Leading for Profit or Purpose?

The purpose of a business at its core is no different today than it was back in the days of the great traders of the Indus Valley 1000’s of years ago, for example. To these traders it was simply, I have something that you want which I trade for something I want, or for $. Why? To support myself, my family and community. Trade has always been at the forefront of innovation which has propagated new things that people wanted and have traded since time ad infinitum.

From the 1950’s it seems that the essence or purpose of ‘trade’ was replaced by volume. The focus was no longer upon what I produce or trade for my tribe who want to trade with me, but rather on volume and as much profit as possible. Fast track to today in our digitised global world of shareholders who are from all over the world, not delivering as much as possible means unhappy shareholders and bad press. For these businesses the focus is on getting more and more sales, rather than focusing on delivering excellence, which means ensuring that the people delivering your product or service can do so and are supported and recognised for the value they add.  For the profit focused business it is about keeping the shareholders happy, which includes family members in some family owned businesses. There are many exceptions to this thankfully, and most smaller businesses are still traders – value is the focus.

When there is a focus at the ‘top’ within a business on crating as much profit as possible, what tends to happen is that the pressure to ‘deliver’ is passed on to ‘operations’ and that pressure increases the further down the line you go. This does not sit favorably with the majority of operational employee’s, who come to work to deliver value because they want to feel good about what they do. They care and are motivated MORE about what they do in delivering the product or service to a customer, than they do about making profits for the business.

Yes granted making profits for the business is important as it keeps them in a job. However, they are employed to ‘do something’ in the delivery chain – that is what they are good at and is what ‘rings their bell’. What occurs with an overemphasis on ‘profits’ is that operational people don’t feel valued. They don’t feel valued for what they do, their specific unique contribution and why they turn up to work each day. People believe it or not are really only concerned with their own contribution. Sure they are part of a team, but really the bit that matters most to them is their bit, the part they play. Trust me this is a great thing for businesses – those businesses who are most successful today are so because they get this and they leverage it. They are the employer’s of choice, the businesses where time fly’s because people are getting what they want, they feel good because they matter and know that what they contribute matters and is valued.

We all need to ‘feel’ valued, and to feel that what we contribute at work matters. What people actually want at the end of each day is to go home with the feeling that what they just spent 7+ hours doing, was valued and mattered. In businesses that are purpose driven rather than profit driven, the way things are done around here – their culture – is different. Managers or people leaders know that their primary default role is to support and acknowledge their people. Their prime focus and main job is to recognise their people’ and acknowledge their efforts, with results usually being that excellence is delivered on time every time.

However, in a profit focused business – these same ‘people’ managers are more worried about the pressure of volume and increasing the return for shareholders, and in many cases their remuneration is linked to the bottom line. Recognising and acknowledging their people takes a back seat – something that they do if they get around to it, because they are too busy meeting the pressure from above.

What we find is that these business have to create systems, and processes to make sure that people managers recognise and reward their people – it is almost as though it gets in the way of business – “you mean I have to take time to say well done?”  To the purpose driven business – which by the way all employees want to work for, the very idea of this is madness. The irony is that profit comes from purpose, it doesn’t work the other way around.

Time to throw out the crystal ball

I enjoy reading HBR article’s and find that the majority are well written, the point argued with relevant and compelling examples and case study’s, leaving the reader feeling as though they have something to take away from the investment of their time reading the article. However, sometimes there are headlines that catch your attention and you look forward to what promises to be some enlightened wisdom, yet are sadly disappointed. In some cases the advice is self-serving for the author with no semblance of relativity to the real world, as was the case with an article regarding leaders and decision making I read recently.

Decision making in the modern day business has changed as much as technology over the past decade and a half. This article would never have been published if it was a tech article in a tech publication, as it was pretty much saying that the analogue phone is the best communication device to meet modern demands.

However, to cut the author some slack this line is a bit of a clue as to where collective thinking still is with decision making:

“In today’s complex, fluid, interdependent world, none of us can predict the future with total accuracy”

None of us can predict the future with total accuracy?

Isn’t the very nature of uncertainty – unpredictability?

I was floored with this statement and realised that we have a long way to go in getting ‘comfortable’ with uncertainly. We are still so entrenched in industrial age thinking with business decision making and how it should work. In the industrial age things moved slowly and tried and tested methods of ‘predicting’ likely scenario’s with market and customer behaviours usually worked a treat to ‘assure’ business decision makers that they would ‘get it right’. Not so now, nor for the past 10+ years – so why on earth are we still finding ‘advice’ in one of the most reputable business journals globally, straight out of the ‘olden days’. I worked through the ‘baby bathwater’ thing with this article thinking perhaps there are some ageless gems in here, sadly lacking.

The other thing is that we still think far too long term with decisions – another relic of the industrial age, that is still stuck in the business psyche. Getting back to the obvious in our VUCA world – compromised ‘future predictability’ – why is it we seemingly deny this and continually ‘fight for certainty’?

So how do we get more comfortable with uncertainty?

We have to change our expectations, get rid fear of getting it wrong, and find a new way. Changing expectations is the easy part – face reality. We all know that in a customer driven world the ‘control baton’ is no longer in the hands of businesses – this is not such a scary concept. Fear of getting it wrong – this is another relic of industrial age business structures and thinking where people were ‘engaged’ on a time based model with outputs to be achieved and failure to do so was met with punitive measures meant to control and standardise output. How to overcome this? Shift to output based work practices which will radically reduce error rates by default.

The second part of ‘fear of getting it wrong’ permeates the cultures of most of our organisations – from workers at the front line to top decision makers, and requires a whole new way of thinking and behaving. Fear of getting it wrong at its core is a desire to be ‘in control’ – a natural and instinctive human behaviour. The irony is that this ‘fear feeds itself’ and the more things speed up and become uncertain, the ‘reaction’ is fear largely of loss of control (primal animal thing – that BTW, we humans are). Decision making is compromised as we are not designed to make decision’s when in fear mode. Not only are we likely to make ‘reactive decisions’, but the process of decision making is stalled in the fear state’ – think of the rabbit in the headlights of the car – they freeze.

The learned gentleman who wrote the HRB article suggested his 20+ year old formula or ‘script’ was the panacea for making decisions when under pressure. There is an absence of ‘cognition’ and rational thinking in the fear/pressured state, so an industrial age ‘script’ is like handing a person having a heart attack a book about healthy living – won’t work so well. To deal with the ‘fear’ and pressure – again two things. The first is to ‘let go’ of this unrealistic, redundant need to have control over the future. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow or next week or next year. This will do incredible things to our mental mind state. People will be free and relaxed with open flowing minds.

This leads me to part two – when are minds are ‘free, aware and open’ we can make decisions and moreover they will be good decisions, the best for the moment. A remarkable thing occurs when our mindspace is freed up. We engage our whole intelligence, we see what is in front of us, we evaluate it from our past experiences and learning’s, we compare it to new things we may have read about or heard about (they do get stored), and we make an informed, intelligent and the most accurate decision for that moment.

The irony is that the world moves so fast and the scenario where that decision was made will most likely change within a short period of time. So the decision is adjusted and adapted to meet this new scenario – and it will be the right for a short time only, until the next change occurs.

This type of thinking and decision making is for want of a better term ‘just in time’ decision making – where the decision is made for now, with full knowledge that there will need to be an adjustment really soon as things move in our fluid world. This process works a treat with the right ‘people data’ systems in place – the right information at the right time to know what to do.

Slow down – that’s how we do things around here

I had a very interesting conversation recently regarding continuous improvement and efficiency within the public sector with a people improvement professional – lets call him Jake. We were talking about how efficiency was perceived by staff and how the success of initiatives introduced as ‘good idea’s to make things more efficient was ascertained. Jake had just resigned and had come to the realisation that for most of the past 5 years where he was involved in delivering improvement initiatives, there had been a complete disconnect between the improvement initiative and the overall purpose of the organisation (to provide service to the public). More alarmingly he realised that over the period of 5 years, not one of these initiatives had carried through over time nor was there any clear reporting on the outcomes.

When I asked Jake why these ‘initiatives’ were delivered in the first place, he explained that it was more political in terms of who came up with the idea and what their (or their departments) agenda was. He explained that is was more about ‘giving people’ kudos for their idea rather than for any strategic or business imperative where the initiative could make a demonstrable genuine improvement. I found this to be quite extraordinary particularly given that this was the public purse and that this division of the public sector was the largest, the most expensive where there are gross shortages with so many services.

This is half the story, I asked Jake about the ‘various departments’ within departments and what their purpose was. It seems that EFT positions are created because of some perceived need, not a strategic or evidence based need but rather to run one of these initiatives for example. Once the initiative was completed (or not as in many cases) these newly created EFT people would stay – we don’t like to get rid of EFT positions was Jake’s response.

So what do these people do? I asked. Not very much apparently. A further factor that had contributed to Jake deciding to leave was that increasingly ‘work’ was on a go slow. Upon explanation he said if you are ‘efficient’ and work fast you are going against the grain and pressured to slow down. Jake’s interpretation was that over the 5 year period of recruiting additional EFT employees to roll out an ‘initiative’ and then retaining that person following the cessation of the initiative, had resulted in a significant number of people who were employed with no real job. So they were ‘given things to do’. This was usually something that some other ‘department or group’ was doing just with a different label as the left hand had no idea what the right hand was doing. So therefore in order to keep these people occupied in some manner of speaking – work processes had slowed down markedly.

Jake recognised that he no longer fit the ‘mould’ of the sector as he was efficient and enthusiastic and constantly seeking purposeful ways to do things more effectively and efficiently. He found the practice of deliberate ‘go slow’ to be abhorrent, hence finding himself with no choice but to leave. I asked Jake if he could see a way for the public sector organisation to break out of this nexus? He was not optimistic suggesting it had become ingrained in the culture of the way they did things.

Decision by committee is annihilating business effectiveness

I felt compelled to write about this following a raft of conversations with various people over the past few weeks where they were venting about this issue. One senior manager, lets call him Jarrod was really disheartened as he was describing how this had played out in his organisation. Jarrod’s role had innovation attached to the title and he was an enthusiastic, intelligent forward thinker and struck me as an extremely resourceful person capable of seeing the bigger picture along with the parts – just the person you would want as an innovator for your business.

Jarrod had been working on developing an innovative process in the professional services organisation he worked for as Business Improvement and Innovation Manager, which would free up the double handling of components of the business process causing considerable problems. He had done his research, established a watertight business case as to the cost of this double handling, along with an anticipated ROI if resolved. He floated the idea and business case with the CEO and CFO and they agreed in principle, however said ‘you will need to get the managers of operations, quality, safety, HR, sales and marketing on board’.

Eight months and interminable meetings, re-drafts, expert discussions and negotiations later – his proposal was canned. He was so devastated that he was looking for another job. I was curious as to what in his view had been the primary factor that lead to this ‘good idea’ not being taken up. Jarrod’s response was ‘committee’. In elaborating he explained how each of the managers (who really didn’t have expertise in innovation) wanted to put their stamp on the process. He explained that early in the process he thought this was coming from a genuine commitment to efficiency and improvement for people and the business overall.

He explained that about 2 months in, he began to see that the focus of the ‘meetings’ became more about the ‘ego’ of the person making suggestions and their desire to be seen as important and making a ‘valuable’ contribution rather than the intent of the project and the overall benefit to everyone in the business. This, he explained ended up being ridiculous and likened it to one of those team games where people end up failing to solve problems because they didn’t listen to each other and failed to stick with the purpose of the exercise. He said there were one or two ‘powerful’ people in the group who succeeded in ‘altering’ the project to such a point where it had no semblance of its original intent or capacity to achieve the outcome required.

I asked Jarrod why he didn’t take more of a leadership role in keeping the approval process on track and rein in ‘wayward personalities’ with alternate agenda’s? He said he tried, but consistently found that he was out argued. He described the process as doing his head in (he used other words) and that he felt that what he should have done was sought input from the other managers in writing at the start of the process – how can you contribute to this solution? – rather than starting the meeting process.

What was most incredible about this experience was that Jarrod being the savvy business person he was had kept a running log of the costs/waste, from hours spent in meetings, his salary for 25% of the eight month period, the loss due to the doubling handling which had worsened and the fact that he was leaving the organisation as a result – the number was staggering.

Sadly this is a common story within businesses – it is almost like the ‘do nothing’ approach has taken hold by default. Whist the decision by committee is occurring more and more often with good initial intentions, the real issue is lack of leadership, largely driven by ‘fear’ in terms of ‘consequences’ real or imagined, of getting the decision wrong. Jarrod said that he was out argued by the dissenters within the committee. Had he perhaps been a stronger leader, prepared to back himself more and ask for his CEO to support him, things may have been different. However the real concern lies with the CEO – where was his support for Jarrod and the business he was responsible for?

Women national team synchronized swimming performing at olympic games

Women national team synchronized swimming performing at olympic games

Who is more IMPORTANT, leading edge thinkers or leading edge adopters?

History is littered with creative, innovative thinkers who were ahead of their time. Sadly, in so many cases their creative contributions are only recognised posthumously. The more well-known of these cases are with artists, Van Gogh as a most tragic story. Creativity as a concept is associated more with the arts than with other advances in humanity. However creativity at its essence is a different way of thinking. It is an ability to take a ‘problem’ or limitation’ (efficiency within our organisations for example) and project to a future state and develop a new way of ‘doing’ that eradicates the problem. That in an of itself is one part of the process. Creators also connect the dots from that future state back to the current state and devise a process to bring those for whom the problem exists, towards the future state solving the problem.

This is where it gets tough.

Creating solutions is the job of creative thinkers, however the implementing and achievement of resolution of the problem, is the job of creative adopters. 

We have a gross shortage of enabled creative adopters currently. The world is ‘screaming out’ for these people to step up. Why are they not stepping up?


Fear of getting it wrong, fear of perceived consequences, fear of losing face with their peers, fear of the shareholders reactions, fear of it impacting their careers and the list goes on. At such a time in history where relentless change is hurled at us on seemingly a daily basis – never before has the need for ‘creative adopters’ in our organisations to step up, been more urgent.

What we need are fearless leaders who find the ‘creative adopters’ within their organisations, every organisation has them. They must be enabled to do what comes naturally to them, implementing new better ways of doing things. These fearless leaders need to support their creative adopters with a team of ‘domestiques’ who will rally around them and not allow others to ‘finger point’ if at first they don’t succeed – ‘failure is a whole other post’. Seriously – how did we get to the point of ‘mistakes’ are a capital offense in our organisations????

Poignantly – the Tour de France is a great lesson to us. The GC (winners) potentials are the creative thinkers – they cannot win this race without their ‘domestiques’ creative adopters – PERIOD. Once again sport gives us a road map for creating success.

I was born a creative thinker (99% on the creative index) just as people are born artists, and solutions come to me like a prolific artist. However, these solutions are completely useless without ‘creative adopters’. I meet them all the time and have a list as long of my arm of all these extraordinary people who are currently constrained and champing at the bit to be what they were born to be – creative adopters.

Creative adopters are INFINITELY more important than the creative thinkers – the yang does not exist without the yin. Our organisations will become efficient and keep evolving in synchrony with the changes in the market when we enable our ‘creative adopters’

Ironically the fears preventing enabling ‘creative adopters’ to produce their magic are exacerbated by Busy Brain Syndrome which locks our minds into negative – imagine the gear shift in a car, BBS locks us into Park – our creative adopters are in PARK – going nowhere.

Going viral marketing and propaganda or brainwashing communication concept as a lit match lighting a group of other volatile matches shaped as human heads as a symbol of the fast speed of social media network distribution and hype.

Going viral marketing and propaganda or brainwashing communication concept as a lit match lighting a group of other volatile matches shaped as human heads as a symbol of the fast speed of social media network distribution and hype.

Aware Leaders make a difference by default

I had the privilege to attend an event last week run by three of the best speakers in this country. The event was about making a difference – I was initially skeptical as there seems to be a fair bit of ‘lip service’ paid to ‘making a difference’ these days.

Thankfully my skepticism was totally unfounded – the event was truly inspiring and the key take out was, “what do your actions and endeavors do for the people you interact with”. What this means is ‘how do your interactions leave people feeling’?

Do people feel empowered, enthused, motivated and excited by interacting with you? Or do they feel ‘shafted, defensive, protective, vulnerable and devalued?’. Or perhaps they feel nothing from your interaction, ‘whatever’!

I certainly came away from this event empowered, enthused, motivated and above all excited by the fact that so many people (100’s) would be doing things a little or a lot differently having attended this event. The power of contagion was at work.

Imagine if every interaction people had with their leaders within their organisations left them feeling 1.0% or even 0.5% more motivated than they were before the interaction?

Aware leaders make it their business to focus on how they are impacting the people they lead. They do this by first being aware and mindful of themselves and their habits having learned to observe these habits.  They also pay attention and note how they feel about each interaction they have throughout the day, which means they are focused on how they come across to the people they interact with.

This may seem like hard work – and it is in the initial stages of learning to overcome busyness and distraction in the moment to be aware and focus. It is not long before these aware leaders create new habits and suddenly they find their ‘workload’ or ‘busyness’ seems to have lightened. Why?

Because they find themselves surrounded by people who are mindful of their own interactions and what each of those interactions do for the other person. The effectiveness and efficiency of these people is extraordinary. Why?

Because the small daily improvements they have made as directly shown by their ‘aware’ leaders, has made staggering longer terms changes to their effectiveness.

Are atrocities perpetrated by humans increasing?

Humans have treated each other poorly for eon’s. When we collectivley experience events such as the past weekend, Orlando, football hooliganism, and the random slaying of an entertainer, amid more local events – many people feel unsafe and that the world is not a pleasant place. We hear things such as people are so self-centered and their is no respect……..

To put things into perspective. The world is a much safer place, and tolerance of each other as humans of any race, creed, colour or any other segmentation we assign to people, is consistently increasing. We don’t have to go back to far to times when ‘violence’ (intolerance) against colour, creed or sexual orientation was societal and ‘entrenched as community values and law’. Stalin checking off names at the end of the day of people to be arrested ‘legally’, most of whom would not survive their trip to the ‘camps’ is within the lifetimes of many of us.

We also need to remember that the media is in the business of ‘selling stories’ and ‘sensation’ sells. The expanded media and the sheer bombardment when ‘stories’ break is overwhelming. As I have written about here before the media don’t necessarily control our thinking, however they absolutely control what we ‘think about’ as consumers of media.

The media know they have a limited window to ‘capitalise’ on these stories – they need to make money like everyone else, so they make the most of it. The danger with this to the general public is that the relentless negativity focuses peoples’ thinking negatively –  I am not for on moment suggesting that any of these acts of violence are not appallingly negative in every sense of the word.

The best thing we can do collectively is to focus on the incredible response to these events around the world – the people in the streets saying we will not tolerate this violence. This is what we need to hang on to – and the reality that collectively, we are so much more tolerant of each other. We must expand this to be ever more mindful of ‘what we are thinking about’ consistently. After all we are products of our collectively thinking. Marketers and marketing scientist have know this for decades – lets continue to change the collective intolerance of ‘violence’ one thought and one action at a time.

By way of example of the power of thought and action, a friend in the US picks up litter lying around whilst he waits at the train station. I am sure that every single one of us walks past litter most days, how many of us will pick it up? I have begun to do the same thing – it is extraordinary to watch how other people will begin to notice and pick up litter placing it in bins which are there at the ready. The power of right action.

Status Quo – what is it?

Status Quo is a Latin phrase and means the current situation, the way things are now and refers to ‘wanting to keep things the way they are’.

Status Quo is a misunderstood concept and is used increasingly as a means for individuals, teams, organisations and communities to stay put – in ‘safe territory’.

How safe is that territory of the ‘past’ when the gulf between it and the ever moving ‘existing present’ is getting wider?

It’s not, rather this gulf causes increased angst and discomfort and is a prime contributor to poor workplace and other social behaviours, that sadly are increasing. This is due to the difficulty people have navigating what they do each day whilst clinging to a past reality. They cling to the ‘status quo’ in the first place because of ‘fear’ of the unknown.

The unknown is the basis of life – why is it that we humans are so obsessed with predictability and control? That is simple – survival, which in and of itself it has enabled us to get to this point in our evolution. The past 15 years or so has put a ‘spanner in the works’ because the speed of change has increase exponentially. This has resulted in our former ‘predictive and control’ mechanisms failing and continually failing as we ‘expect’ to be able to ‘safely predict the future to  assure us that our decisions will be ‘right’. We are terrified of ‘getting it wrong’ as that is synonymous with failure.

This is the real driver of ‘a desire to cling to the status quo’, to stay in a position of not having to step out on the ledge so to speak, and ‘risk failure’.

If we take a helicopter view of these behaviours we can see that it can only, and ‘does’, end in tears. Resisting moving with the present and attempting to make decisions with current information whilst clinging to a past state and mindset, is 100% likely to result in actions that are not fit for present or future purpose. This will also by default result in considerable anxiety and other behaviours that we see all to often currently – justification, shifting of responsibility and other ‘back pedaling’ behaviours where people try to make something quite wrong, ‘right’.

If we could shift our mindset and expectations of  ‘status quo’ to what it actually does mean, we would feel a whole lot better and just get on with it. The current ‘status quo’ or the ‘current situation’ in our world June 2016  is ‘accelerating change and continual movement’. So if we shifted our mindset and understanding of status quo being continually riding the wave of life as it moves onward at a fast pace, then we would not expect to be able to ‘predict and control our decisions as we were able to in times gone by.

We need to let go of that ‘fairy tale’, make decisions and take action for now. We have the past and our experience of it, in our kit bag to aid our decision making. There is a huge difference between making decisions and taking action based in a past mindset, and making informed decisions in response to current reality with the aid of past experiences, that may or may not be relevant. This is the current Status Quo.

To judge to not to judge – the primary contributor to distraction

As a behaviorist and a researcher I have developed a keen sense of observation which means becoming just that – an observer. To really observe behaviours (both reading and hearing about what people do and directly observing them) one must be objective and non-judgmental. This is quite hard as most people automatically think and behave in a dualistic fashion due to the law of opposites. To be truly non-judgmental requires stepping beyond the law of opposites, because by default you will be judging what you are observing as right or wrong, good or bad, which then renders your objectivity void. The other factor that makes being non-judgmental challenging is the media. Negativity and being righteous and judgmental about events and behaviours sells. Consequently the daily diet of righteous judgement is relentless as ‘the media’ is now so unbelievably expansive.

Most people don’t actually have any consciousness of this relentless daily‘judgmental’ programming that is going on by their participation in consuming media, which includes all forms of social media. This directly contributes to the constant ‘mind battle or self-talk’ that so many people endure day in day out. Constant self-talk or inner discussions are exhausting for the brain and are the primary cause of distraction. This extends to ‘work being distracting’ – it is not so much that ‘work’ is the distraction, but rather the inner discussion which goes something like this:

“I haven’t finished the work for Mike or added the time line to the project spreadsheet….Petra has just emailed asking for an up-date on the project….I have no idea how I am going to get all this done….I have the meet-up to get to tonight and I don’t want to miss it again….. Ben asked me to help him with his Uni assignment……..that terrible situation with the European refugee’s….Carla is just being nasty to Gina…..oh no is that the time…” 

Productivity and efficiency with this level of ‘relentless’ conscious brain activity will be at best 50%.

Yet there are some people that appear to be cool as cucumbers and just get on with their work. The difference? Those who are able to get on with it are in control of their ‘mindspace’. They are focused and there is NO inner argument going on. They are able to attain a state of neutrality. Ask them about their media consumption (including social media) and they will have very different habits. The main difference is they will consume media from a state of ‘indifference or neutrality’, this is not the same as a ‘whatever’ attitude which is not neutral. These people are able to consume and observe outside events and behaviours without judging. They have beliefs and values, but are very clear about their own boundaries and are relentless in commanding and controlling their own ‘mindspace’ – they understand how precious it is.

The only thing that we truly have to ourselves is our ‘mindspace’. What we fill it with determines our beliefs, values and the way we view and judge the world, events, other people and how we behave on a daily basis. If we ‘fail to be aware’of how we fill and use our ‘mindspace’ everyday, then we are out of control, left to the mercy of the relentless arguments in our own heads. 100% of workplace accidents and incidents that involve ‘human factors’ are caused by distraction. This is people distracting themselves in their own heads, with no awareness that they are doing so – because their mindspace’ is overloaded.  The first step to controlling our mindspace is awareness of how we judge and view our own thinking.

Design thinking – is it the answer for our troubled organisations?

Deloitte’s latest Human Capital report is a fascinating read and as a credible and reputable document, it is second to none. Unlike the other big four, Deloitte’s did not disband their Advisory Services about 15 years ago. This lends exceptional credibility to their ‘thought leadership’ in this area as they critically, have ‘advised’ businesses all the way through the biggest change in human history ever. This report indicates that ‘organisational design’ is top of mind with business leaders. From my perspective this is great news.

Why? Because the human capital ‘issues’ that have plagued businesses since the beginning of ‘digital disruption’ are a consequence of inappropriate, ineffective and disconnected organisational design. The world has changed so radically in the past 15 years and there is no other time in human history where such a rapid ‘environmental’ change has occurred, expect for a massive meteor hitting the earth long, long ago. Fifteen years is about on par for ‘humans’ collectively to begin to ‘adapt’ to a radically changed environment. The first decade is spent in a ‘state of shock’ almost, where business leaders are faced with insurmountable challenges and ‘expected’ to solve them’.

Well cut leaders some slack – why should they ‘know what to do and how to navigate’ such a dramatic change when the rest of us don’t have a clue. They weren’t handed the ‘manual’ of how to successfully operate a business in a environment which may as well have come from an alien landing in terms of how ‘different and new’ it has all been. Whilst there have been many ‘solutions or idea’s to ‘get people’s performance on par with a fast paced world’ which says ‘faster faster’ – the reality is the ‘humans’ at the coal face are begging ‘slower, slower’. These solutions have experienced limited success and virtually none of them have been sustainable over time.

This brings me to why I was encouraged to see organisation ‘design’ as top of mind in this report. Because like any problem we humans overcome – unless we solve theses problems at the “ROOT CAUSE” the solution will not be sustainable. I, like many others have banged on for nearly a decade about how organisational ‘structures’ and by default processes and systems were efficient for the age for which they were ‘designed’ – the industrial era, but fail catastrophically in the ‘digital, disruptive age.

We left the industrial era behind 15+ years ago – and yet expected ‘business as usual’ with the same design and processes. That just doesn’t make sense. Again to cut leaders some slack – the ‘prospect of ‘changing organisational design is beyond daunting and emphatically cost prohibitive if it is approached head on. How on earth can we possibly change the way our businesses have been operating for their entire existence, and at the same time still make profits when the market is getting faster by the day? Impossible.

What is possible is to solve the problem via the back door if you like – in a ‘disruptive manner’ (disruptive to ‘usual thinking’). Design thinking.

Design thinking is underpinned by rigorous creativity (rigor – focusing on how and why), critical inquiry and ensuring that people and the environment  are respected. Design thinking is ‘limitless thinking’ – which is getting with Einsteins most famous quote – about not being able to solve today’s problems with yesterdays thinking.

Once again to cut leaders some slack – the ability to ‘think creatively’ utilising such techniques as design thinking is completely eroded by Busy Brain Syndrome (http://peopledata.com.au/?page_id=3545) (speed of change causing the clever brain to shut down). BBS has impacted all of us, and leaders more so as they are at the front bearing the brunt of this overload (think front of the peleton in a 40kmh headwind – continuously). The reason I am encouraged by this ‘new thinking’ focusing on the ‘actual cause’ of business output failing to keep up with demand, it that is is showing early signs of ‘those people at the leading edge’ – our business leaders – adapting successfully to thrive in our disruptive world.