A new wave of disruption is around the corner. It spells enormous change not just for management but also for employees in terms of their relevance. Under the cloak of improving productivity, advanced technology promises to make more money for corporations but secretly, it is positioning itself to replace employees in their jobs. McKinsey’s Michael Chui (July 2015) and Jeff Greene, the US property billionaire, who hosted his second Managing the Disruption conference, have expressed worrisome perspectives on the topic of job destruction which makes thoughtful reading.

The elephant in the room

Technology has gained a positive reputation for itself socially. Uber and Airbnb are classic examples of how apps have shifted power to consumers. Machine learning predictions are able to bring down suicide rates and diagnose illnesses with rapid accuracy, which threatens to replace diagnostic jobs in a way we had never imagined.

These visible examples hint towards a lot more happening fast. Nobody knows when or where the disruption to an organization sector or market will come from. But mapping the pace at which disruption has knocked down big corporations, the rule is that if you can see it, it is too late to change. With the culture of disconnection between management and employees, the handful of executive decision-makers at the senior level of an organization will likely not be able to implement change quick enough to adapt to the new forces of change. How long can executives delude themselves into thinking that there is no threat to their segment?

Awareness is the first step

Identifying and preparing for challenges and identifying opportunities in all this ambiguity takes a different way of perceiving reality. It needs immersion into the world of speed thinking, collective mindsets and insightful intelligence. It requires every employee thinking collaboratively about “What if” scenarios and “how can we prepare for it”. Inclusiveness is key. “Is everyone in our organization driven to, or even encouraged to think innovatively about their own future?”

‘We do Innovation here’

Innovation is not a product or a department. The statement “We do innovation here” is meaningless. Coming up with a new product or feature for the company portfolio or a new service offering is not innovative enough. We are talking big BIG disruption. Something where passive reactionary responses managed in a project-related management spreadsheet will not cut it. For the pace of change to be viable, innovation will need to be driven at an organizational level for it to have any impact on survivability. It is time for leadership and indeed all employees to open their mind to possibilities?

Asking the right questions

Take a step back. How participative and visibly devolved is our leadership; “Do we have multiple and diverse self-leading teams who can manage multiple scenarios unfolding at the same time?” Do we need to rethink our organizational systems; “Where are our barriers of organizational bureaucracy and political barriers which stifle communication and collaboration”.

And the key question: “Are we measuring Innovatability?”

Measure what counts

The question on measurement is a difficult one. Organisations are not going to move away from return-on-investment calculations but it is important to measure what counts. Traits like emotional intelligence, political astuteness, team-working, adaptability, flexibility and networking start becoming important to nurture multiple perspectives. People with different mindsets display varying levels of these traits.

Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford, draws a distinction between people with fixed and growth mindsets. Fixed mindset people do innovate but their focus on success limits the perception in their abilities. Growth mindset people understand that through effort and persistence they can build any capability. The difference in mindsets become visible during team building, idea discussions, assumption surfacing, negotiating validity and relevance, collaboration, entrepreneurial drive and managing innovation projects. Team members who interact regularly are well place to assess and compare peer performance both in relation to context as well as to each other.

Which leads me to ask; “When did a manager-led top-down performance assessment done once a year contribute to employee engagement and this innovatability?

Nobody left behind

It is no longer sufficient for leadership to do their bit for engagement just using subsidized employee gym memberships and employee cash rewards. The impending wave of disruption will affect everyone’s jobs in the organization. Technology implementation strategies need to be underpinned with the generation of a culture of innovative thinking, changing mindsets and new ways of working to help existing employees tap into their strengths and re-engage with their organisation. Culture change is daunting but leaders who see this as an opportunity can reap great rewards when the big wave hits.

Next…….we will explore how innovatability plays a key role in the Human Innovation Factory mindset.

 

Vikram Millns is an Innovation and Transformation Consultant. With a long career in innovation, he helps people and teams re-engage with their organisation through the development of an innovative mindset. With an MBA and Masters degrees in Chemistry and Polymer Technology, he has 20 years of experience working with Startups, SME’s and large corporates in Asia-Pacific, Europe, UK and the US. He can be contacted at vikram.millns@gmail.com