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2040's Ideas and Innovations Newsletter April to June 2022 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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Privacy Regulation Update: The Doors Are Locking on User Data

Issue 62: June 30, 2022

We have frequently written about how the digital privacy and data environment outside of the US is being transformed as a result of international government efforts to enact policies and regulations that seek to protect its citizens and their privacy. The EU community is leading the way on these initiatives, and we caution all organizations to be aware and forewarned about the changes as they already affect global operations and will ultimately impact their US operations.

The US has not yet put into place individual online privacy protections. In the absence of a federal policy or framework, individual states are expected to enact protections for their citizens. But here’s the complication: digital extends beyond borders, national and international. Organizations face significant management and compliance challenges anywhere they provide information, services, or products to a geographically diverse set of stakeholders.

Data-Driven Mindsets

Data has become a fundamental pillar of our digital economy. It is a powerful tool both realistically and aspirationally to reach the right customers, create awareness or gain conversion via advertising. Data also refine how to assess and understand engagement, measure sales, and develop relevant marketing and product efforts.

The challenge is when an organization’s digital inputs are from the majorly passive channels awaiting traffic among the exponentially growing number of other passive channels across the expanse of the web. App stores are disintermediating organizations and making it harder and harder for them to get in front of potential stakeholders. In turn, organizations are compromised by direct or indirect data collection and leveraging the right data which makes it possible to drive potential stakeholders to the organization’s passive islands.

The data environment in the US may finally be changing given recent actions in Congress. Before we dive into that topic and surface its impact on organizations, let’s review some of the recent activities in the European Union.

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2022 Mid-Year Prediction: Unintended Consequences

Issue 61: June 23, 2022

Over the past two years in discussions with clients and the 2040 team, I have continued to raise the point that “ it ain’t over until the lady sings.” Many have already sung with sighs of relief and many more have yet to sing. In either case, the songs increase anxiety and confusion when the last notes are ambivalent, and the outcome is not assured.

The Center Will Not Hold

In many instances after the proverbial ladies have sung, organizations rock back in a state of surprise and amazement. “What happened” and “why” echo in the executive suite. At 2040, it is a head-scratcher that organizations are so blindsided. The “why” is that leadership is not paying attention to societal, organizational, and even their own blind spots. To quote William Butler Yeats, “Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer; things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” Just as the poet describes, we fail to see and connect the dots until we actually can see and connect them, if it’s not too late.

The Ecosystem

My ongoing concern is the lack of recognition of how interdependent everything is across our society. This is my “critical thinking prompt” for clients to wake up and connect the dots.

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Always Start with a Strategic Premise

Issue 60: June 16, 2022

You’ve developed an aspirational strategic plan that is going to help you crush it compared to your competitors and allow the organization to expand its customer base and be more relevant to existing customers.  The direction of the plan and its goals seem to address the declining performance of existing business lines and offerings by developing a new model.

You’ve worked on it, honed it, and vetted it with your executive team and board of directors.  On the surface, everyone appears to be supportive. Your communications group has crafted organization-wide messaging to introduce the new strategic direction to customers and the public at large. On a whim, communications shared the message with a few selected customers to be sure the plan is clear, compelling, and actionable.

Then everything fell apart.  The feedback received was undebatable. Customers asked so many questions that the communications team was confused, and they didn’t have any answers. When communications shared the feedback with the executive team and board, nearly all these key leaders also became confused. Executive management counted on staff across the organization with the knowledge and experience to raise the red flag if any issues existed. Why weren’t the customers getting it? It all seemed so clear.

To say they were blindsided was an understatement. Everyone involved, including those on the board, believed in their perceptions of what customers want and need. They were shocked when they heard customers didn’t see the value the organization was going to create via this new strategic direction. Where did this all go wrong? What feels “good” and “right” on the surface can be based on faulty premises, which is the case in this scenario.

Foresight is Hindsight

The strategic planning effort lacked the key exercise of creating a strategic premise: defining the context for the plan, vetting scenarios that are tested and validated with accurate data, determining the orientation towards the market, and understanding clearly how the market perceives its relationship with the organization and its expectations about what it wants from the organization. That’s a lot, but it’s an absolutely essential exercise.

Too often strategic plans are set in a vacuum, without context or data, overlooking the reason and the impetus of the “why.” The activity also misses necessary alignment with an organization’s capability and capacity correlated to the market’s true needs and wants.

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Shared Purpose Revisited

Issue 59, June 9, 2022

Back by popular demand, our newsletter on Shared Purpose is the best-read article we have published. It resonates because organizations today need a shared purpose to make a business sustainable. It’s not enough to have shared goals, an organization needs shared intent. Axios reports, “So much misunderstanding, tension and turmoil flow from thinking the other people are dishonest or out to get you. So, stop assuming the worst. Dig deep enough into relationships and business cultures, and you often find bad assumptions in the roots. Telltale signs are suspicion, backbiting or score-settling.”

Shared purpose is getting to the heart of what is intended, and its practical application is to actively listen and talk (don’t text). In a recent Flex Jobs Survey, the number-one reason people are quitting their jobs is toxic company culture. A positive work environment matters most to employees, and a shared purpose actualizes trust, respect, and the intrinsic dignity of every individual.

Operating in a fractious marketplace and a splintered society makes shared purpose all the more essential to intentionally build trust and relationships among teams. Younger employees in particular need something they can believe in and dedicate themselves to that brings meaning and purpose to their lives. Positioning your organization through the lens of how it helps develop strengths and skills for each employee, brings stakeholders valuable insights and guidance on how to do their jobs, and plays a role in building community credibility goes a long way today.

Enjoy the read and take shared purpose seriously. It will pay off on every level you operate and guide you to the future following your own North Star.

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Transformation Is a Messy Business

Issue 58, June 2, 2022

When it comes to digital transformation, some thought leaders correlate it to chaos theory. We’ve all heard about chaos theory, even if we don’t understand it. Dumbed down, it’s the mathematical theory that explains what seems random and chaotic but that in actuality has underlying patterns, an interconnectedness and self-organization that can give order and logic to what seems chaotic on the surface. As we have continued to share in our newsletters, what we perceive is our version of reality and how we see the world around us — and we often fail to see true reality. Patterns exist everywhere in everything and every action or non-action influences other parts of the pattern, which ultimately find a higher level of order and organization. The concept of chaos theory can certainly be applied to the market disruptions we have experienced lately.

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The Fault in Ourselves … Revisited

Issue 57, May 26, 2022

When we originally published this newsletter, Ukraine was not making headlines; there was no fifth wave of Covid; state primaries hadn’t happened; Disney was running theme parks in Florida without taking a public political position; the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard spectacle fighting out their own interpretations of the truth; and Elon Musk was not making news acquiring/not acquiring Twitter. Leading an organization has become a landmine with the public weighing in on everything from social and climate justice to personal opinions about the organization’s local and national politics. As Maureen Dowd recently wrote in The New York Times, “Everywhere we look, we are deluged with deception and Big Lies. Across the world, customized facts are the rage. Truth has left the building.”

You may think this has nothing to do with running an organization. But it does when public trust is eroded in political systems, institutions, and business leaders. And we believe this review of The Fault in Ourselves reveals how personal bias and groupthink can derail any organization as it has our now polarized public forums supporting the freedom of choice and civil dissent. We are sharing this newsletter with you again as a reminder of how critical it is to be fair, self-aware, open to differing viewpoints, and setting intentions to elicit a collaborative workplace culture. The command-and-control horse is out of the barn, as is the antiquated silo organizational structure. We are all held accountable to our stakeholders and the public at large. Identifying the fault in ourselves will accelerate our journey to organizational success and workforce high performance.

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How Illusion and Delusion Derail Organizations

Issue 56: May 19, 2022

Two colleagues just attended their monthly executive committee meeting. One is the chief revenue officer of the organization, and the other is the head of marketing. The organization is struggling with diminishing membership revenues and sponsorship sales are running behind. The salesperson gave an upbeat, optimistic presentation asserting they would close the revenue gap by the end of the quarter. The marketing executive had a completely different take on the meeting noting that it would take an unprecedented heroic effort to make up the revenue shortfalls.

Or consider this: In Plato’s classic Allegory of the Cave, Socrates describes a group of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall from objects passing in front of a fire behind them and give names to these shadows. The shadows are the prisoners’ reality but are not accurate representations of the real world. The shadows represent the fragment of reality that we normally perceive through our senses, while the objects under the sun represent the true forms of objects that we can only perceive through reason.

Stick with us here.

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Leading with Courage Redux

Issue 55: May 12, 2022

When we published the Leading with Courage newsletter last Fall, we were still emerging from the worst of the pandemic, slightly dazed and confused. We were facing a perfect storm that tested our resolve and creativity in leading our way to the future. Today, the entire world has seemingly collectively recognized the face of courage in the Ukrainian people and their leader, Volodymyr Zelensky. The Wall Street Journal states, “Zelensky defines courage in our time. His words and personal courage have stirred the world to action. Whatever fate awaits him and his nation, those who watched Mr. Zelensky’s address to the joint congressional session won’t soon forget it. It was a privilege to see a leader in whom honor is personified.”

 An uninvited war has enormous collateral consequences and unanticipated escalating costs – both in resources and human beings. Our thoughts on courage take on new meaning in the context of Zalensky’s very public role in living every day with grace under pressure. We invite you to reread our article with the vision of what it takes to step up and step into living courageously, both personally and professionally. Yes, courage has its costs, but in a divisive society, disruptive marketplace, and dysfunctional public discourse, we need courage more than ever.

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Why Does Context Matter to Every Individual and Organization?

Issue 54: May 5, 2022

In times of uncertainty and ambiguity, context is essential to providing clarity in communications and interpersonal relations – both personal and professional. It has become a challenge to understand others when there is an abundance of misinformation and personal spin on the facts. Even more confusing, history is recorded according to the historian’s context, which can be a highly personal interpretation. Worst case, the lack of context obscures information.

What does context have to do with organizational performance? First of all, one could argue that context is everything. Context is literally (according to Webster) the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed. Simply stated, context throws light on communications, situations, and plans, clarifying intentions and goals. Context can also be inspirational prompting one to seek out the information that informs context which can lead to the identification of opportunities that weren’t previously known.

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Are You Holding Everyone Back?

Issue 53: April 28, 2022

Some people are quick processors, others way slower. Some people are decisive, others less so. Some people thrive on structure, others won’t be boxed in. And some people are planners, others can’t be bothered. We all know the types: Planners get to the airport hours before the flight; their nemeses are always running to the gate.

What happens when key members of a team don’t process quickly enough, are indecisive, resist structure and don’t want to plan ahead? The individual versus the demands of the group is not a psycho-social theory. We see it all the time in organizations when progress is held hostage by a few individuals who aren’t showing up for the team. Or worse than that, an entire organization is disrupted when it is unprepared for unexpected changes in market conditions, customers … or say a global pandemic.

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Transitioning, Under Pressure … or Voluntarily

Issue 52: April 21, 2022

Does this sound familiar? You have spent most of your professional life perfecting who you are and have chosen to become. It’s a significant investment to fine-tune a life that conforms to your beliefs, hopes and dreams. Then wham! You have become marginal, or even worse, irrelevant. Suddenly (although it was gradual in coming if you had been paying attention) you have to reinvent yourself. This turning point is happening for both young and veteran professionals after a forced transition as organizations reorganize, pivot, change or seek holistic transformation. It always seems that even any change for the better leaves many in its wake trying to clear the water from their eyes to see how they must redefine themselves, or more dramatically, how they must reinvent themselves to remain relevant. For others who are prescient, they make a proactive, voluntary pivot to stay in the game and contribute in a meaningful way.

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Why Do We Struggle with White Space?

Issue 51: April 14, 2022

Here’s an existential question: How do you fill an empty/white space? Spoiler alert: First, ask yourself is it worth filling? Second, is what you’re filling it with valuable, relevant and meaningful? Lastly, don’t hold back if you’re worried whether the full space is going to be accepted by others or will we be ridiculed and sequestered to the back of the room.

Too often our default behaviors kick in and we feel anxiety and stress when we have to fill an empty space because our base level of comfort and security are upended when presented with a blank canvas. Our comfort is further threatened when we feel there is an expectation to perform, and we’re not confident we can succeed. We worry if what we are about to add to the canvas will be right, credible and accepted by others. Filling an empty space is inhibiting because we are programmed to avoid ridicule, reveal our faults or expose what we don’t know.

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What Keeps You from Attaining Goals?

Issue 50: April 7, 2022

Any transformation, transition or change requires setting and attaining goals. But does the end justify the means? In other words, do we focus so acutely on the goals we set that we lose sight of whether the goals move us forward to what we aspire to? How do we ensure our goals are worthy and relevant? How often do we mistake a goal for intention?  A goal has a measurable outcome. An intention is about feelings.  So, consider this: I want to create an environment in which everyone feels safe and secure in striving to attain our goals. That is the intention with a goal at its best. Let’s dive into the human defaults that influence how we conceptualize and set goals, what we assign as goals, and how to create shared goals and measure the outcomes.

Goal Theory

As there is a theory for everything, goal theory is an intellectual and psychological construct created by Edwin Locke and Gary Latham to understand how goals influence an individual’s behavior and how behavior and thought processes influence how we understand goals.  “Goal setting theory is based upon the simplest of introspective observations, specifically, that conscious human behavior is purposeful. Goals not only affect behavior as well as job performance, but they also help mobilize energy which leads to a higher effort overall. Higher effort leads to an increase in persistent effort,” according to Locke.  Increases in effort take energy, something we are programmed to conserve via our evolutionary defaults. Setting goals that use up our energy reserves, then, seems counterintuitive.  But we are full of contradictions, particularly in what motivates us and which part of ourselves (our conscious or subconscious mind) makes decisions.

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

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