A Guide to Readiness for Change and Transformation
Issue 36: December 28, 2021
As we look back over the past year, it is remarkable to note how resilient we are as human beings and together as a society, which extends to our organizations and their culture. Leading in a time of ambiguity can be exhausting and meeting all stakeholders’ expectations is never-ending. At 2040, we work with our clients to navigate the sea changes that have reshaped and re-engineered how we conduct business. Our key focus is the human factor, critical thinking and how to control bias in managing people, process, products and profit. We advocate systems thinking problem solving and holistic approaches that sustain a collaborative, collegial culture. Running a business today is fraught with landmines; we know how to avoid them and build a healthy, enlightened organization.
In remembrance of a year past, we offer you this index of thought leadership position pieces that can help you manage transformation and strengthen your organization to be competitive in a complex, ever-evolving digital marketplace and in meeting your current and prospective customers’ needs and wants.
Issue 35: December 23, 2021
What is the role of a business leader today? The pressures placed on managers and leaders have grown exponentially with expectations from all stakeholders to lead in a certain way. And that way is what those stakeholders believe is the right way. The leadership arena is complex and risky. Whether you lead a small association or a multinational brand, the skillset required to exceed everyone’s expectations has expanded beyond organizational expertise.
As we turn our attention, despite current circumstances, to a new year filled with optimism and promise, we must recognize that our customers, staff and stakeholders continue to expand their expectations of us and in turn, we must rise to the occasion and seek to meet those expectations.
Consider for a moment the new cultural/social domains that leaders need to master and have teams in place to manage: DEI, ESG, local politics, national policy, multicultural communities, workforce mental health, privacy, and cybersecurity — just to mention a few. At the heart of these issues is the need to balance people, profits, and products/services.
“Many of the current problems in the digital society we now exist in equates to — lack of trust, misaligned incentives, controlling gatekeepers, treating audiences as a resource to be exploited — arise from its intense centralization around massive tech platforms that seemingly only get more massive as they lock in their network effects and store of data.” So says Brian Morrissey. Add to the tech issues, the drama and demands of fulfilling social expectations, many of which are unstated.
Context is Everything
Issue 34: December 16, 2021
We have shared with you a set of practices that is key to high performance, optimal business modeling, productive workplace culture and enlightened leadership. Clear, unbiased communications and organizational constructs are essential tools in a digital marketplace. And activating these tools is made more powerful through critical thinking and analysis with context.
We are among those that believe that context is everything. It is the foundational pillar of any change and transformation. Without contextual analysis, transformation is merely theoretical. And without shared knowledge that results in shared organizational understanding and alignment, the exercise is meaningless.
Context is critical to prevent overlooking systems within systems and the impact our actions may have across systems when we consider organizational change and transformation. When we consider context, we must take into account how historical, social, societal, cultural, generational, political, and environmental factors impact and influence organizational change or transformation efforts. More precisely, a context-informed transformation strategy includes the market environment, organizational structure, technological infrastructure, human complement, and other elements that comprise a complete system dependent upon its interrelationship with immediate internal and broader external systems.
Issue 33: December 9, 2021
With the increasing influence of digital technologies, we are becoming slaves to our devices – at work and at home. And most of us are unaware of how our behaviors are changing as a result of the proliferation of digital platforms and our near-constant use of them. What’s more, our communication skills and styles are evolving in lockstep with digital systems and processes, often out of necessity, conformance and avoidance of physical interaction. We often don’t realize how the assimilation, accommodations and desire in how we communicate and interact with others is fundamentally changing. Nor do we recognize how our minds are being reprogrammed to maintain connectivity with each other.
Most of us march on to the digital beat and are experiencing psychological, subconscious, and emotional side effects. Next gens speak in shorthand and fear missing out of perceived important interactions on their devices. Employees are experiencing screen fatigue and are overwhelmed by email overload, particularly since our physical interactions are less than what they once were.
We’re going to take a pause and look at communication, how it is changing and how to best communicate in a digital age while also bringing forth some food for thought on how our individual brains are adapting to tech and in many ways being reprogrammed.
Eight Predictions from 2040
Issue 32: December 2, 2021
As we rush headlong into the holiday season and the end of another surprising year, it’s a good time to take stock. The learnings from the pandemic have solidified new business models, changed the context and viewpoints of individual values, and changed the direction that seemed so clear as we started the year. For some organizations seeking to align and embrace new learnings, they have placed people before short-term profits out of sheer necessity and the need for talent and curation of customers and the workforce. It is implicit that our American capitalistic system is designed to drive and reward profit, however after two years of unanticipated market flux, economic disruption, and a pervasive level of anxiety among all individuals, leaders of organizations of all sizes and purposes have taken a pause and reassessed organizational strategies and operational mandates with a new focus on the human factor. This recognition of the need for relationships with individuals representing the workforce, customers and constituencies is key to sustained success.
Predictions are always risky because you are held accountable for your forward-thinking. At 2040, we have years of experience working with clients in many industry sectors, and we can say with certainty that the only constant in life is change. So, we’re going out on a limb here and identifying eight macro trends that we believe all organizations need to pay attention to and build business practices to address these issues to ensure they anticipate the future and remain competitive. With a nod to branding expert Lapidarius, all of our predictions are framed by the reality that Covid and other new health concerns are here to stay. In our highly interconnected world, what happens in an obscure village in Africa has global ramifications as we see viruses proliferating without any regard or respect for international borders.
Managing Ourselves and Our Responses
Issue 31: November 25, 2021
A Helpful Guide to Managing Ourselves and Our Responses
We have published 31 Issues of 2040’s Ideas and Innovations Newsletter and appreciate all your feedback and support over this year. We wanted to take the opportunity to curate some of our favorite and most important topics for your holiday reading.
As we all take a break from navigating the dynamics in our workplaces and shift to focus on family and friends, we offer you some tactics and approaches you might use. Our interactions with people are pretty consistent at work and on our own time, so the following thought leadership pieces could come in handy!
Let’s start with The Fault in Ourselves which explores how strongly our biases play into how we perceive and define others and the world around us. We also go deeper into how we think and solve problems with pieces, on critical thinking, leading with courage and allowing criticism, active listening, recognizing patterns, improving decision making, and mastering communications that actually communicate. Each of these themes separately and combined represent best practices that you should consider in creating deeper understanding of the humans that comprise your life, your family, your friends, and society at large. Below are some additional relevant articles.
Happy Thanksgiving from the 2040 Team
How Market Orientation Drives Success
Issue 30: November 18, 2021
There has been much written about the dynamic and disruptive market forces we operate in. But there is less attention paid to how an organization and its system can only achieve its purpose and goals if the individual and group-based human factors are aligned and oriented towards a shared value proposition to the market. We call this market orientation: enterprise-wide market information (intelligence) related to the present and upcoming needs and desires of customers, disseminating information through and in between departments comprising the parts of an organization’s system, resulting in organization-wide responsiveness, according to Falasca. Simply stated, that means a holistic relationship between leadership, the workforce and its market designed to drive response and engagement among stakeholders.
Why Market Orientation?
Market orientation basically represents a set of processes touching on all aspects of an organization with the purpose of maintaining and growing continuous dialog, recognition, and intent across all organizational units. This interrelationship connects all parts of the organizational system, which enables its responsiveness to the market and its customers.
Market orientation and resulting responsiveness have their basis in agility. It seeks to limit ambiguity by staying knowledgeable and informed on the continued evolution and/or maturation of the market and aligning goals, strategies and tactics that are reflective of market needs and wants, creating deeper and additive customer value.
Authentic market orientation reveals the truth about transformation and how human factors and behaviors impact the organizational system. It isn’t about “marketing,” it isn’t about “sales,” and it isn’t about “product management.” It is focused on the human elements of an organization-wide system that must cohesively align for a shared purpose.
Akroush and Mahadin define market orientation as reflective of the organization’s culture by focusing on creating superior competitive value for customers and exploring and identifying trends in target markets to provide greater needs and desires to customers. Market orientation as a business philosophy and practice should influence and form the basis of culture. This orientation forms the structure by which a culture is set, grows, and matures over time. The culture works towards goals with a shared definition and understanding of information and intelligence including factors and variables that exist in or across the macro (world, region, country, locality), meso (the organization and its system) and micro (representing individuals across the customer base and workforce) systems. Therefore, it does not reflect the culture, it sets the foundation on which the cultural forms.
Life Stage Marketing and Segmentation
Issue 29: November 11, 2021
When managing a multigenerational workforce and understanding a customer audience, there are many theories and models that tap into different segmentations. Creating personas and groupings is helpful to understand, interact, engage, inspire, motivate and convert. The current debate is whether segmentation approaches and practices should be based on chronological age, geolocation, life events, values, attitudes, and lifestyles – or even one’s journey to self-actualization with a nod to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
At 2040 we work with clients to find the perfect balance of combining segmentation models for both the workforce and audience. With the power of data and analytics, segmentation is made more relevant and can be targeted to specific audiences. However, we raise the red flag on the temptation to overclassify and stereotype generations, professions, and age bands, without recognizing the distinct influences of culture, situations and life stages. As an example, we know millennials have delayed life events, AKA getting married and having kids later, but that is a general statement that doesn’t recognize that many in that generation are already married with kids. Although we are grouped by age, location, ethnicity and the like, culture play a strong role. Therefore, less overstatement and more distinct groupings and segments are needed to better reflect who the market really is and how one approaches that market for conversion, engagement, and even brand loyalty.
More, not Less
Most organizations, seek to roll up their personas to a handful. This limited approach seems more manageable, easily understood, and minimizes the mental energy required to monitor, curate, and execute. Personas work across human resources, marketing, communication, customer service and even organizational leadership. The thinking is that a smaller number of personas is better controlled plus the related tasks are more easily managed.
The practice and desire to over-simplify leads to overgeneralization and poor results often without recognizing that the cause of poor performance isn’t because your current or desired customers are ignoring you or you hired the wrong people. Typically, oversimplification reflects the fact that the organization hasn’t taken the time, applied critical thinking, and represented in detail who the individuals are and in what life stages they exist in. Segmentation with more (not fewer) personas reflective of life stage nuances will yield greater success.
Over years of working with clients, we have brought forward, on average, 30-60 potential personas, depending on the client, its audience and how its products or services should be correlated to deliver value and desired results. This higher number is often met with gasps as the immediate default reaction is to resist the amount of work required to manage, curate, and execute communication, marketing, customer service and the like to all potential segments. It does indeed take a lot of work to excel in a more dynamic market where audiences are becoming more ethnically, culturally, and racially diverse — and their needs, wants and desires have become more fluid influenced by life stage.
As we have so often surfaced, default human behavior and resulting decision-making are based on the desire to do less work and make things less complicated. But in the end, that thinking has consequences. To be successful with a workforce and a customer base requires more work and more complexity to achieve results.
Designing the appropriate segmentation model is specific to an organization and its relationship with its workforce and its customer base. We offer a variety of factors, theories, and perspectives that we hope you consider when you define, describe, and represent who comprises your workforce and who your customers really are. These factors guide an organization in its interactions, engagement, inspiration, motivation and conversion efforts.
Before you continue reading, keep in mind what we have brought forward over the past issues of this newsletter, starting with The Fault in Ourselves where we demonstrated how strongly our biases play into how we perceive and define others and the world around us. We raised the issues on critical thinking, leading with courage allowing criticism, active listening, recognizing patterns, improving decision making, measuring what matters, curating first-party data, and mastering communications that actually communicate. Each of these themes separately and combined represent best practices that you should consider in creating deeper understanding of the humans that comprise your workforce, customers, and society at large.
Issue 28: November 4, 2021
Everyone talks about innovation, but how does it really happen? And what is the difference between authentic innovation and a pastiche of innovation that doesn’t power true transformation or change? As we all know, managing and operating an organization has many underlying parts that come together to create the whole system. A startup has the agility and flexibility to innovate and pivot as its size is small, focused and often committed to solving a particular problem. Once it becomes successful and grows, it requires, like every mature organization, the infrastructure to support finance, human resources, product management, communications, marketing, and the like. Creating and managing innovation within a more complex organization has to evolve from a startup mindset.
Success stories abound on how startups embed innovation and disrupt, but what is not widely reported is how they build a system dependent on processes and culture over time as they grow. Ongoing innovation becomes as complex a task for startups as faced by mature organizations. Ironically, mature organizations seek to emulate what they believe is successful, making assumptions that their smaller, more agile counterparts know something they don’t. What results is the attempt to adopt startup innovation strategies and tactics with an immediate, closed-loop approach that segregates the innovators from the rest of the organization. Although mature organizations think they can act like startups, they majorly miss the point that startups exist in a very different context, culture, and system. What happens? Innovation may surely start in a closed-loop but will only succeed in catalyzing transformation if it gets incorporated into the larger organizational system — and the system itself understands how it will be changed. Otherwise, innovation becomes a square peg that cannot fit into a round hole.
We’ve noticed that there is a growing amount of surface noise about innovation that is more posturing and positioning than the real deal that begets true change and transformation as organizations seek to respond and adapt to the dynamically changing marketplace. This veneer of innovation is referred to as “innovation theater.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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