The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or the combination of rapidly emerging technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, is radically transforming business, societies, and governments.
When I speak with our clients and leaders of other global organizations, they acknowledge that the nature of business is undergoing a fundamental upheaval, forcing all of us to reconsider tried and true formulas for success.
With this backdrop in mind, I’ve developed three primary principles to help steer our organization through a time of potentially unprecedented change:
Embrace disruption: expect to be uncomfortable
Take informed risks and innovate
Hone and galvanize our culture
Don’t doubt the constancy of change, and don’t doubt that the rapid evolution of technology, society, and policy will affect your role, your work, your teams, and your clients. Not only do I expect Navigant’s business model to be disrupted – that is already happening – but I see similar challenges for our clients across each industry we serve – legal, healthcare, energy, financial services. Each of these segments is being recast by the forces that characterize the Fourth Industrial Revolution. For example, our recent research into the state of the global energy segment is particularly compelling, noting that utilities have little time to reorient their business models around fast-emerging technology ecosystems and are at risk of becoming fringe players in the emerging energy economy.
Innovation and Risk Taking
Last year we surveyed our organization to gauge whether leaders and staff are equally confident in their ability to innovate. Interestingly, our staff had a higher “innovation quotient” than our extended leadership team; a promising opportunity that we are leveraging as we continue to chart our path forward.
Innovation can take many forms; it is not exclusively the domain of technology development or implementation. For example, each year our firm curates and funds an internal business plan competition. The global program invites staff to team up and pitch senior leaders on actionable ideas that could either lead to new business, change the way we deliver our services, or improve our own internal processes. With dozens of entries every year driving an emerging pool of creative and leading-edge ideas, sparking our innovation gene is one the most powerful benefits of this program and a driver of our future path.
A healthy culture is rooted in the collective activation of enduring values, which drives constructive behavior and positive business outcomes. Culture reflects an organization’s unique identity, its differentiating purpose, its mission, and, of course, its values. However, building a desirable culture is an intentional act, one that must be curated over time and be linked to business goals.
Today’s economy calls for leaders to adapt their cultures to be more supportive of innovation, granting freedoms and supporting investments that will enable innovation to flourish. At Navigant we continually evaluate our management practices and operating protocols to ensure an open highway for innovation flow. This might include practical exercises such as eliminating ineffective rules and sharing new developments quickly within the organization so that others can leverage and copy. It also includes employing more strategic actions to brainstorm future opportunities, such as Futurethink’s “Kill the Company” methodology that requires us to look back on our own organization from either a known or potential competitor perspective to consider our own obsolescence. In whatever form it might take, it is critical for leadership to build, promote, and support a culture that recognizes and adapts to the “constancy of change” at its most basic level.
The calculus for capturing opportunity in business today requires embracing the uncomfortable. By welcoming disruption, taking risks, and innovating and activating a company’s most powerful intangible asset – its culture – we all have the potential to flourish amidst the Fourth Industrial Revolution.