Digitalization, Disruption and New Work

Stop looking for the “silver bullet” to solve all your problems, because there isn’t one

In order to become more resilient to a rapidly-changing world and market pressures, companies often seek one simple “silver bullet” solution to their problems. But this simple solution doesn’t exist. this article explains the value-driven Hybrid thinking approach. Hybrid thinking proposes a radical new way to drive change, and focuses on empowering people in companies to turn challenges into opportunities

The business of the future needs Hybrid Thinkers: interdisciplinary, self-organized, collaborative, creative and courageous people, who can combine different tools and fields of expertise.

Noun: silver bullet (Fig. 1):

1. A bullet made of silver, supposedly the only weapon that could kill a werewolf.

2. A simple and seemingly magical solution to a complicated problem.

I’ve heard the question so many times before: “How can we become an agile company?” People ask me because in their eyes, I am an expert. But then they don’t really want to hear my answer because what I say seems too complicated. Or rather, I can’t give a single straightforward answer.

So, I’ll say it now: there is no single straightforward answer to the question of “how to be prepared for the future”. And the era of relying solely on expert knowledge to answer all our problems will soon be over.

Figure 1: Dictionary definition of “silver bullet”

 

Companies often expect a clear “cause-and-effect” logic, because this neatly translates into “problem-and-solution”. This is why businesses buy in the services of classic management consultancy firms or other experts. This approach is an outdated legacy of the enlightenment, and of an education system founded during the industrial revolution. For 200 years, we have been conditioned through an education model which makes us excellent at analyzing, breaking down the world into simple models, separating academic disciplines and then encouraging ever greater specialization in any chosen field of study.

All the while this model has produced graduates who are more and more specialized, and at the same time more un- prepared for the complex reality of work. Now we are at a crossroads in human evolution: never before have we had opportunities so great, but never before have we been facing a world so complex, and which is evolving at such a high speed. Take your pick: digitalization, disruption, machine learning, big data, exponential technologies, internet of things, innovation, agile, scrum, design thinking. You’ve probably come across most of these terms. You may even be concerned about how your company needs to change, how it can implement new technologies and processes to avoid being disrupted. Perhaps you’ve already made some efforts to adapt by introducing new software,

building an in- novation lab, or retraining some of your workforce in scrum or design thinking. These are good and valuable first steps.

But nobody is talking about the elephant in the room: having a Kanban board is not proof that your company will survive the next economic recession, and having occasion- al design thinking workshops in your new innovation lab does not make your workforce future-ready. Being ready for change is an attitude, not an artefact.

What we know, is that we don’t know

That attitude, or mindset, is the most important thing you can learn yourself and teach your workforce.

It has two important characteristics: firstly, it is about being comfortable with accepting the realization that there are no single straightforward answers. In the face of increasing complexity, companies are witnessing their mechanisms of control and prediction fail them. And they are reaching out to a new generation of mechanisms: scrum, design thinking, service design, big data, lean, to provide them with answers.

But here’s the crux: none of these innovative approaches is enough on its own. There is no “silver bullet”. The important thing is to understand these new methods and how they work, and then be able to adapt them to your own challenges, context and company culture. So, the second important characteristic of this mindset is to understand the limitations of each method and have the courage to reject, adapt, or combine them for your own situation. Only through this you can become the kind of “expert” that is ready for an unpredictable future.

Tomorrow’s experts are Hybrid Thinkers

This is where Hybrid Thinking comes into play.

Hybrid Thinking is based on the belief that we need to radically change the way we think and work in order to become the best we can be, and step up to the monumental challenges facing this generation and the next.

ONE COMMON PITFALL OF THE DISCUSSION ON DIGITALIZATION IS THAT IT IS TOO FIXATED ON TECHNOLOGY AND FORGETS THE MOST IMPORTANT COMPONENT OF CHANGE: PEOPLE

As a mindset, it promotes “the conscious blending of different fields of thought to discover and develop opportunities that were previously unseen by the status quo.”1 This builds on the principle of interdisciplinary teams, as championed in design thinking. Hybrid Thinking goes one step further. It creates interdisciplinary people: individuals capable of straddling the borders between different areas, taking learnings and tools from each, and putting them into action to solve challenges in a new way.

Hybrid Thinking is not just about finding new business opportunities: it is about thinking, working and creating things with a sense of purpose so as to drive change on a systemic level.

Concretely, it can be broken down into four steps (Fig. 2):

Figure 2: Hybrid Thinking: the four steps

 

1. Get Inspired

Too often we spend our days stuck in the details of our jobs. Meetings, emails, deadlines leave us little time to think, explore, leave our daily lives and look at the bigger picture, the world outside our window.

Questions such as “how do we use deep, qualitative customer research methods to improve our products?” or “how might augmented reality affect our services?” are often outsourced to external agencies, because businesses lack guidance on how to apply new learnings. And bigger questions can’t be outsourced, such as “how can we do what we do in a radically different way, and contribute to building a better future?”

It is not enough to simply find new sources of inspiration. There has to be an alignment with your values and vision for tomorrow’s world, otherwise it is simply “innovation for innovation’s sake”.

The first step of the Hybrid Thinking approach is to bring you into contact with experts and professionals who are doing things in a bold new way. We champion the importance of hands-on experiences to learn about new methods and technologies. We believe in giving you the time to ask deeper questions and then guiding you into putting your learnings back into the context of your own business.

2. Develop your skills

Change starts nowhere else but in the individual. One common pitfall of the discussion on digitalization is that it is too fixated on technology and forgets the most important component of change: people.

Technology is worthless if nobody knows how to (or wants to) use it. Likewise, your company won’t become agile if your workforce perceives change as a threat to their jobs, rather than an opportunity for professional development.

We believe in the intrinsic adaptability, creativity and potential of the human brain. We believe that everyone can grow into a Hybrid Thinker if given the right guidance and space to do so. That’s why this step focuses firstly on self-reflection and secondly on how to transform this greater self-awareness into concrete changes to your professional life.

3. Collaborate

The vast majority of your time is spent with colleagues, and a significant amount of your energy is spent on communication. Take a moment to think about how much effort and work goes to waste in your company because your colleagues are not equipped to collaborate effectively. Also, consider how much information gets lost through poor communication.

Collaboration tools and skills are not a “nice-to-have” but the foundation of a successful business. Our experience proves time and again that a team of colleagues equipped with these tools and skills is able to work more efficiently and effectively, and can achieve more.

Once you’ve engaged in constructive self-reflection in the second step, this third step focuses on how you improve your work with others around you: as a manager, as a team-member or as an employee at any level.

4. Implement

Step one inspires you to take your business in radical new directions. Step two guides you through a personal self-re- flection journey to improve your skills, and step three gives you a solid foundation for working together more effectively with your colleagues.

Now you are ready to consider how to bring these new business ideas to life and launch them. This final step shows you how to use the concrete tools, frameworks and processes developed in the fast-paced world of start-ups.

From agile marketing tools, to prototyping solutions, to customer testing, these frameworks and methods are tried-and-tested by companies at the forefront of innovation. You’ll learn how they work and use and adapt them to your own business, in order to achieve long-lasting impact.

The future is now

Hybrid Thinking is a radical new approach. You can no longer always base best practices on what has been done for decades in your industry, and you will not find a single, miracle, “silver bullet” innovation tool as a replacement.

As a Hybrid Thinker you know that there is no single straightforward answer, because the world is changing exponentially. You know that you don’t know. But you also have the skills to experiment, to learn and to adapt. You have the confidence to combine different tools, transfer learnings and fuse different disciplines together.

And finally, you have the values and the vision to step up to the challenges we face and play a key role in creating a better future.

The time of experts is over, only you can be the “silver bullet” that the world needs.

Sources

– 1. https://www.fastcompany.com/1338960/forget- design-thinking-and-try-hybrid-thinking

 

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