Four years ago, my husband and I decided to make a fairly significant life change. Newly engaged, we were living in the heart of New York City where a vibrant social life, good food, shopping, and museums were all just a subway ride away. Everything we needed or wanted was at our fingertips, yet we felt unfilled. With each of us logging 10- or 12-hour workdays, we saw each other in passing in the morning, and for a brief catch-up session over a rushed takeout dinner in the evening. We were merely surviving instead of thriving in one of the most energetic cities in the world. We decided we needed a change, and we needed one fast.
Fast forward three months later, and we were looking for apartments in our soon-to-be new home of Baltimore, MD. My husband landed a good job at a reputable firm, and without much consternation, we decided to make the leap. He was familiar with the Baltimore area having gone to school in Maryland for four years. I, on the other hand, had only been to the city once before and knew close to no one. I was excited for the move but my world felt upside-down. Everything we had or knew was disrupted, yet we consciously made the decision to disrupt ourselves.
This concept of self-disruption is against human nature. Why would we voluntarily uproot everything we know for the mere hope of finding fulfillment in unknown territory? Why risk going out of our comfort zone when the grass might already be as green as it gets? My response: the risk of staying and failing is far greater than the risk of trying and failing.
This same mentality needs to be applied in the business world today. No matter what kind of organization or industry we work in, our world is being disrupted. Automation, artificial intelligence, blockchain technology – these are all real things having real impact in every industry. In fact, it is predicted that automation will wipe out close to a third of America’s workforce by 2030.
So, what can we do about it? To get ahead of the disruption in our industries, we must first actively and consciously disrupt ourselves. As Greg Arnette explains in his article “Disrupt Yourself – Or Someone Else Will,” here are four things that we as leaders can start doing immediately to proactively set that productive disruption in motion.
1. Foster a culture of learning and development
To transcend the digital transformation taking place, we must take time to learn what that transformation means for our business, our industry, and our world. Research and understand what the technology means and how it is impacting our industries. We also need to empower our employees to develop new knowledge and skills that will help our organizations thrive through the incessant changes.
At SHIFT, self-learning and development is something we take very seriously. This year, we launched a new program where every employee is challenged to complete two skills stacks throughout the year. Employees can choose any topic that they’re interested in mastering. SHIFT will support their learning through online courses, certification programs, workshops, and more. Through this effort, we are empowering our employees to learn and engage in their own development and subsequently better service our clients by providing them the expertise and experience they need to grow their businesses.
This trend is catching on; almost overnight several of our clients implemented a similar learning program within their own organizations to instill that same culture of learning and innovation.
Are you ready to make that shift? To help start your own learning journey, check out these resources on the future of work:
- SHIFT Happens Podcast: Andrew Yang, 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate, discusses automation, AI, and the future of work.
- The Future of Work Webinar: Learn 12 tactics for building a future-focused organization
2. Maximize team potential by defining what success means
Changes in our work and our world are inevitable. For our employees to truly embrace change, as leaders, we must give them permission to make change while also providing clarity on how they can excel through the instability. This is why having clear and connected goals on the organizational, team, and individual level is critical.
With this in mind, SHIFT recently revamped our goal-setting process and systems. Using an online employee engagement platform called 15Five, we can more effectively align the organization’s objectives and key results (OKRs) with those of the individual departments and employees within each department. Each employee has ownership in creating their OKRs with guidance that they should connect back to the organization’s objectives and vision. Weekly OKR tracking in 15Five ensures that we always operate in sync, even when inevitable change surrounds us every day.
To learn more about the 15Five program and how it can benefit your organization, schedule an exploration session with the SHIFT team today.
3. Discover, ideate, and execute
Ignoring the trends going on around us in our industry and with our customers is one of the biggest mistakes we can make as leaders. No matter what new technology is released or system invented, our businesses wouldn’t exist without our customers. Everything we do must come back to the needs of our customers and how we can get ahead of those needs. That is where design thinking comes into play. As described in last month’s article, “4 Steps to Drive Innovation in the Workplace,” we must adopt an agile mindset and way of being, one that:
- Defines the problem based on the customers’ actual pain points v. perceived pain points
- Encourages experimenting new solutions, and
- Celebrates failures, sometimes more than the win
4. Avoid legacy thinking
“Why fix what isn’t broken?” This way of thinking is all too common in many organizations. The status quo is where we are comfortable, and in many cases, profitable. So why would we want to disrupt what’s already working? As we say here at SHIFT, what got us here won’t get us there.
To thrive in the digital transformation, organizations need to find a balance between maximizing the value they bring the customer through their legacy business, while simultaneously exploring new innovative opportunities for future growth. If you invest too much time into the legacy business, you risk losing the interest of your customers and falling behind your competitors. If, on the other hand, you disproportionately focus your efforts on pursuing new growth opportunities, you risk losing the foundational value that you have already created.
This all comes back to mindset - thinking about what is and what could be.
Are you ready to disrupt yourself?
We’re only going to know if the grass is greener on the other side if we actually go to the other side. So let’s go there together and find out what disruption means for you. Join me for a SHIFT exploration session. You’ll work one-on-one with me, or a fellow SHIFT expert, to identify where SHIFT can support you in growing your business through the transformation.
It’s the first step in each of our client success stories and promises to be the best 30 minutes you’ll spend all week (perhaps, all year). Because together, and only together, we can change the world.