Welcome to 2017—a time of unprecedented chaos, complexity and, yes, opportunity.
These are exciting times for changemakers and entrepreneurs. They’re also tough times for many large organizations. Digital communication, big data, artificial intelligence, social media, and mobile have created an unprecedented velocity of chaos and complexity in business— and this is only the beginning. Most organizations do not have the talent and structure in place internally to cope with the large, disruptive shifts which are certainly coming our way in the next decade.
In this unpredictable context, many large organizations (even the most conservative ones) are opening up to more fluid, collaborative, and responsive ways of working. They’ve observed first-hand that traditional tools and mindsets fall terribly short in these new, revolutionary times. A new vanguard in business has emerged, and brings with it a new set of next-gen tools for tackling the unprecedented chaos and complexity of these times.
Next-gen tools: #1 Responsive decision-making
Management teams are shifting their practice from a command-and-control, top-down approach to something more collaborative. A freer, multi-directional sort of knowledge-sharing replaces the industrial-style managerial decrees of the 20th century. There are many frameworks out there to help managers structure their transition to more responsive decisionmaking, such as Holacracy, Lean, Agile, and flat. Forward-thinking companies such as shoe manufacturer Zappos and popular blogging platform Medium are some of the pioneers in applying these frameworks. This more inclusive decision-making style not only applies to how input is gathered from within the organization, but also how an organization handles input from customers.
A favorite case study in responsive, customer-centric decision-making is women’s clothing giant, Zara. With 1 779 stores in 86 countries, you would think the company lumbers slowly along the supply chain from inspiration, to paper design, to factory production, to the retail floor. This is not the case. The secret to Zara’s success is that they have prioritized responsiveness to customer feedback over all other factors. Zara’s factories operate below full capacity (a traditional manufacturing no-no), allowing new designs to come in, get produced immediately, and make it to the retail floor within weeks of that style having appeared on the catwalk or being requested directly by customers. The company produces clothing in small, continual batches, instead of lumbering, unchangeable seasonal runs. This unusual setting of priorities allows Zara to respond to fashion trends with groundbreaking speed, charge a premium for their items, and keep customers coming back for more.
Next-gen tools: #2 M&A as R&D
Startups—those microorganisms of innovation and responsivity— are continually being bought up by big companies who want new ideas and want them fast. The ease of simply buying up or investing in a company whose offering complements yours instead of undertaking risky internal research endeavors makes investments, mergers, and acquisitions the new research and development.
The auto industry, for example, is well-aware that as fuel becomes scarce, mobile social connectivity increases, and our culture continues to shift towards valuing access over ownership, sales opportunities for car manufacturers will continue to plateau, and soon decrease. Selective consumers’ decisions will be made on which cars boast the best internal software— entertainment, mapping, and built-in rideshare capabilities. Too savvy to allow startups like Lyft, HERE maps, and others to eat their lunch, the automobile industry is acquiring mobility startups by the hundreds.
Similarly, the big financial service providers are aware that small startups like Mondo, Mint, and Betterment are well-poised to hand them an unwanted starring role in the next Kodak-Instagram parable. For that reason, finance companies not only acquire, but also seek out and nurture, up-and-coming FinServ and FinTech startups.
Next-gen tools: #3 Crowdstorming
Two years ago I didn’t yet realize that crowdstorming could be an ideal tool for navigating change at scale. The market has actually approached us at jovoto with strong demand to use crowdstorming in the search for the next generation of business models and services. Organizations on the right side of this revolution know that they must start reaching not just inward, but outward as well. The answers lie outside the walled garden, which needs cross-pollination to survive.
jovoto crafts strategies with corporate executives who want to leverage crowdstorming as a tool for navigating disruptive, rapid change. The best ideas are cherry-picked from the hundreds of options generated by our creative, global crowd of talent. Over the last 18 months we have applied crowdstorming methods to help large organizations like Mercedes-Benz, Teva, Deutsche Bank, and more.
Deutsche Bank came to us in the midst of a massive company-wide effort to shift their corporate mindset from one of competition to collaboration, part of their overall strategy to move away from stiff legacy operations toward a more agile, fluid mindset geared toward growth. Open innovation was a clear complement to this ambitious new strategy.
In conjunction with jovoto, Deutsche Bank launched an online creative hub to crowdstorm the future of banking—a global first. Through a collective, collaborative process facilitated through jovoto’s online platform, a crowd of experts and professionals generated hundreds of ideas and opportunity spaces, making the power of collective thinking apparent to Deutsche Bank’s top management team. The crowdstorm served as starting point for three further, more focused crowdstorms and projects for Deutsche Bank’s innovation lab. For more details on the collaboration, have a look at our in-depth whitepaper on the power of collaborative innovation in the financial services industry.
In general, working with clients on ambitious crowdstorming initiatives has been a steep, humbling learning curve. The experience has left us deeply motivated by the power of crowdstorming to tackle substantial business challenges under unprecedented levels of complexity.
The ripple effect
Adapting to change isn’t easy. Often at the beginning of our process with clients, there is a palpable sense of fear and pressure among decisionmakers who are trying to navigate nothing less than a cultural revolution. Over the course of our crowdstorming process, this pressure gradually transforms into a sense of motivation and positive change.
With many of our clients, I have seen a ripple effect of inspiration spread across departmental silos as the crowdstorm progress is shared throughout the organization. Nothing makes me happier than to see this shift take place time and time again in clients’ teams.
The dawn of this new industrial era need not be a threat. For those organizations with an informed, sharp strategy in place, this change is nothing less than opportunity.