The business world has changed. With the turmoil of rapid development in technology and society, staying relevant to talent and to customers is a challenge that all leaders must take on. The predictions of the future are immense: Half our jobs can be replaced or supported by software or technology in general (Centre for Futures Studies). Forty percent of large companies will be gone in 10 years (Babson School of Business, Washington University). In 10 years, 500 million people will be freelancers (IFTF, Institute For The Future). How can we handle these changes? What skills and approaches must we master in the near future?
Skills For Strategy and Experimentation
For many years, strategic execution was all about “more of what we did last year, just faster and cheaper.” This approach is not useful in a world that changes quickly.
Today’s rate, pace and effects of change are unprecedented, which means that strategic execution must focus on adaptability rather than efficiency. Those companies that focus on problem-solving rather than products will survive. Leaders need to be able to solve existing problems with constant changes in the underlying technologies, delivery approach, business model and customer focus.
In turn, this problem-solving demands the development of skills and mindsets when it comes to experimentation, curiosity, courage to fail and mastering technology. Deloitte has predicted that the half-life of our skills is now five years, meaning that everyone needs to constantly learn and master new areas. Most of all, we need to learn how to learn, individually and as organizations. We need to move from just-in-case learning to just-in-time learning, with less planning and more room for fast decisions when it comes to how learners choose what courses and training sessions to participate in. Similarly, we are seeing a huge wave in snackable learning (small video tutorials, for example), online courses and podcasts.
Helping Employees Succeed
This mindset of learning and experimentation needs a culture of psychological safety and people-focus. Leaders and managers must master this culture and remove fear of failure. They should encourage employees to make changes, empower them to make changes, accept those changes, accept mistakes without punishment – and accept that this approach takes time and is demanding.
If you want to improve employees’ performance in a changing world, you also need to redefine what performance is and how you talk about it. In the future, success will not only be connected with financial goals but also with social capital and value creation. More companies have started mapping their internal social network, to understand it and to use that knowledge to support both adaptability and access to expertise. Following that process, these modern organizations create goals for how many relationships and what kind of connections employees and managers should have. They redefine KPIs to embrace learning, behavior and value creation instead of just financial metrics.
Performance in a modern world is about creating better solutions, not more of the same product. This requires a massive change in mindset and understanding how to stay relevant. It’s about purpose and problem-solving, tactical execution, mastering innovation (large scale and small scale, in daily life), cultural safety, the way you organize teams, and leadership. Some of these skills can directly be trained and developed, and many tools and frameworks exist for doing so. But the starting point is a shift in mindset and approach.
To stay relevant in the future, you need to stay learning. To stay relevant in the future, you need to focus on problem-solving rather than products.