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2040's Ideas and Innovations Newsletter July to September 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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An Elephant? What Elephant? Where Is the Elephant?

Decision-Making: Actions, Influences, Impacts and Unintended Consequences

Issue 75: Sept 29, 2022

In June of this year, we published an article about unintended consequences and how many organizations, governments and individuals are blindsided by not anticipating the future. Technically, unintended consequences are outcomes of actions in the immediate past or in current times that have unforeseen impacts or influences on the near or far future. Consider a line of dominoes or a house built from playing cards. When one is touched or removed, all the others are influenced and fall into disarray.

Living in the Moment

Although we seem to be evolutionarily programmed to constantly assess our surroundings to ensure safety and security for the long-term, we often react based on the immediate moment. We struggle to understand what seems far off, ambiguous, or outside of our span of knowledge and experience. Furthermore, we prefer to stay on the surface, like skipping stones over water. For many of us, our goal is to stay on the surface and not explore what lies in the deep where things are unknown, perhaps complicated, or uncomfortable. It is hard to contend with the future when we are living in the present and have unfulfilled needs, wants and problems that need to be solved right now. We typically think (or not) and take action to ensure we meet expectations in the present.

Leaders, managers, and employees face an existential challenge when it comes to transforming a business and its model. Resistance to change and not taking risks is the intuitive norm, and therefore increases drag or completely prohibits change. This is a level of resistance that results in roadblocks that even technology cannot overcome. Our organizational playbook, The Truth About Transformation, explores these issues … plus more!

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Assumptions and Consequences

Issue 74: Sept 21, 2022

Don’t make any assumptions! How many times have we heard this – at work and at home?  Yet, we make assumptions all the time. And our assumptions are typically personal speculations that have broad implications. We assume that our workforce is achieving its potential.  We assume that leadership is making decisions that benefit the entire organization, including its workers.  We assume that our customers are pleased with our products and services and are loyal to our brand. And we assume that our market is renewable and sustainable.

But what if we’re wrong? Business Coach Stephanie Ward writes “We make assumptions when we don’t fully understand a situation. It is a natural reaction to immediately fill in any missing information by making up our own story. We do this because we like to try to make sense of people and situations. The problem with this is that most of the time our story is incorrect which causes all kinds of complications. The fact is, we don’t know what the truth is unless we ask.”

We are evolutionarily programmed to assess information and based on that information, faulty as it may be, determine what to think, how to respond, what to do and how to act. That programming comes from a basic necessity to ensure safety and security. We make assumptions because we feel compelled by the situation to do so (think: a team awaiting your direction); because it may be necessary to do so (approving a project or report); or because you’ve been asked a question (your CEO asks for your opinion of the market). In each and any instance we know some things — some things we don’t. And some things may not readily come to mind as we may not connect to the issue. In any case, when there are gaps in what we know, we make our best guess via assumptions. There’s another catch. We know our memories are not perfect — some of us remember words, some of us remember visually. It’s impossible to remember every element, rather only what our minds have deemed important. That assessment of what is important to remember is subjective and leads to gaps. And then we make assumptions.

Assuming Business as Usual

Let’s take a step sidewise. Entrepreneur reports “Assumptions are ideas that we presume to be true before making decisions. Assumptions are also made in organizations for developing a strategy, planning, and making decisions. These conjectures are generally standardized as disclosure of uncertainty and risk.” That’s an optimistic operational strategy. Budgets are based on assumptions. Customer acquisition is based on assumptions. Event attendance is based on assumptions.  As is the performance of our workforce. But how do you know your assumptions are accurate?

Assumptions can grow to become beliefs that stem from faulty information, missing information, taking what someone shared as truth, or simply because we haven’t had time or the desire to research and seek out what would fill the gap. Australian advisory firm Advizia reports, “Over time, for a variety of reasons, an opinion or statement becomes fact without any empirical evidence or data to prove it. Anyone following U.S. political debate in recent years will see this concept in action. Someone in an organization, at any level in the business, will develop or state a position. This position, and the assumptions on which it is established, are naturally based on their understanding of the market, their interpretation of information or views or opinions. This position is then repeated and adopted throughout the business to become an assumption under which the business then operates.” And therein lies the rub. Accepting assumption as the truth has dire consequences.

How Do You Know Your Assumptions are Accurate? 

Read the Full Article>

Leaders, managers, and employees face an existential challenge when it comes to transforming a business and its model. Resistance to change and not taking risks is the intuitive norm, and therefore increases drag or completely prohibits change. This is a level of resistance that results in roadblocks that even technology cannot overcome. Our organizational playbook, The Truth About Transformation, explores these issues … plus more!

Get the Book>

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Quiet Quitting

Issue 73: Sept 15, 2022

We’ve all become seduced by the power of digital media to shift the cultural conversation in real time. Case in point: A cascade of reports about Quiet Quitting hit our inboxes after it was socialized on TikTok in July. It soon became the darling of cultural observers and journalists … and the bane of HR teams. So, what’s the fuss?  Ambivalent employment has been around for ages; quiet quitting has gained traction as the corollary to The Great Resignation. Just as a reminder, The Great Resignation “saw an average of nearly 4 million employees leave their jobs each month in 2021 amid clashes over flexibility and a widespread reevaluation of how work should fit into their lives. And it’s also gaining steam now at a moment of peak tension between managers and employees, as many companies prepare for another push to bring workers back to offices,” according to The Washington Post.

Quitting Quietly

Quiet quitters have seemingly become the Silent Resistance. Technically, quiet quitting is doing the least amount of work possible. It doesn’t necessarily mean employees have checked out, but they are definitely setting boundaries and controlling their engagement levels. With a workforce doing the bare minimum based on their ethos that they work to live, not live to work, the resounding choruses of needing life/work balance have shattered traditionalists’ definition and opinion of “work.”

In deconstructing the quiet-quitting phenomenon, a CNBC report quotes Michael Timmes, a senior HR specialist at Insperity, “There have always been employees who react to burnout by doing the bare minimum. Today, this is being driven by Gen Z, however, it is evident across all generations.” Propelled by the disillusion of many younger workers as being perceived as cogs in a wheel, it’s a passive-aggressive way to make a statement. Often without any consequences. There’s a practical aspect to it: not all employees can quit – there may be nowhere to go. Quiet quitting buys some time and as long as workers are doing the minimum without criticism from management, they pull it off. To the chagrin of older colleagues, quiet quitters are demonstrating minimal emotional investment in work and/or are seeking to define their concept of a career outside the context of a traditional organizational ladder. The attitude is also a manifestation of anti-ambition, another millennial/Gen Z touchstone.

Let’s take a broader view and consider what The Guardian recently reported “What is happening is that tired, overworked, burnt-out working-class people are taking back their agency and refusing jobs and working conditions that are unsuitable for them. The latest of these acts of resistance is quiet quitting: the newly coined term for when workers only do the job that they’re being paid to do, without taking on any extra duties, or participating in extracurriculars at work.”

How Did We Get Here? Select the continue reading button below to learn more.

And check out our new book, The Truth About Transformation, for a comprehensive playbook on the risks and rewards of managing a modern business in a disruptive marketplace.

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What Role Do You Play?

Issue 72: Sept 9, 2022

Here’s a real-life scenario. Recently there has been friction and dissension within a management team. Managers are struggling to help manage a disruptive economy, guide strategy in an ambiguous marketplace, rein in a headstrong CEO that is resisting authority, and manage multiple powerplays among members who believe they have all the answers or who are afraid to reveal themselves and what they don’t know. This is not a fictional drama. This is what happens when an organizational culture has become dysfunctional, rudderless, and fails to set, or has lost its North Star.

Human beings can appear to be many different people throughout the day dependent on the situation or environment. We assume different roles based on the situation at hand, although our core values don’t change. These roles may blur from time to time, but it is critically important to recognize which role we are assuming and what is expected of us. For example, although we may be natural leaders, we may choose to play a subordinate role when we feel it is needed or it appears appropriate.

And check out our new book, The Truth About Transformation, for a comprehensive playbook on the risks and rewards of managing a modern business in a disruptive marketplace.

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What Is Your North Star?

Issue 71: Sept 1, 2022

Do you know your organization’s North Star?  Or maybe a better question is whether your organization even has a North Star. Not to get all astronomical on you, but Dr. E.C. Krupp, Director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles and a world-renowned expert in ancient astronomy explains, “The north pole of the sky and whatever stars were close to that point told the ancients there was foundation and structure in their lives. It was an anchor that held the world in place, the stable, motionless hub of the night’s orderly parade of stars. For some, that spot symbolized stability, order, and transcendental celestial power. The motionless stability of the north celestial pole is also expressed in the names and myths attached to the star now seen closest to the sky’s pole. Although we usually call it the North Star, it is also known as Polaris, Latin for “of the pole.”

A North Star Narrative

So, metaphorically, a North Star is what inspires and influences us.  It’s not goals.  It’s not a mission statement.  It’s the fundamental ethos that your organization operates on. To be more precise, it is the reason you are in business. It is your shared purpose reflected and embraced by everyone in your organization. And your true sense of direction.

And check out our new book, The Truth About Transformation, for a comprehensive playbook on the risks and rewards of managing a modern business in a disruptive marketplace.

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How Communications Matter

Issue 70, August 25th, 2022

Can you hear me? Am I listening? Are we communicating in ways that we understand each other? Language, tone, intention … critical thinking. Are we honestly embracing diversity of thought, alternative perspectives, and different ways of solving problems? Or are we putting our co-workers, colleagues, and—even worse—our customers into boxes that we have imposed on them.

In case you missed, it, check out our newsletter, How Effectively Do You Communicate with Stakeholders,” and learn how critical thinking makes the difference that matters to everyone in your organization. Here’s the new billboard: 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.

Read all about it!

And check out our new book, The Truth About Transformation, for a comprehensive playbook on the risks and rewards of managing a modern business in a disruptive marketplace.

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The New Rules of Work

Issue 69: August 18, 2022

What is work? Where is work? What work matters? Why do we work?  The traditional work models are turning on their heads.  It’s been a long time coming since the Industrial Age, but we are at a crossroads moving forward radically in how we view and manage work … and our workforce.

Think of the current work-related cultural conversation: the Great Resignation, anti-Ambition, silent resignation, a next-gen mental health crisis, distributed work, essential vs. nonessential, unionization pushed by young highly educated workers, global health emergencies, purpose- values-driven work and a demand for corporate transparency.

What does it take to make a revolution?  Or at the very least a fast-forward evolution? We are either going through a significant reset of work, or the tail end of a pandemic-influenced re-evaluation of work. Or both.  Much has been reported about the post-pandemic (or ongoing, depending on where you stand on the issue) changes in work, so, instead, we are going to focus on a few key indicators that we believe are reshaping the new rules of work.

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Targeted Transformation

Issue 68: August 11, 2022

What’s the default approach to organizational pivots and transformation?  Popular opinion is that technology will lead the way and the workforce will follow. It’s a seductive, but majorly misguided notion. First and foremost, it’s the human factor that will make or break any strategic plan.  And that’s the focus of our new book, The Truth about Transformation. Our playbook takes a deep focus on what you need to know, the questions you should ask, and the balance between macro and micro influences that drive high performance.  It’s not your typical business book; rather it is an original, provocative look at what you don’t know you don’t know, the typical assumptions we make, and the landmines that prevent sustainable transformation.

True transformative change requires an understanding of the human factors at play, how conscious and subconscious behaviors can derail any plan, and how society is influencing your organization. Change is the only constant. An evolving reality is emerging, one that will fundamentally change who we are, how we work, and how organizations will be relevant today and in the future. The truth about transformation is not what you may think. Our guide to organizational transformation will surprise, confound, provoke, and challenge every ingrained belief. The future is out there, and the truth about transformation will change how you lead.

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Why Do We Obey the Rules?

Issue 67: August 4, 2022

We have been making and obeying rules since early civilization.  Historical facts: The oldest written legal text is the Code of Ur-Nammu (around 2050 BC) and the most famous is the Code of Hammurabi (around 1780 BC, pictured above) both written in cuneiform. They are from ancient Sumeria in southern Mesopotamia, now southern Iraq.  These early codes were social contracts among people and governments, not unlike our laws today.  So, this begs the question: Why do people obey the rules considering the rules-bending culture we are living in? We wrote about why people lie, and the corollary to that may be why we obey the rules … or don’t.

Our society and our organizations exist based on rules. We may mask rules as processes, procedures, policies, regulations, laws, codes, plans, standards, guidelines or the like. Call them what you will, they guide us nearly every moment of every day.

In every instance, we seek to structure the environments we work and live in with what equates to rules, and yes even social norms, which basically set rules defining what is or isn’t acceptable.

When we consider organizational change or transformation, we are essentially seeking to change, alter or replace previous rules which sought obedience. From a systems thinking perspective, rules shape the system structure which is needed for our organizations and our society to run well, remain productive, be comfortable and predictable. As you ponder how your day-to-day is structured based on rules, let’s turn our attention to obedience…following the rules.

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Why Do People Lie?

Issue 66: July 28, 2022

Last week we discussed inferences that can be made based on what we do versus what we say— all revealed by data from our physical and digital footprints. We offered several observations about how what we say often reflects what we think others want to hear from us or how others expect us to respond. Several months ago, we focused on how individuals and organizations earn trust. This week, we turn our attention to asking why people lie.

We would argue that all of us lie – the issue is to what degree. Why do we lie? The reasons are as complex as the situations that trigger the behavior.  Let’s review just a few reasons why we lie….

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Behavioral and Inference Data: A 360 Perspective

Issue 65: July 21, 2022

What we say or how we respond publicly is often very different than what we may feel, believe, like or dislike privately. Let’s consider a hypothetical conversation with a friend. She is proudly wearing a new dress that she just purchased. She asks your opinion as she seeks confirmation if the dress makes her look good. She surely thinks it does. You of course don’t want to hurt her feelings. You express that you really like what she is wearing, even though you think the pattern and color look more like a tablecloth or set of curtains. And this may be even though the style is totally on trend; you just can’t get beyond your first reaction.

Here’s a work-related example. In discussion with your work team, you are bored with the items being reviewed, and your mind begins to drift off. You then hear your name and call yourself back to attention. Your teammates are asking if you agree with the approach they want to take to solve the problem. You quickly nod your head in agreement, despite not really understanding what the team wants to do. Even though you don’t know what has been discussed, the team members depart the meeting believing there is consensus across the team, including you.

Here’s a third example. You receive a survey request that is offering the opportunity to win a gift certificate if you participate. You always feel lucky and usually respond to offers to potentially get something free for a few minutes of your time. You answer the questions presented in the survey even though you don’t care about or relate to the subject matter.

What these situations have in common is that in each instance you responded with information or an opinion that was what the recipient wanted or prompted you to express. And in each instance, what you shared was counter to your own thoughts and beliefs.

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To Be Forewarned Is to Be Forearmed

Issue 64: July 14, 2022

The savvy, experienced executives are curious, informed, and naturally anticipate the future, not catch up to it. That usually requires these individuals to step out of their comfort zones and confront ambiguity and change head-on. They support their teams and coach them to think critically and stretch to maintain high performance, both individually and for the organization. This may sound obvious, but in our experience, we have encountered top leaders who are uncomfortable with the lightning-speed changes in the marketplace and insecure about their knowledge gaps – especially in data and analytics.

As we have shared, new data privacy laws are complex and can have draconian consequences if ignored. Our counsel with clients is to help them navigate the policies and establish a robust data and analytics practice to better manage and control their first-party data. Many of the strategies for becoming data-driven are hidden in plain sight; you simply need to change your thinking to recognize the assets you already have. Remember, the ultimate goal is to give your stakeholders what they want and need, not what you think they want.

Data, managed effectively, provides a rich trove of insights into behavior, intent, purchase patterns, and preferences. A solid data program will also reveal how you can grow your revenues and value currency by delivering what your customers want rather than developing products and services based on instinct and intuition. That said, the challenges going forward will be adapting your current data practice to the new laws protecting privacy. It will take a learning curve and some innovative thinking about how to better know, understand, and serve your customers based on data.

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Breaking News: Important Privacy Changes

Issue 63: July 7, 2022

As we mentioned in our Privacy Regulation Update: The Doors Are Locking on User Data newsletter last week, over the next two weeks, we will share a curated list of 2021/22 articles to assist you and your organization in conducting some deep and critical thinking on how you collect, manage and leverage data. We will also review tips on how you adapt to the limitations and restrictions set in place by the current or soon-to-be privacy and data regulations, plus how you mature your strategy towards outcomes in the present and future as a result.

Note to self: The privacy environment is only going to become more complex in the near and far term.

EU Moves Ahead

This past Tuesday, July 5, 2022, the EU Parliament officially voted and approved the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act. Each is now the law of the land in the European Union. Parts of each Act will come into force immediately, in 2023 and in entirety in 2024. The US American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA), modeled from many parts of the EU Acts, continues to gain support and traction in the US House of Representatives.

Reducing Risk

Here’s how this will affect your organization. Your in-place strategies and tactics have either become more challenging, illegal or simply no longer effective If you have: (Continue on to Read the Full Article)

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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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