Ideas + Innovations is a series of thought leadership articles designed to help organizations navigate the complex, evolving changes in our digital marketplace. The 2040 team has worked with brands of all sizes in a range of industries, and our insights fuel these articles with opinionated, actionable and often provocative content.
The series touches on everything from emerging industry paradigm shifts and consumer behavioral trends to new business models, leadership skills and workplace culture issues. Our intention is to be active and interactive, raising questions and debate over what it takes for businesses to thrive in a post-pandemic world with an emphasis on transitions and transformations organizations must make to remain competitive.
We invite you to join the conversation and contribute your opinions and experiences. 2040 believes in the power and strength of community, and the more we know and share, the stronger our businesses will be in responding to the demands of our dynamic marketplaces. We look forward to featuring your participation in future articles. Sign up to keep in touch with us.
Beth Bush Stansel, Senior Partner, Strategy and Kevin Novak, CEO, 2040 Digital
Playbook for Thriving Post-Pandemic: The Criticality of Agility and Resiliency in 2021 and Beyond
Issue 13: July 29, 2021
There is a new organizational model in town: the agility-resilience construct. Agility is active, resilience is reactive. And when you combine them, you’ve got an organizational performance that is highly competitive. How do you do that? It requires quick decision-making and critical thinking. It also requires a culture that can adapt to change in a nurturing way, accept bad news, and reinforce cross-functional collaboration and feedback.
Resilience + Agility
Agile is a process used by the tech world of continuous iteration in solution development as opposed to a waterfall, streamed approach. Agile has been morphed into agility in the non-tech business culture, which is basically the ability to pivot and change in response to new opportunities and challenges. Not to overly complicate the matter, agility encompasses agile!
Agility makes most organizations better able to compete in today’s disruptive, fragmented, always changing markets and work cultures. We include the work environment because it follows the same flow as marketplaces with new challenges given an increasingly multi-generational workforce, the digital and technical prowess of next-gen staff and leaders, and the emergence from a sustained and game-changing pandemic. Add to this, the pressures of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) and DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), and you have a perfect multiple storm front.
Agility demands foresight, planning, and the ability to make decisions quickly. By definition, agility requires critical thinking that taps into specific management skills and responses from stakeholders. Both the organization and its employees need to be ready to accept change, not have change imposed on them…anticipate the future, not catch up to it.
Resilience was popularized by Warren Bennis iconic scholar, organizational consultant, author, and Professor of Business Administration and Founding Chairman of The Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California in 2002 as a crucible of leadership, examining the different ways that leaders deal with adversity. According to Bennis, “One of the most reliable indicators and predictors of true leadership is an individual’s ability to find meaning in negative events and to learn from even the most trying circumstances.”
Simply speaking, resilience is the ability to learn from failure and recover quickly from setbacks. Resilience in business characterizes how quickly, and actionably organizational systems can bounce back to a positive state and resume normal operations following a disruption. In today’s marketplace, disruption is in full force as the result of several different, simultaneous variables including Covid, social unrest, financial pressures, compromised supply chains and the demands of managing a diverse workforce and customer base.
A Guide to Operational Readiness for Change
Issue 12: July 22, 2021
You’ve decided to mobilize your whole organization to pivot from past practices to better meet the needs of stakeholders in a dynamic, quickly evolving marketplace. You’ve completed all the planning meetings, rewritten the strategy and identified the tactics. You believe your organization is ready to achieve your new goals.
But wait a minute. Are you sure you are ready?
According to a recent report Lucid conducted with Forrester, “improving operational efficiency” is the #1 initiative that companies are prioritizing as we head into the Next Normal of hybrid work. This initiative includes having clear processes in place. Here are some tools and tips for auditing and improving processes across your team and organization.
At 2040, we help our clients with operational assessments that focus on readiness and the ability to achieve newly set transformative goals. What we have discovered is that new goals and attempted pivots at the strategic level often never recognize whether the organization is ready at an operational and process level and with the required staff competencies. And usually, the extent of the underlying challenges comes as a surprise to the senior leadership team.
Often the infrastructure is so dysfunctional that bringing new strategies to life and achieving new goals simply isn’t possible.
Time to Check Your Value Proposition
Issue 11: July 15, 2021
Post-pandemic recovery offers a unique opportunity for discovery and reassessment. Chances are your organization was disrupted by the pandemic in a plethora of ways, as were your staff, members, subscribers and customers. At the most basic level, the pandemic forced people and organizations to work differently, and in that process, to re-evaluate what is important, both personally and professionally. Marketing General Inc.’s Membership Marketing Benchmark report reveals some sobering findings about the impact of the pandemic. “In addition to the news about meetings taking a hit, membership has suffered a blow as well: Nearly half (45 percent) of associations surveyed reported a decline in membership renewals, doubling the rate of the previous year. And associations say they’ve seen a decline in new member acquisition (37 percent) compared to those who’ve seen an increase (29 percent).”
With inflation continuing to rise, our hunch is that even many publishers and subscription companies are or will begin to see similar declines in subscription retention and limited success in new customer acquisition.
We all know that change is constant. Staying a step ahead of the trends is critical to remaining relevant to your audience. The north star for providing value and meaning to stakeholders is your value proposition. And that promise needs to constantly evolve to reflect your stakeholder’s needs and market conditions.
Mastering Communications that Communicate
Issue 10: July 8, 2021
Tell me something I don’t already know. Or if you do, tell me in a new way that makes the message relevant to me and useful in my life – both professional and private. More to the point, tell me what it means and why it matters.
Digital communications have proliferated and most of them are near misses, or even worse, totally inconsequential to their audiences. Spray and pray is an anachronism in a digital marketplace. Customized communications are now table stakes. Think context when you think content. And think empathy when you think messaging.
Also think telling a story that is relevant to recipients. Storytelling remains “king” and is even more important than ever in achieving organizational goals of immersing, engaging and retaining customers, subscribers and members.
After making it through the worst of the pandemic over the past 16 months, there are three true things: People are cynical, needy and cautious. The opportunity for effective communications with your members, customers, subscribers, stakeholders is to rethink your legacy best practices and reinvent your touchpoints with stakeholders to make your organization personal, relevant and targeted.
Targeting Engagement, Establishing Trust, and Building Loyalty
Issue 9: July 1, 2021
The cynic in us recognizes that we are living in the era of “it’s only about me.” The pragmatist in us also recognizes that as a brand and an organization, if you don’t cater to this mentality, you are likely to become irrelevant. The tools available to us to personalize our communications, offerings and services to our various stakeholders makes it impossible to conduct business as usual with legacy tactics. Simply said, to make yourself relevant, you have to be relevant. One-size-fits-all is passé, and with data at your fingertips, you can make yourself matter to each individual. Think about it: Psychologically, people respond more positively if they engage with your brand and organization in a one-on-one relevant way. The ultimate goal is high-level engagement, establishing trust and building loyalty.
How Critical Thinking Is Essential to Transformation and Reducing Bias
Issue 8: June 24, 2021
What is your personal sphere of influence? As a team member, you influence your co-workers, customers, members, and management with your contributions. As a department manager, you influence a team of staff, members, customers, and others to achieve specific goals. As a member of the C Suite, your influence, informed and directed by a board and stakeholders, sweeps across the entire organization. And, as a CEO you set the course and the culture for the entire organization.
A CEO influences the operating culture, processes and people with the intention of extracting high performance at every level and, of course, towards a set of goals. That may be stating the obvious, but we find that many organizations – in the for-profit and nonprofit worlds — still operate in siloed structures where anyone’s influence is limited, majorly biased, without intelligence based on data, driven by personal professional goals or objectives… and even worse, repressed. Running a progressive organization ensures everyone has a seat at the table, is contributing objective, fact-based input, aiding in effective and productive problem solving and contributing to an organization in its transformation and/or pivot.
An Executive Playbook for the Critical Path to Establishing Deep and Meaningful First-Party Data
Issue 7: June 17, 2021
Each week, we take an in-depth look at strategic, organizational, and operational challenges facing business leaders, with insights on emerging best practices. Today, we dive into innovations in the critical path to establishing and transforming first-party customer data and a data-driven culture, as third-party cookies are phased out and pixel-blocking becomes widespread.
One of the biggest challenges for marketers, membership directors, subscription managers and organizations in general is the ability to reach and engage current and prospective customers and members while maintaining compliance with a growing list of country and state regulations, not to mention adapting to today’s technology-driven changing landscape.
High Performance Executive Leadership in the Workplace
Issue 6: June 10,, 2021
Welcome to the 2040 Thought Leadership Series created to spark innovation and critical thinking about today’s business environment. As we adapt to the evolving post-pandemic mindset, the opportunity is to learn from the past months of pandemic-crisis thinking, adapting to new behaviors and marketplace realities … and leaving behind what doesn’t work any longer.
Much of the past 19 months has been focused on tactical adaptations for business continuity and little time was spent on strategic thinking and plans that recognized where tactical adaptations led to new opportunities and alternative ways of conducting business, even managing operations. Some tactics have been successful, others may have failed, but in the end, we learned a lot and have an improved grasp of what may be needed to strategically transform in today’s dynamic and ever-changing marketplace.
Today’s leadership challenges are made even more complex by existing and emerging external pressures. Leadership is under pressure to balance providing stakeholders with a stable, profitable, fair, empathetic and innovative workplace. Just consider a few of today’s societal and consumer-driven issues that have emerged for both workers and leaders:
- The pandemic and staying healthy in the workplace.
- Information and identification security for remote or hybrid work arrangements.
- The move of tangible services to online-everything.
- Increased investment in automation and digital transformation that could change. business models and employee job descriptions and organizational structures.
- The post-pandemic economic recovery: Who benefits and who is left behind.
- Inclusivity, diversity, and sustainability.
Agility is the New Nimble
Issue 5: June 3,, 2021
Every generation a new business operating principle bubbles up into the professional organizational arena. Resilience has been updated with Agility (yes, we know it sounds like being Nimble, but it’s a lot more nuanced). Agility is a mainstay in the tech community – particularly with software development. Here’s a basic definition: “Business agility refers to rapid, continuous, and systematic evolutionary adaptation and entrepreneurial innovation directed at gaining and maintaining competitive advantage.” Simply stated, Agile management is methodical, systems thinking approach to preparing for the future.
The Next-Gen is Changing Up the Workplace
Issue 4: May 27, 2021
Welcome to 2040’s high-level Thought Leadership Series exploring key issues and trends facing organizations post-pandemic … and beyond. Millennials and Gen Z make up around half of today’s global workforce and they bring a different mindset to any business table, plus they are establishing new laws of organizational loyalty. Covid has made more and more people, across generations rethink what really matters.
The consequence of this self-assessment is potentially a career change. Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, predicts, “The great resignation is coming.” He adds, “Many workers are considering a job change as pandemic restrictions ease and companies call employees back to the office. In the past year, Klotz says there’s been an accumulation of stalled resignations, realizations about work-life balance and new passion projects — all incentives for workers to exit the 9-to-5 office grind.”
Events Need to be Transformed
Issue 3: May 20, 2021
Welcome to 2040’s thought leadership series, with insights on the changing digital marketplace. We have relied on live events for decades to bring our stakeholders together, strengthen our communities, extend our networks, build our brands and drive revenues by connecting buyers with sellers. The pandemic turned a tired model on its head. Why do we say tired? Because many organizations have depended on staging annual meetings, conferences and conventions the same way, year after year … without an effective strategy to make events increasingly relevant to more individuals.
Organizations think they are responding to attendees’ set expectations of a dependable, wide-ranging and exciting experience. But honestly, events compete with many instantly accessible offerings from media, education and entertainment platforms. It’s also fatiguing for some attendees who are faced with endless educational offerings, networking and social opportunities and aisles of sponsor/exhibitor booths, that when aggregated, look like an overwhelming and exhausting sea of sameness.
In fact, 2040 research reveals that on average, 12% of any organization’s members attend a physical conference or convention. By transforming your event to a hybrid model, an organization has an opportunity to double or perhaps even triple the percentage of members that register and attend the event. As a result, there is greater member engagement, and the organization delivers its value proposition even more deeply to the 88% who typically do not attend.
Bluntly speaking, traditional events fall short of recognizing how digital and technology have created alternative ways to achieve learning and networking goals. Covid has caused individuals to reassess and question their formerly over-committed and over-scheduled days. Now individuals are re-evaluating how to gain what they really need and are seeking experiences that really matter.pward from the 2040 Team
Membership Drives Your Growth
Issue 2: May 12, 2021
Welcome to 2040’s thought leadership series on how to build businesses and organizations that thrive in a post-pandemic marketplace. Amazon is credited with kick-starting a massive change in consumer behavior…and expectations. The public conversation and market trends reflect these systemic shifts: quick delivery, free shipping and returns, the digital marketplace platform, a trusted source for search and most importantly, a relationship based on membership and the personal or professional rewards that relationships deliver.
Remember, a relationship (not a transaction) creates ongoing relevant value that leads to customer, subscriber and member loyalty and retention. The Harvard Business Review report, “The Truth About Customer Experience” reveals that organizations that design systems to connect touchpoints and the cumulative experience had a 20 – 30% increase in results to include higher revenue, long term retention and positive word of mouth. Each is incredibly important for sustaining and growing revenue while reducing expense.upward from the 2040 Team
Lessons Learned from the Pandemic
Issue 1: May 4, 2021
For business leaders, the pandemic has propelled many levels of professional and personal reflection. On a professional level, we’ve heard ad nauseum about how Covid revealed inherent organizational vulnerabilities, accelerated emerging technologies, caused a shift in consumer behavior and powered business pivots and new operating models. On a personal level, the pandemic changed many of our lives in indelible ways. On both fronts, we have been reminded that we are optimistic and resilient as problem solvers and our ability to work around and work through the challenges at hand.
When we at 2040 work with clients, our post-pandemic imperative is to help them recognize what business practices they need to leave behind that are no longer relevant.
We also help them use pragmatism in leveraging the changes they have had to make to build out businesses that can thrive in a digital marketplace.ward and upward from the 2040 Team
The Truth about Transformation
Book Preview Excerpt
Organizations, whether private companies, non-profits, charities or governments seek to transform to take advantage of new opportunities, including technological advances. Often, technology is the major driver of change that results in transformation. As a result, the organization often fails to achieve its objective and goal to truly transform. You see, technology remains an enabler, not a silver bullet. True transformative change requires understanding of the human factors at play, human conscious and subconscious behaviors, how humans inter-relate and how society itself and all of its members are changing.
Our workforces are changing, the expertise we need is becoming harder to acquire and roles are shifting. In addition, before and because of Covid in 2020, the world around us is becoming very different, a new reality is taking hold, one that will fundamentally change who we are, how we work and yes, how we seek to ensure organizations transform for today and for the future.
The Truth about Transformation, a new book by Kevin Novak, will soon become available. Enjoy a short preview.ard and upward from the 2040 Team