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In his seminal 1937 essay, “The nature of the firm,” the economist and eventual Nobel laureate Ronald Coase argued that corporations exist to avoid the transaction costs of the free market. Yet with transaction costs plummeting (spurred by rising connectivity)...

Future-ready part 1: What does a future-ready business look like in the new normal?

The pressure to change had been building for years. Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, senior executives routinely worried that their organisations were too slow, too siloed, too bogged down in complicated matrix structures, too bureaucratic. What many leaders feared,...

Organisation Design: Restructuring or Reshuffling to enable Strategy

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Culture PART 1: Did COVID-19 signal the end for hierarchical organisations?

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Thriving in the Age of Digital Adoption: Embracing the Workforce Ecosystem (part 2)

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Thriving in the Age of Digital Adoption: Overcoming the Fear of AI (part 1)

Thriving in the Age of Digital Adoption

“What if artificial intelligence takes over my job? What if I become redundant?”

Every one of us has experienced technology encroaching on our lives, more and more so with each year that passes. It appears that technological innovation is a certainty that is only accelerating in pace. As this innovation intrudes on more aspects of our lives, there is understandably a fear that everything will be automated, even us as individuals. For centuries, innovation has often been portrayed as the unstoppable force that, if allowed to reach its full potential, could replace the jobs we do and the income we need. In this way, it is often resisted, especially in the business world. Even if technological innovation would help companies become more profitable, assist more clients, and speed up their processes, the fear for the individual employee’s position is often what shelves the move.

The rejection of innovation and digitisation as a result of fear is an undeniable phenomenon in the business world, however, the overwhelming acceptance of the exact same forces in one’s personal life is, paradoxically, even stronger. The same employees and leaders who resist the automation of certain processes in business will undoubtedly order Uber Eats from their iPhone and then use Waze to travel home to avoid the traffic. Why is there hesitation to embrace a movement in the business world when we are willing to embrace pervasive technology in our personal lives? Perhaps even more compellingly, why is there hesitation to embrace a movement that is inevitable?

The inevitability of digitisation is investigated in Jeff Scwartz’s book “Work Disrupted”, where he explains that “the future comes at us in accelerated bursts”. He explains that while many people know that technology is entering our lives at an accelerated pace, periods of extraordinarily accelerated modernisation are often thrust upon us. 2020 was our most recent example of this, where we were, in many ways, forced to enter a time capsule to the future and could either adapt and stay afloat, or panic and not survive. While the circumstances of 2020 and 2021 have shown us that, in general, humans are very adaptable, the mentality of many see these developments as temporary. They rationalise that these changes are necessary for now but not forever. In these cases, the individuals and companies that possess that mentality perpetuate a culture that dwarfs modernisation strategies which could eventually put them on par with many companies who are surviving, and miles behind those who are thriving.

As consultants, we have grown tired of hearing the phrase “culture eats strategy for breakfast” and this is because, unfortunately, it is true in so many cases. When a company appears to be stalled in decision-making and progress, there is generally a mismatch between the company’s prevailing culture and the emerging reality. These companies are often using methods and lines of thinking that have traditionally worked in the past, and were, to be fair, greatly successful in that time. However, these methods and mindsets have no place in today’s business climate. Leaders need to step back and re-examine the old maps they have used to guide their strategy in the past, and possibly replace them with Waze.

Humour aside, how can this be done? Many are paralysed by the realisation that numerous things will have to change for them and their company to fully embrace digitisation and innovation. For some, this is a reason to stick with what they know and what they have been good at in the past. They will be saying to themselves, “we do not have the resources to automate those processes” or, “our employees are not trained in that field”. While these are very real concerns, there is a way to overcome their dominance over an individual and a company’s path to success. It starts with a very small change:

“Yet.”

A simple word with a strong force behind it. Carol Dweck, a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, has explained that the use of the word “yet” is the true signal of a mindset that is susceptible to growth. When you use the word “yet” after you outline the blockages to your development and goals, you will notice that what is really preventing you from thriving is your mentality, not the obstacle itself. For example, you could say “we do not have the resources to automate those processes… yet”. When the word “yet” isn’t used, you will notice that the statement is just an excuse for a lack of determination.

Carol Dweck also goes into detail about the contrasts that exist between this growth mindset and a fixed mindset. When one embraces a growth mindset, either as an individual or as a company goal, one is able to recognise failures as learning experiences, challenges as opportunities, and changes as chances to evolve. Instead of perceiving the world as black and white, this way or that way, yes or no, you can find the grey areas and thrive in spite of what can be perceived as stopping you. In the context of digitisation, you will recognise that some forces will act against you, but the growth mindset will allow you to understand that this does not necessitate the freezing of your digitisation process. You do not have to be left behind while others adapt to the accelerated changes of the modern world. It merely means that in certain areas you are not there yet, but you will be.

Of course, embracing the word “yet” is the first step to overcoming the fear of AI – for both organisations and individuals – however, the growth mindset also necessitates a change in behaviour for true results to be seen. Saying “yet” is not enough to be competitive in this constantly evolving age of digitisation. You need to adopt a habitual behaviour that transforms you into a life-long learner, and by ‘learner’, we are not saying you need to read a textbook every week to stay up to date. You just need to find excitement in finding new ways technology and AI can assist you and your team. If something seems to be taking up your time and you feel is too much effort for so little reward, do some researching and see if there is a software that can do it for you because, chances are, there is. Constantly learn more about how you can make technology work for you and motivate your team to do the same.

Through the growth mindset, you will be motivated to keep yourself relevant and thrive as we emerge out of this time machine that we call 2021. You will be willing to revisit your company’s old strategic map with a fresh lens and make the necessary changes to keep yourself and your team relevant.

In the next part of this two-part series, we will look at the need for companies to embrace a Workforce Ecosystem and reinvent their value propositions in a tech-driven world to remain relevant, and what it means for employees who are afraid of losing jobs.

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