The challenges of the Social Age require not targeted solutions, but rather holistic change: change in mindset, changes in technology, changes to how we work, new models of leadership, an evolution of learning, a permission to innovate, a relinquishing of control, a new type of authority, endemic storytelling and a trust in the people we hired to do the job.
It’s not simply a case of knocking out the old bathroom and fitting a trendy Victorian retro roll top bath: it’s a case of demolishing the house and building something fit for the times we live in.
It’s about transforming our organisations to be fit for the Social Age: in breadth and at depth.
We cannot adapt our organisation by simply implementing some new technology, but neither can we change it by just developing the senior leaders. We can’t achieve momentum or amplification of change by simply revolutionising learning unless we revolutionise culture too. And we can’t revolutionise culture if we don’t have a fair social contract in place.
Holistic adaptation is a pattern of activity: it’s about curiosity, experimentation, innovation, permission, consequence and stories.
It’s about a permission to ask ‘why‘ and, having asked, to try something out. And learn from it. And share what you learnt. Then do it again.
Why change? Because organisations that fail to respond to the new ecosystem we inhabit will be increasingly less relevant and, crucially, less able to adapt. Failing to build a new foundation will result in an infrastructural inability to change in the future. If you keep patching things up, keep relying on outdated models of leading, learning, controlling and broadcasting, you will get diminishing returns in a diminishing business.
But to address the challenges, we may need new functions within the organisation: can HR hold the keys to this change? Can IT, Legal or Learning? Is it about Compliance? Or senior leadership? Or your graduates?
The challenge is, it’s all of these, and none of them. The existing vertical entities within the organisation are enigmatic: the root of the problem and the potential for it’s resolution. But to unlock their potential, we have to step outside the status quo.
The future is not about Leaders solving the problem of graduates leaving after three years. The solution lies in graduates and leaders finding a new space to work in to solve the problem of the organisation innovating throughout the next three years. Because if the organisation is unable to innovate, and to hear the voices of everyone as it does so, it won’t survive to year four.
It’s sometimes at that last sentence that I lose people: they get the challenge, but dismiss the fallibility of their organisation. After all, organisations are vast, they are robust, they have bricks and mortar, data centres and vision. They cannot fail.
And yet they do: and very few see it coming. This is not catastrophic failure of architecture and foreclosure. It’s failure of potential and momentum, which is almost worse.
An organisation that is failed may still be trading, but will be fully unable to adapt, unable to attract the best talent, and relying on mechanisms of control and formal authority to keep those who stay in line with outdated ways of thinking.
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Great points. Organisations absolutely need to relinquish control and give more autonomy and accountability to staff, and create a culture of exploration, curiosity and innovation. But what happens if you open the prison doors (so well created by all the former policies and procedures in the very many silos across the company) and staff don’t want to leave? Remember Shawshank Redemption when Red (Morgan Freeman) was released? He couldn’t cope; he was in a whole new world he hadn’t seen for 25 years and he couldn’t handle it. How do we adequately prepare people to be released into this new organisation and get them to *want* to explore this new space, completely outside of their comfort zones?
Hey Jen, thanks for visiting 🙂 and for sharing your thoughts. I think you’re right to raise the question of engagement. There are probably two factors: social capital (the ability to survive and thrive in these spaces, to understand the rules and permissions) and trust (people may not engage precisely because they understand the rules, and simply don’t trust what the organisation may do tomorrow, even if today is safe). Within Social Leadership, we explore issues of social capital, and how to develop it in others. And trust? It’s earned over time, through a consistency of action.
Best wishes, Julian