What do Uber, Amazon and the cell phone have in common? They are all technologies that disrupted established industries and, in so doing, changed the way we live. It is not surprising that learning and, through learning, leadership (particularly change leadership) are now similarly disrupted.
In the past, in most organizations, when the leader wanted to change something, there was a laborious, slow and mostly ineffective process of building alignment to the change and the new capabilities required for the change. This process was often a combination of leadership, the learning organization and lots of other people investing significant time and energy to define and drive the change. As the world speeds up – and we now seem to be functioning at breakneck speeds – these approaches to leading and learning became less relevant and impactful. There needs to be a way to lead and learn at this pace.
Change is occurring so rapidly that leaders and organizations have to be good learners to keep up with the pace of change. The better people and organizations are at learning, the greater their advantage. The integration of leading and learning has an almost Darwinian quality to it now – if you aren’t good at leading and learning, you will not survive. So, what is the disruption in the world of leading and learning?
First, there are big changes from research on neuroscience. This research shows that people process images in specific ways and that the resulting changes to brain function significantly enhance learning, and hence leading. Second, our work shows that top performers regularly use images that are among the most impactful in changing brain function. Third, the availability of the cloud and mobile computing make expert images available to anyone, anytime, at extraordinarily high speed and low cost.
To give an idea of the speed involved in leveraging expert knowledge and converting it into powerful images, it is now possible to reverse-engineer what makes someone an expert in just two to three hours – not days, weeks or months. What this means is that a leader can define a new initiative, or an organization can introduce a new product, and the change program can be ready for launch the same day. No more waiting for slow development and response processes.
Similarly, because of the power of these images and the cloud, any number of people (two to 20,000), anywhere in the world, can be guided to develop extraordinary new performance capabilities in just eight to 20 hours. What this means is that a change can be implemented world-wide in the same week.
Think of the benefits of speed and effectiveness from a leadership perspective. There is no longer a need for typical leadership, training or change management. Instead, all of the intermediate roles and laborious organizational work have been – to use high-tech jargon – disintermediated. In simple terms, the technology now replaces a vast suite of traditional approaches, disrupting and transforming leadership. Of course, a good question to ask is, how are taxis, big-box retailers and pay phones doing? Not too well.
So, your choice is to adopt new disruptive technology or go the way of buggy whips. Do you want to survive and prosper, or spend the remainder of your time with the organization in fear of downsizing?