Innovation During Times of Change
The 'Exploiting Chaos' e-book is described as a toolkit that managers can use to prosper from the 'flux', by moving out of denial and resistance mode, and instead fostering a culture of innovation that supports the creation of great new products and services. If your industry is being 'Uber-ised', and you're not Uber, then this is a must read in my eyes. And if you think your industry won't be 'Uber-ised', then it's even more important that you read it.
Written by Jeremy Gutsche the founder of TrendHunter.com, the world's most popular trend community, it's full of interesting examples and case studies of changing industries - who prospered, who lost out, and why. The document really does do a good job demonstrating how "The world of business is in a constant state of evolution". The examples given, where organisations clung to their core business while new competitors reinvented the market leaving them with nothing, are really powerful.
"Great organizations fade. Fast-moving start-ups step into their place. Your focus should not be on protecting what you have, but rather on adapting to the next big thing."
On that, Jeremy says...
So there is no doubt the world of work is changing, question is, are organisations and their leaders changing fast enough to survive what looks increasingly like a chaotic marketplace?
The other important question the book raises is, is flux/crisis/chaos/disruption a bad thing? Gutsche says history has proven that in times of crisis, or in this case constant disruption, great opportunity is created.
"The impact of crisis is that competitors become mediocre, and the ambitious find ways to grow".
He says crisis creates opportunities like:
The key to adaptation is about creating an environment that is all about accepting change and creating a culture of constant reinvention and 'change as usual'.
"Successful innovators do not get caught up in the turmoil of change. They don’t wait for the world to return to normal. What they do not do is stand still. The time to act is always now. Once you accept the inevitability of perpetual change, you can abandon your quest to gain control, and instead, go with the flow."
To navigate through chaos and be innovative, Gutsche says your organisation needs to be revolutionary in four key areas (perspective, failure, customer obsession and intentional destruction) all of which relate to whether an organisation has the 'right' culture to get the job done.
"The key to navigating chaos lies not in your strategy, but rather in your organizational culture".
It's been said many times that culture eats strategy for breakfast and we see it every day in the work we do for clients. Even the best strategy, and the best will in the world to be more innovative or build a digital future, can die a painful death if company culture is not aligned with that strategy. Because too often the 'that's the way we do things round here' mindset just says NO! Great news is, at ON-Brand Partners we know those mindsets can be changed, and know how to do it.
Have a read of Exploiting Chaos - 150 Ways to Spark Innovation During Times of Change and consider your role in helping to fundamentally rewire your organisation so it can become a 'revolution' and meet the challenges of 'change as usual'? Will it be able to flex with the flux?
The Chief Executives of the world’s largest public companies will shortly receive a letter from the largest investment company in the world - BlackRock. You'll find that letter here.
And instead of demanding greater returns (profits) on their investments BlackRock is demanding something quite different - the need to 'give back' to society.
The demand from Laurence D. Fink, founder and chief executive of the investment firm BlackRock, is they need to contribute to society as well as make profits if they want to receive the support of BlackRock.
“Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.”
Now that is a major milestone in the evolution of modern organisations and a clear indication of what the future of work looks like.
And will those organisations listen? Well considering that BlackRock has an "outsize influence on whether directors are voted on and off boards" we suspect so.
BlackRock’s Message: Contribute to Society, or Risk Losing Our Support - The New York Times
We will all now increasingly see a stronger focus on the purpose of the organisations we work for, and how they not only make good money (because they need to) but also how they play an active role in creating societies we all want to live in.
How well placed is your organisation to have conversations around what giving back means in your context?
This McKinsey article says it all as organisations rush to make themselves more agile, innovative and customer focused in a commercial world where traditional markets are disappearing or being snatched by new competitors.
Click to read Culture for a digital age
The new reality is that nothing is a 'given' anymore and the biggest priority for all organisations is to rapidly build a culture that is fit for their purpose. If you want to know 'how' to do this, then get in touch with one of our team. We welcome the opportunity to discuss how you can build a culture that can thrive in the digital age.
Here's a question...do companies live forever or are they just as mortal as us human beings?
Chances are, like me you've never really thought about it as most big companies seem to keep going and many have been around for as long as we have. Have to admit then, I was pretty surprised when I first read this statistic published by Deloittes which relates to many of the world's biggest companies.
"The average life expectancy of a Fortune 500 company has declined from around 75 years, less than half a century ago, to less than 15 years today". (Deloitte Shift Index - Richard Foster)
Fifteen years! That's all the worlds big companies can expect, on average, to be around for!? That's astounding really and reflects the fact that if an organisation doesn't fully embrace change, ongoing, all-the-time and accept it as not only inevitable, but something to be relished and encouraged, then the game could well be up pretty soon. Of course many of these 'disappearances' could be merger and acquisition related but again reinforcing that change is constant.
Does this prove that the rate of company, product, or service redundancy in our world, is increasing at a pace we have yet to fully comprehend? Deloitte say "The world around us is changing. Long-term trends, driven by public policy and the exponential rate of change in the digital infrastructure, are fundamentally altering the global business environment." I'm sure we all feel this now - nothing is sacred.
Do you think ten years ago, anyone in the taxi industry would have thought that tech company Uber could steal such a large piece of their industry from them?
This surely means every organisation needs to 'fundamentally alter' the way they think and operate. And I would say the ability to rapidly change mindsets to foster innovation, is the biggest challenge facing any organisation. (Here's an interesting piece on why IBM has survived for so long Why Did IBM Survive? - Forbes). And like everything in the business world today, it all comes down to culture.
So, is your organisation ready to reinvent itself, or in need of an undertaker?