In TIDES of Change TomorrowToday identifies five major disruptive change drivers shaping the new world of work. Understanding change is important if we are to engage with both the threats and opportunities that change invites.
A brief synopsis of the five disruptive change drivers are:
Change cloudsTechnology: Technology has many faces but the one being felt most in the world of the organization is that of information technology. Mobility, augmented reality and user-generated information are all having a major impact on how the rules are changing. The social agenda which is made up of social media (external focus) and social business (internal focus), has been described as a coming tsunami, and like a tsunami, for the unprepared, the impact will be devastating. The need for social business (still an oxymoron for many) cannot be ignored but the challenge is a generation of leadership who neither understands it nor really sees the need for it.
Institutional Change: The look and feel of institutions is changing. In some cases the very foundation and purpose of the organization has changed. An easy example of institutional shift can be seen in the make-up of what constitutes ‘family’. In today complex and diverse context, defining ‘family’ is complicated! The traditional rules hardly apply and many would argue are irrelevant.
Demographics: Perhaps the most ignored of the disruptive change drivers, but arguably, the most important. A demographic shift in population and social categories has massive economic, social, political and environmental consequences. The problem with demographic shifts is that the ‘crisis’, whilst slow in arriving also means that the implementation of any solution will also take time.
Environment: Much continues to be said and written about the environment. Concerns for resources and ultimately the survival of the planet drive both legislative and societal change. This item is now an entrenched part of any business agenda and it is only going to get bigger in its demand for attention and engagement. Every day delayed in this engagement is a day wasted. Furthermore, as Gen Y makes their way into the work place, not to have a real strategy in this area will be intolerable.
Societal shifts in values: Generational Theory provides an excellent framework to identify and understand the shift that has taken place from generation to generation. Values underpin behaviors and so doing work in identifying value shifts is to shed light on behavioural shifts. Generation X and Y display significant differences from preceding generations and this difference is something that has led to some very real tensions in the work place. The attraction and retention of ‘Talent’ has been found to be the number one corporate strategic challenge according to the global research done by the Boston Consultant Group. Due to their business model, the inability to retain Talent poses a potentially life threatening risk to professional service firms.
Naturally these disruptive change drivers are interlinked and complex. Each invites questions that smart leaders and smart companies recognize that they need to be asked. After all, it is said that the mind works best in the presence of a question! The challenge is for organizations to display adaptive intelligence if they are to survive and ultimately thrive in the future. Adaptive intelligence involves new learning and so we need to be asking ourselves how new learning is evidenced within our organization? If we cannot immediately and adequately answer this question there is real cause for concern.
So how can we engage with the respective disruptive change drivers?
When it come to technology there is the need to understand it and be willing to be more open, transparent and collaborative. We need to understand technology as a connection and for this to happen, we need to shift our thinking. The meteoric rise of Facebook that has over 800 million users, is not due to the technology – it is due to the human need to connect. The technology is simply something that has made that more possible than ever before. Of course what this means for Norton Rose will need to be worked out but the move to transparency, openness and collaboration is the pathway on which social media and social business are both traveling…and doing so at full speed!
When it comes to institutional shifts we need to be willing to build flexibility within our structures and to test our assumptions. When it comes to demographic shifts we need to take advantage of the diversity on offer. Studies have shown that diversity directly contributes to both innovation and resilience. What firm would knowingly shun the need for innovation and resilience!
When it comes to the environment our response is simple: go green and ethical! Finally the response to societal value shifts is to understand that people are our competitive advantage…and to make them so! This means we need to find suitable frameworks that provide an understanding as to how best to work with others both within and outside of our business. Investment in such frameworks is never wasted and two that immediately come to mind are Generational Theory and the Enneagram.
It was Isaac Asimov who said, “It is change, continuous change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be”.
He was right.
So what is it that you need to do next? What are the questions you should be asking, but aren’t?

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