The Future Is Ours: Pivot-Adjust-Engage

Digital disruption has been the buzzy term for the past few years, however, the first half of 2020 has forced that concept to become reality. Many businesses have embraced digital disruption overnight and have proven that they can shift and adapt when the status quo gets rocked. Not only have the last four months tested our resilience, but they have also caused many of us to reflect on the enormity of the abrupt changes and how we can be more present, decrease a bit of the noise, and simplify our lives. Simplify…hmmm…seems like it should be easy to do but in reality, we struggle with this every day, personally and professionally.

These days, so many people remark on how everything has become so complex and that this complexity is causing overwhelm and exhaustion. This makes me wonder, can simple and complex coexist to enable success in all aspects of our lives? If so, what role does the organization, its leadership, and culture play in this?

Gone is the classic division between employee, customer, and competitor. In the digitally connected, globalized, and unpredictable world in which we live, the people that make up organizations are those who get the work done, those that are the consumer, and those that are part of the network that could be competitors or collaborators.

That delineation that we used to have – that separateness – supports linear thinking which has always defined our work lives.  Now, regardless of what role we have at work or in our personal lives, everything has become interconnected within interdependent ecosystems. This interconnectedness will continue to challenge the linear thinking in organizations as the need for fluidity and divergent thinking expands. In reality, our work and personal lives should mirror each other allowing for a more integrated and harmonious coexistence.

If we agree that there needs to be a conscious shift to balance company goals of profit with the wellbeing of people, organizations must rethink how they deliver a meaningful people experience. If that is cared for properly, it will intrinsically drive the desired customer experience and desired societal impact within these very complex, joined ecosystems.

But how do we do that? How do we reduce complexity to create a meaningful people experience?

We start by embracing complexity.

Complex systems such as the human brain, the power grid, the universe, and open social networks (just to name a few) are all around us. These systems create interconnections shaped by history and fueled by progress. If we try to restrain them, they resist, snarl, or break. In our digital (and connected) age, we can no longer take a linear approach and assume that what works today will work next week.

When we lose that linear way of thinking, or our ability to predict an outcome, it is our adaptability, agility, and resilience that become the keys to successfully surviving, navigating, and transforming. To that end, we embrace complexity by building, supporting, and transforming.

Here are a few things you can implement today that will create a more meaningful people experience by embracing complexity.

  • Clearly define and articulate purpose
    • Give your people the “why” of their purpose. Why does their role matter? It may matter to the company, their colleagues, and the customer. The key is that their role matters. They matter.
  • Promote cognitive diversity
    • Nurture the practices that bring diverse views and expertise together. Invite your team to challenge each other in order to drive stronger decisions and innovations and support a culture of inclusion.
  • Create development opportunities
    • Create a culture that demands and empowers new mindsets and skills with topics that help reduce complexity and increase the innovation, like:
      • Critical thinking
      • Empathy and inclusion
      • Trust/transparency
      • Cognitive agility
      • Emotional intelligence
  • Build momentum
    • Demand sponsor support for meaningful initiatives. Enable those sponsors with prescribed actions they can take to demonstrate their support. Charters, communication plans, and remits all help to drive sponsor support with simplicity. More than ever, our people at all levels need to see leaders “walk the walk”.

These are just a few things that you can implement to help you pivot, adjust, and reengage that allows simplicity to emerge from the complexity.

To sum this up, yes, I believe that simplicity and complexity can coexist, if….

If we keep the human at the center of everything we do and if we acknowledge that common sense does not necessarily equate to understanding.

The future is ours to create. If we leverage the unique human abilities of intuition and experimental mindset, we create a future of opportunity, innovation, and meaningful experiences.

Kerry Hearns-Smith

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