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It’s time for courageous and unprecedented moves, not more of the same

07-05-2020Culture

Our need to understand what happens next has been amplified radically since the beginning of the year. Regardless of opinion on why we are where we are, we can certainly find consensus in the belief that we are in uncharted waters with a lack of clarity on what is to come.

Adam Salter

Global Head of Strategy & Culture

“Unprecedented!”

The word of the hour across media that underlines the sentiment around the world, and effectively captures what all of us are experiencing. It is appearing in headlines and dialogue across the globe, and even trending on Google search (see graph), which paints an interesting picture about the human psyche – either that, or it offers an indication that unprecedented masses of people are googling, “what the hell does unprecedented actually mean?”

Unprecedented Google search graph Google search trends for the search term "unprecedented" between 2004 and 2020.

Either way, the language we use offers a signal for the context we find ourselves in, and thus, it’s necessary to consider it as we begin to formulate answers to the question of “what’s next.”

Unprecedented adjective

un·​prec·​e·​dent·​ed

\ ˌən-ˈpre-sə-ˌden-(t)əd \

not done, known, or experienced before

Unprecedented scenarios are truly going to test the mettle of organizations and their leaders, challenging business as usual rhetoric, and exposing the ability to demonstrate humility and accept not knowing the answers.

It suggests that there are no definitive blueprints for what to do, nor are there previous events in recent history to reference, and certainly no time for indecisiveness. This offers a nightmare scenario for some, while others will see it as an opportunity, especially those who have been tasked with driving change and transformation within large-scale organizations. KONE’s call to look beyond the danger and see the opportunity in the crisis is one example of recognizing that something beyond the norm has to be done.

Finding the courage to set a precedent

It’s fair to say, therefore, that these unprecedented times call for unprecedented action. And it is indeed unprecedented action that will open up paths to a positive future beyond the current haze.

We foresee rewiring organizations to embrace change as a business capability as the next big endeavor of courageous leaders. They will make do what it takes to ensure significant investments are carried out to not only enrich their people’s understanding of (and comfort with) change – but also enhance their creative intelligence to identify and implement solutions for the challenges that change brings. From those seen in the day-to-day, to the most complex and systemic ones.

Learning and development teams will be bolstered and tasked with playing more of a frontline role, working hand in hand with business unit leaders to prepare their teams. Together they will explore and design learning journeys that entail the right balance of experiential learning and rich content, ensuring that knowledge moves beyond compliance to become the catalyst for growth.

Central to this will, of course, be the continued commitment to engineering a digital organization, making full use of its data and emerging technology – such as AI – to empower teams. CIOs and CTOs will have mandated that those responsible for portfolio management reprioritize and/or expedite programs to help ensure the necessary tools and platforms are in place. The immediate crisis has served to solidify the importance of an organization’s technology agenda, while the future will only bring greater scrutiny to ensure it remains watertight.

As a result, an evolved mindset will emerge, providing a fresh approach to business – one that empowers teams to rethink, retool, and reprioritize as they go. This is what we refer to as resilience, and what we believe is needed in these unprecedented times.

“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.”

— Bill Gates

We are not in the sport of making predictions. However, we are in the game of preparing organizations for tomorrow – and this requires exploring what these future landscapes and horizons have in store. While opinion on this is (and always will be) vast and varied, none of it is definitive, nor should it be seen as such.

Rather, this shared collective wisdom is meant to offer an outlook to the landscape ahead, which ultimately calls for courageous leaders to navigate it using their organization’s unique compass, defined by its purpose and the core values on which it has been built.

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