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2040's Ideas and Innovations Newsletter August to October 2021 Weekly Issues

Explore 2040’s weekly Ideas and Innovations newsletters below or via our archive … and visit our strategic and operations thought leadership reports and posts here.

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Decision Making and Primitive Automaticity

Issue 27: October 28, 2021

We live in nearly constant transition as the world around us continues to change quickly and dynamically. We often don’t know what we may have lost (or gained) as situations change or evolve around us. We often struggle how to redefine ourselves in a world we do not yet well understand because of the pace of change.

Technology continues to fundamentally change the world around us as we debate whether we are changing as a result of technology or question if our tech-framed behavior is innate. These are existential questions that we must deal with to determine who we are versus who we perceive we are. A quote from The Matrix sums it up best when Morpheus responds to Neo by saying, “What is reality? Reality comes from electrical pulses firing synapses in the brain and which forms the construct. The reality, then is what the mind believes it is. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. If real is what you can feel, smell, taste and see, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”

Surface Noise

As a society we are discovering how we have been captive to algorithms dialing our emotions up and down, polarizing our thoughts and beliefs, and rattling our perceptions of our individual realities as we negatively compare ourselves to those around us. We are subject to information feeds that deliver filtered information based on what an algorithm believes we want to see because we have interacted with similar information in the recent past.

We are overwhelmed by the amount of choice that we have facing us daily. We live in a world of never-ending choices, whether deciding what to watch, what to buy in endless online aisles or where to eat. Research shows we are easily stressed and become consumed with anxiety when we have too many items to choose from when we only want two or three.

Much research is coming to the forefront that reveals the amount of information the subconscious mind registers as we scan and curate our information, social and newsfeeds, even though we interact with only a few items across the feed via our conscious minds. Images, comments, and emojis become imprinted into our minds and begin to affect our thoughts and feelings, defining how we see others, think about issues and situations, and how we perceive our reality.

What’s worse is that we often don’t even recognize the influences around us which shape our conscious and unconscious thoughts and actions. It is difficult to always know what to think and do when so much of the world around us has an unknown influence on our thoughts, emotions, actions, and behaviors.

Over the past several months, we have continually surfaced via this newsletter the need for limiting bias, 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.

Read more on what influences our behaviors and decision-making>

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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?

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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?
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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, is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Apple Books. Enjoy a short preview.ard and upward from the 2040 Team

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