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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

The Fault in Ourselves

Issue 26: October 21, 2021

One outcome of the pandemic is operating in a highly fractious marketplace with gender identity, economic and political distinctions often accelerated into polarization. These issues are not just external, they are also prevalent internally, revealing new challenges to leading and working together. At 2040 we find that these issues rise to the surface and become roadblocks to transformation when personal bias, conscious or subconscious, rules the culture, infuses decision making, and forms our personal and professional behavioral defaults.

Frankly, it’s hard to get in touch with personal bias since our default is to assume everyone believes and operates the way we do. Our personal biases filter the ways we see the world, consider those who surround us, and represent our perception of reality. And perception is indeed one’s reality.

We don’t know what we don’t know, nor do we always know what we need to know. Separating out the ego and changing deeply ingrained behaviors is uncomfortable and for most can be considered uncharted territory in one’s personal and professional life.

Having a diverse workforce (that is representative of your customers), working in cross-discipline, cross-functional teams, reinforcing critical thinking and objectivity, encouraging open dialogue and even criticism to maintain honesty and transparency, and practicing active listening is a good formula for mitigating and managing personal bias.

Managing Bias

Mark Tarallo, the senior editor at Security Management Magazine, states, “You can’t manage others if you can’t manage yourself. And for any manager, effective self-management requires a certain level of professional self-knowledge.” He quotes Khalil Smith, a former leadership development expert at Apple, “Most managers think they’re really good managers, and a lot of them aren’t. Confidence and competence are not correlated.” Even the most effectively self-managed leaders are biased. David Rock, president of the NeuroLeadership Institute adds, “We see the world through tremendous filters. And we are not aware of these filters.” Rasheeda Childress adds “Hidden prejudices can have a cascading effect that reveals itself in everything from staff hires to member retention. In fact, experts warn that unconscious bias can even halt organizational innovation.”

Our human defaults lead us to align with those who are most like us, those that look like us, those who think as we do, and those that have the same or similar values we do. We strive for familiarity as it leads to comfort and predictability. Those who are like us, look like us and think as we do are most likely to confirm our own thoughts and actions, which in turn feeds our ego and gives us confidence in our own decision making. Our defaults are a longing to be accepted, gain that pat on the back, be liked, and be recognized for sound thinking.

Unfortunately, our defaults and desire to seek familiarity lead us to make uninformed decisions or take actions based on perceptions that are not necessarily true reality. The outcome of bias and perception impact our personal lives, the paths we take, and also strongly influence our professional lives; how we interrelate with our co-workers and those around us — and ultimately how organizations operate and are managed.

In sum, the fault in ourselves can be defined by the perception through which we view and consider the world around us to be the reflection of ourselves.

Mitigating Bias

Over the past several months, we have continually surfaced via this newsletter the need for developing active listening skills, seeking objectivity through critical thinking, creating cultures that respect open dialogue and criticism, developing respect for diverse and multigenerational workforces, accepting ambiguity, being resilient, and embracing agility in a dynamically changing world.

Learn more about the types of biases and how they impact decision making.

How to Manage a Five Generation Workforce

Issue 25: October 14, 2021

We are at an interesting inflection point: Five different generations make up today’s workforce: Gen Z, millennials, Gen X, boomers and the Silent Generation. And the Alphas are not far behind. Add to the age differences, the new rules of diversity and inclusion, changes in life stage definitions, individual and group values, and the impact of evolving societal events. For starters, 2020 Pew Research reveals 59% of Gen Zers say forms or online profiles should include additional gender options, compared with 50% of millennials, 40% of Gen Xers, 37% of boomers and 32% in the Silent Generation.

Each generation approaches their careers differently and each needs to be managed in nuanced ways. Older workers value a slow, steady and consistent career path, but according to trends expert Jasmine Glasheen, “Next gens are more focused on helping the collective whole through self-realization –– which translates into pursuing a career path that’s centered around individual evolution/success.”

Most importantly, all generations are inseparable from technology. That being said next gens are more comfortable with data. Younger decision-makers are terrific champions for the transition to data-driven business culture. Younger generations are more willing to embrace change; 76% of executives in their 30s or younger look for opportunities to leverage new technology to achieve business goals. Plus, 67% of them see risk as opportunity, not danger, according to an Inavero study.

A World of Differences

Our planet has nearly 8 billion individuals. This is an incredible number that is often hard to grasp, let alone understand and relate to. How can we expand our sensitivity to so many different types of people from so many different backgrounds and cultures when our minds are limited to what we have only seen and experienced personally? Our understanding is largely formed by our own mental constructs.

As a result, we seek to conceptually classify and categorize the groups that comprise these 8 billion people. As the human world grows and continues to dynamically change, our default to oversimplification leads to faulty conclusions and misinterpretations. We frequently overgeneralize how we define “the herds” and miss important influences, nuances, variables, and factors of the individuals in these groups.

As we discuss the very real nuances describing generations and the intergenerational issues that form a workforce in today’s society, we must recognize we are the sum of our parts. Regardless of where we fall in the age bands of any generation, we are further defined by our life stages (single, married, divorced, parent, single-parent, recent graduate, early-career professional, late-career professional, etc.) our belief systems, and how we are touched by societal events (terrorism, political unrest, war, economic collapse … and yes even a pandemic).

Some would represent that we are all individually unique. Our ability to capture and interpret data shows that we are all not as unique as we would like to believe. Humans are complex and the result of a variety of influences. The capture of a few individual bits of data here or there based on our actions allow us to be herded into groups and segmented by behaviors, values, preferences, and the like.

Decision Making in a Digital Age

Issue 24: October 7, 2021

The debate in management and leadership circles is how to best make decisions in a digital age. Should you be data-driven or intuitive? There are too many variables, including institutional knowledge and bias that limit the value of gut decision making, particularly in a fundamentally and dynamically ever-changing environment. We are the sum-total of our own biases and past experiences, which hinder the effectiveness of intuitive decision-making in the 21st century. A decision-making approach that is based on quality data that represents a complete or close to complete reality can more clearly reveal effective actions, intelligence and strategies.

The Argument for Data-Driven Decision Making

Data-driven decision-making has been popularized by the era of big data and the myriad of technologies and technological solutions that create and capture data. At no other time in human history have we been able to collect data at the rate and depth that we now can. Data can overwhelm, confuse and confound. There appears to be “too much information” to even consider; our default human behavior is to simplify and seek the major point or finding, not conduct a daily analysis of a deluge of information. Becoming data-driven is a necessity for today and tomorrow. We must manage our defaults and grow outside our comfort zone if our organizations are to survive into the future.

Data is, by definition, mostly objective, unbiased information as a byproduct of transactions, process completions, process inputs, behavioral capture and more. Most data results from the past, whether that be a transaction completed yesterday, last month or even an hour ago — or an email that was opened and a click that occurred last week or this week. Applying value to most data requires context and a recognition of the time and place of capture. In today’s quickly changing environment, what happened last week or last month was the result of a variety of factors and variables that were relevant at the time. That data may be subject to change or new factors and variables that are now important for the present and future. We are in a very challenging time where we must learn how to leverage data and become data-driven decision-makers as the data offers our best hope and chance for navigating today’s market dynamism.

Simply stated, data-driven decision-making is the process of studying large amounts of data, analyzing it to identify patterns, obtaining actionable insights, and using that insight to make business decisions. That’s pretty straightforward. Data is dependable and mostly objective.

Too many organizations have gotten on the data bandwagon without a plan. Tech expert Gabriel Swain, Vice President of Marketing & Growth at LinkedIn cautions, “Businesses have data at their fingertips, but how do they organize it in a logical way? Many still struggle to understand how data is used to make decisions. There is so much data in the world today that it would take over 180 million years to download it.”

Taking the Pulse of Your Employees

Issue 23: September 30, 2021

Many organizations are facing a Kairos moment, a moment they neither anticipated nor planned for. Kairos is an ancient Greek word meaning the right, critical, or opportune moment. Others might think of the Kairos as a crucible and defining moment. Over the past 18+ months, organizations have had to adapt and change quickly. Some have been successful, some haven’t, and some have had limited success, still on the journey.

When employees’ lack of voice meets head-on with a lack of trust and cynicism towards leadership, the great resignation seeps into an otherwise healthy workplace culture. We believe it is time to revisit how the pandemic has reshaped our work styles and workplaces. This survey is intended to help you identify where the pulse of your employees is healthy, and where it could use some intervention.

Pandemic Resets

Organizational constructs have been challenged. The rules of engagement have changed. The one transcendent lesson we should learn from the pandemic is empathy. Employees know they can seek different environments where they feel more highly valued. And they can be a part of change or transformation efforts elsewhere where their opinions and input are requested and respected. As it turns out, employees’ Kairos moments become the organization’s Kairos moment requiring a look inward to reassess workplace culture, processes and at the root of it all, its values.

At 2040, we encourage our clients to ask three key questions:

  1. Have you been successful with change or transformation in the past?
  2. Do you stay committed in ensuring that change or adaptations come to fruition?
  3. How many changes, adaptations, innovations, or transformation initiatives failed or became forgotten?

Often employees become less and less engaged when it becomes clear that the entrée of the day seems very much like the entrée from last year or five years ago. They do remember what happened and what didn’t result. They do remember the thoughts they had, what they attempted to contribute, and what fell on deaf ears.

Cynicism Derailment

What is cynicism? Literally, it is an inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest. Skepticism triggers cynicism and is the result of critical assessment and thinking. Skepticism is highly influenced by an organization’s past performance, behaviors, and leadership.

Cynicism can be insidious and an influence and belief flavoring any consideration of change, adaptation, or transformation. Cynicism suppresses creativity, open dialogue, engagement, and the support needed to make a change, adaptations, or transformation successful.

Cynicism can be unhealthy, whereas skepticism can be useful. Both are anchored in how human beings feel and observe the world around them. Leaders need to be aware that the human element influencing the achievement of strategies and goals and yes change are often overlooked. Although technology is often viewed as the silver bullet and sole solution to fix everything, it is people that really matter. Tech is only a tool and an enabler.

Nurturing and Retaining Talent

As we shared several weeks ago in Leading with Courage and the Art and Science of Active Listening, individuals and teams feel more connected and engaged when the work environment provides the opportunity to share criticism upstream and downstream, and their opinions and input is listened to and their participation is constructively valued.

Many organizations today find themselves in a bind. Talent that differentiates and has risen to ride the market changes catalyzed by the pandemic, and which are needed in organizations, are departing in droves. Workers, ever since the industrial age have been considered to be easily replaceable. In our digital/knowledge economy of the 21st century, that is no longer the case.

Employees have less tolerance than they did pre-pandemic, and at 2040 we don’t believe the tolerance and societal construct that existed pre-pandemic is ever coming back. As with any societal event — be it a war, health crisis or political/social upheaval — most any changes, as a result, are influenced by those immersed in the event and those impacted by the event.

In the event of a pandemic, individuals have had a lot of time to think, assess what is or isn’t important and reprioritize their goals and objectives. They are assessing their lives and thinking about their futures differently. When change is forced on individuals, stress, and anxiety increase; the only way out is “through.” Individuals are resilient and they can adapt. They learn from experience that they can manage their way through and come out with a new perspective and level of confidence.

Organizational leadership, particularly those who are hoping for a return to a normal that no longer exists, are being highjacked by this new “life is short” perspective and thought process among their workforces. We say this is their Kairos moment and the only way to manage this transition is to work through it.

Did the Great Resignation Take You by Surprise?

Managing Individual and Team Transitions

Issue 22: September 23, 2021

Human Factor Considerations for Transformation Success

The human element of any change or transformation effort is often overlooked or not even considered. Leaders assume the hierarchy of management and staff will simply follow directions and bring the strategies and goals to life. With command-and-control leadership, assumptions are made that those responsible for operational and organizational change understand what to do or will figure out what to do to meet the set direction.

In today’s everchanging environment, internalized urgency to do “something” to adapt to market forces is critical, but even with that urgency, critical thinking remains paramount. The urge to do something is of course far from the reality of actually doing it which leads to most change or transformation efforts failing.

We introduced the importance of transition management last week and discussed the ways to assess readiness for change and transformation. This week we want to take transition management a step further as “management” is the most important consideration when asking an individual or group to change and transform.

What is the Human Factor in Transition Management?

Humans first and foremost do not like change. Safety and security as well as predictability are default desires. Humans like to know what they need to do, what they are responsible for, and what they should expect in any given situation, including day-to-day work. Humans construct their professional reality by gaining knowledge of the people, processes and technologies that comprise their work. The result becomes their basis of “knowing” what needs to be done, how it needs to be done and how they can do it well. Most seek fulfillment and derive daily satisfaction from their work as they gain positive recognition from doing a good job.

A change from one reality to an uncertain future reality requires a period of transition when an individual or team gains an understanding of what is changing, what they may be losing and what will be different. It is a period of personal recognition and eventual acceptance that reshapes the mental construct of self-worth in relation to day-to-day work life. When an organization seeks to change or transform, a direction is set, but rarely is there time and effort applied to enable the worker to understand what is changing, how the change impacts them, and what they are losing/gaining as a result. Leadership’s general assumption is that workers will adapt and do the work, or they will be replaced by others.

In any transformation, the possibility of loss is high: The individual worker may lose the safety, security and predictability they desire. The organization may lose a significant source of institutional knowledge of operational processes if workers need to be replaced, along with valuable employee relationships and interdependencies.

Transition management is most important when an individual’s recognition of loss inhibits acceptance. An organization must recognize and address that individuals and teams need to be able to process what was, what they may be losing in the change or transformation and develop an understanding of their new reality of work and its associated self-worth.

The Infrastructure of Transition Management

2040 is a huge proponent of William Bridges and his thoughts, writings, and representation of the importance of transition management. Change is situational, transitions impact individuals at every level of an organization who are involved, touched and are participants in any change or transformation effort. Bridges says, “You can’t separate change management from transition management until you have asked:

  • What will we no longer be doing?
  • What will be different because of the change?
  • Who will lose what?

Readiness for Transformation

Issue 21: September 16, 2021

We work with many clients that are passionate about transforming their business models to be more competitive in a digital marketplace, catalyzed by customer/member/client demand. However, organizations with traditional business practices are particularly challenged by bridging the theory of transformation to the actual practice of implementing it. According to Dr. Jeanette Winters senior vice president of human resources at Igloo Product Corp., “Ask any executive if they have change, transformation, reorganization on their agenda and without exception, they are certain to reply: YES. With the pace of change breathing down the necks of all organizations, even the most successful know that they must adapt, transform, keep up the pace to compete. This applies equally to public, private, and not-for-profit organizations.”

But first things first: We cannot overemphasize the importance of determining the state of readiness for transformation.

Assessment and Analysis

Conducting an audit of ingrained operational, strategic and cultural beliefs and processes is the first step to transformation. The single most important tool for this analysis is critical thinking. Agility in self-diagnosis of the barriers to change is a key to transformation. Leaders need to leave their egos and dedication to their own opinions behind. Leaders who are agents of change are further ahead in the understanding the need for transformation and often oblivious to the fact that their employees may not be at the same stage of readiness. By using a cross-disciplinary and cross-functional team to identify a checklist of what needs to change, and how it can change, the journey of transformation begins.

“In understanding an organization’s readiness for change, organizations must systematically assess the preparedness of leaders, employees, and the transformation program.

Customer Loyalty

Issue 19: September 9, 2021

Running an organization that is customer-centric is a marathon.  Human behavior can be mercurial.  Trends from one industry segment suddenly disrupt another sector in the highly connected and interdependent system that comprises society.  A global pandemic sends rational planning out the window and accelerates emerging trends and changes that were suppressed or sometimes completely ignored. And the biggest challenges today are understanding changing human behaviors and accepting the fact that the customer is the point of purchase, whenever, wherever, and however they demand to be served.  Unfortunately, most organizations end up in a defensive mode if they don’t anticipate the future and deeply understand their customers.

What does all this add up to? The correlation to all the topics and challenges we have surfaced over the past weeks. Today we are diving into understanding customer loyalty, the importance of achieving it and, of course, how to measure it.  Gaining, maintaining, and growing customer loyalty is hard work. It is also one of the most important achievements that should be the prime driver of the success of your organization.

What Is Customer Loyalty?

According to Oracle, “Customer loyalty describes an ongoing emotional relationship between you and your customer, manifesting itself by how willing a customer is to engage with and repeatedly purchase from you versus your competitors. Loyalty is the byproduct of a customer’s positive experience with you and works to create trust.”  That relationship is what every organization strives for and although each organization has a slightly different perspective of what the relationship comprises (membership, subscription, return purchasing, ongoing consumption, etc.), the basics are the same for all.

At 2040, we advise our clients to use critical thinking and a systemic approach in their organization to war game customer loyalty. This is no easy task given the current trifecta of a global health crisis, market disruptions and a newly empowered and woke culture.

In strategizing customer loyalty, what is often overlooked is the nature of customer relationships and the reality of how humans think. We also see an inability to take the right actions to improve loyalty.  And even more important, we see a lack of understanding in how to collect, measure and more critically, understand the relationship that drives loyalty.

Critical Calculations

Let us begin with a customer loyalty measure that is often relegated to marketing and rarely used as an overall organizational metric or KPI. Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) and the data points that roll up to it reveal how it can provide a view into the value of a loyal individual and groups within your customer base.  CLV reflects demonstrable financial results if the relationship is curated over time. Remember, customer acquisition is expensive; customer retention is more cost-effective and generally drives the most positive performance.

Measuring What Matters

Issue 18: September 2, 2021

With the drama and disruption of the pandemic, you might think it’s time to re-evaluate your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Just look at the megatrends. Externally, customers have been affected by financial and supply chain disruption, along with revelations of new digital ways of managing day-to-day life. Many of the adaptations and changed behaviors are likely here to stay. Internally, organizations have pivoted but many remain dedicated to returning to a normal that no longer exists or is even possible, and abandoning most, if not all, of new adaptations. Remote work and the resulting disconnected physical workplace (which may be here to stay) has challenged management with how to maintain and measure employee engagement and loyalty. This is exacerbated by employee turnover as many younger workers have reexamined the quality of their lives and the meaning of work at a time when the birth rate is decreasing, which will affect available talent in the future.

But that would be missing the point.

What we have found that transcends the pandemic are two common threads among organizations of all sizes serving any industry or purpose. Whatever KPIs organizations are using, they are rarely shared; and even more disturbing, there is no understanding across departments, divisions, sections, or the like as to what these metrics mean to the future health and growth of the organization.

At 2040, we work with our clients to help them navigate the evolving demands of stakeholders, shifts in the cultural conversation, needs for new business models and rethinking how to measure high performance by measuring what really matters. And these are evergreen issues and challenges across organizational management, unrelated to our ongoing public health crisis and our upended societal dynamics. The current and near-term environment offers an unprecedented opportunity to apply critical thinking as all organizations seek to navigate the new normal.

The Practice of Key Performance Indicators

The traditional approach to KPIs in for-profit organizations is to report on a monthly and quarterly financial basis, closing the books to measure short-term P/L against expected and forecasted revenue. It’s often focused on expected or forecasted income, and if the organization is expending the expected amount of money and time to achieve the revenue outcome. Often the indicators measure the past (week, month, and quarter to current week, month, or quarter) but may not consider or be related to goals set for the future or be in the context of mega or subtle changes in the market.

The Art and Science of Active Listening

Issue 17: August 26, 2021

I think we can all agree we live in a digital world with a lot of surface noise. A world in which we are time-pressed — or at least feel as if we are — and we simply want to know what we think we need to know in the shortest amount of time. This relates to most of our interactions, discussions, and conversations.

Our typical approach to the real and perceived high level of noise in our lives is to summarize. We seek out the main points and synergize what we hear, read or view to our personal interpretation of what is important and aligned with our own thoughts, values, and knowledge. This is nothing new.  We operate this way as a human evolutionary default as well as an ever-expanding human condition of navigating information and interaction the digital age.

The 2040 Approach

Over the weeks in our thought leadership series, we have surfaced the importance of objectivity, appropriate analysis, recognition of nuances across multi-generational workforces, mastery of communications that actually communicate, identifying patterns, expanding critical thinking skills and leading with courage.

We hope you have noted an underlying theme. At the base of all that we have shared is a deep respect and belief in our humanity: the way humans think, solve problems, interact, and collaborate. And yes, the way humans communicate.

This week, we offer active listening for your consideration in adding another tool to your growing toolbox.

Leading With Courage

Issue 16: August 19, 2021

The current environment appears to be out of control to many of us. In the United States, our politics have grown increasingly divisive, the climate appears to be getting more extreme, inflation is impacting everyone’s pocketbook, and the global health crisis with changing daily information has increased feelings of ambiguity. All of this leads to heightened individual anxiety, so much so that on a day-to-day basis, each individual is living with a level of ambient stress. Everyone, groups, countries and yes, leaders, seem to be living in a time of TBA (To Be Announced).

Traditional organizational models with dominating hierarchical structures and command-and-control as the predominant cultural norm inhibits individuals from being courageous. How can we as individuals, employees, leaders, and organizations better manage ambiguity and establish a shared purpose? By ensuring we are manifesting courage individually and allowing open dialogues that reflect critical thinking, constructive criticism, input, and feedback.

Profiles in Courage

Is courage an outlier or core principle in your organization? Today we live in a complex callout culture, both personally and professionally. It takes critical thinking to identify what is courageous versus what is opportunistic. Courage is not typically at the top of the list of leadership prerequisites nor is it reflected in any job description. However, courage is key to everything: to challenge, share ideas, speak up, see something differently, try new things and receive feedback. And above all, courage is the enabler of critical thinking, a strategy and behavior that 2040 advocates and strengthens with its clients.

Many of our business cultures are still modeled on practices from the Industrial Age when individuals were perceived as cogs in the wheel and a means to an end. Open dialogue across all roles and levels of an organization, particularly those that flowed upstream, was frowned upon. The institutional hold of past times influences current norms that permeate an organization. As a result, the past erects roadblocks to the courage that mitigates critical thinking, questioning and yes, criticism.

Leading in a Time of Ambiguity

Issue 15: August 12, 2021

Living through a pandemic is shadowed by nearly constant uncertainty. We take three steps forward, two sideways and unfortunately, then three steps backward. Innovators have been able to pivot and transform their business models to meet the needs of their stakeholders. Organizations that have calcified cultures with command-and-control management models have been or are being easily eclipsed by agile competitors.

So, which category characterizes your own organization: Are you innovative or is your organization asleep at the wheel? What about your members/clients/customers? The key to getting unstuck during a global health crisis, financial meltdown, social unrest — or even in “normal” times (however one wants to define the new normal) — is the ability to lead confidently in a time of ambiguity.

Ambiguity Is Becoming a 24/7 Proposition

Recently mask mandates have returned, in-person events this fall have returned to virtual, and Covid cases, particularly for the unvaccinated, are on the rise. The market has responded nervously as recovery forecasts are in jeopardy and individuals committed to resuming some level of normalcy are now reevaluating their plans and decisions.

We may have thought ambiguity was ebbing and giving way to more certain paths ahead, but once again we have learned the need to embrace ambiguity is a constant. And sadly in many ways ambiguity has accelerated.

Ambiguity Outcomes

“The degree of uncertainty that we can tolerate depends upon our personal or organizational comfort level. Some of us try to avoid uncertainty, some of us tolerate it, but few of us actively embrace it. We can never shrink uncertainty to zero, because the future is always uncertain, but we can reduce it by turning to experts or sleuthing for information we don’t have,” according to Cheryl Strauss Einhorn in the Harvard Business Review.

International management consultant Korn Ferry adds, “Ambiguity is the norm in any complex organization, but clarity is still possible. It is about purpose, long-term direction, and values. At its simplest, ambiguity is a lack of clarity, which leads to frustration and, in the organizational context, heightened anxiety for leaders and employees. Our challenge as leaders, given this reality, is determining what we can be clear about to enable agile organizational responses.”

How Pattern Recognition Leads to High Performance

Issue 14: August 5, 2021

Pattern Recognition as a key to Change and Transformation 

Every week since the start of our thought leadership series we have revealed the building blocks required to achieve successful organizational change and transformation. Each article reflects the value of critical thinking, data, process, strategy and operational readiness required for organizational success and achievement.

This week, we explore (and emphasize) the importance of pattern recognition and its role in any organizational change, pivot, and transformation. Pattern recognition is of value even if you do not plan to effect any change or transformation; it also relates to improving existing performance.

Pattern Recognition 101

Pattern recognition is a popular term defining the power of AI. In this sense, machine learning enables the search and identification of recurring patterns with approximately similar outcomes. The Wiki description is “the automated recognition of patterns and regularities in data, and the field of pattern recognition is concerned with the automatic discovery of regularities in data through the use of computer algorithms and with the use of these regularities to take actions such as classifying the data into different categories.” Edwin Hancock, editor in chief of Elsevier adds, “Pattern recognition is a mature but exciting and fast-developing field, which underpins developments in cognate fields such as computer vision, image processing, text and document analysis and neural networks. It also finds applications in fast emerging areas such as biometrics, bioinformatics, multimedia data analysis and most recently data science.”

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

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