(Note: there are too many “extra blank lines” in this post. My apology. Wordpress has changed something, and I can’t figure out how to get rid of them. Sorry about that).
In an increasingly decentralized world where technology democratizes access to anything and everything, power lies within communities of individuals who can radically disrupt the status quo.
So we pledged to turn the experiences and lessons learned during the crisis into big wins for our customers, for our companies, and for each other. …And while we’re at it, we pledged to make our work in this new world more purposeful, more meaningful, and more humane.
But suddenly in 2020, this future of work became the present of work, and every leader realized they had to pay attention. They had to pivot or get left behind.
By definition, adaptability is the ability to adjust to new conditions.
We firmly believe that the number one lesson from the pandemic must be that we have to develop a strategy to survive similar shocks in the future, be they events or the relentless disruption of technological and social change.
Keith Ferrazzi, Kian Gohar, Kian, Noel Weyrich, Competing in the NEW World of Work: How Radical Adaptability Separates the Best from the Rest
If there is a theme – a truth, a suggestion, a piece of advice – that is more universally stated than “you have to abandon the status quo,” I do not know what it is. So, so many books on leadership, and corporate culture, and change, talk about the overwhelming hold of the status quo on a company (and our lives…).
This has to be true, doesn’t it? This has to be a problem, doesn’t it? Companies can get stuck in the status quo, can’t they?
What is this all-powerful status quo? Merriam-Webster defines it simply: “the existing state of affairs.” And that captures it. The status quo is the set of beliefs that work just fine when everything stays the same.
But, this is not an “everything is staying the same” time, is it?
Now, if you ask me which book is the best book on defeating, rising above, abandoning, disrupting the status quo, I have no such recommendation. As I said, it is a theme in book after book after book after book…
But, at the May First Friday Book Synopsis, I presented my synopsis of another book that deserves a spot on the “abandon the status quo” book list. It is Competing in the NEW World of Work: How Radical Adaptability Separates the Best from the Rest by Keith Ferrazzi, Kian Gohar, Kian, Noel Weyrich. (Keith Ferrazzi seems to be the lead author and thinker in this book).
I greatly enjoyed, and benefitted from, Mr. Ferrazzi’s earlier book Never Eat Alone. It is kind of the “bible’ on networking.
This book is not quite at the level of being the “bible’ on its subject. But, it is smart, insightful, and worth heeding. And the emphasis on, and explanation of “radical adaptability” is a key reason that this book deserves your time and attention.
As I always do, in my synopsis I begin with What is the point? Here is the point for this book: The pandemic taught us that slow change can leave an organization behind; way behind…if not dead. Radical adaptability may be the survival practice of the modern organization.
And I ask Why is this book worth our time? Here are my three reasons for this book:
#1 – This book provides a good overview of many “certain types” of companies – especially, companies that have learned to adapt rapidly; and companies that have a clear purpose.
#2 – This book is a call to embrace genuine inclusion, across the board. (Partly, for the purpose of competitive advantage).
#3 – This book is a book that calls for agile, rapid, change; radical adaptability.
I always include a few pages of Quotes and Excerpts from the book – the “best of” Randy’s highlighted Passages. Here are quite a few of the best of the best from this book:
How we work hasn’t been working for a long time, but we’ve continued to cling to outdated ways of work as though we were hanging by our fingernails over an abyss.
What if tradition and inertia proved to be so strong that all the bad old habits snapped back into effect as soon as the pandemic ended?
We knew we had a responsibility to not let this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity pass us by. And we crowdsourced a research-based methodology for what leadership means in a radically volatile world. …A New World of Work Is Emerging.
The essence of radical adaptability is that it is predictive, proactive, and progressive, very unlike the typical response to change, which is inherently reactive and conformist.
The urgency of change is real. The challenge is how to maintain your energy and passion through change and not crumble from its strain and pace.
“If we can leverage the call for inclusion today around eradicating racism—using this as the hook to really get leaders to open up to let people be heard—it’s the right step forward for unleashing innovation overall.”
New challenges changed daily, from Covid cases to wildfires to social unrest and, eventually, overstretched supply chains.” “In fact, there were many weeks where we battled all the above at the same time. Innovation and transformation, supported by people’s stubborn refusal to let each other fail. …Their first step on that journey was to explicitly agree to new behavioral norms for teamwork: to recontract. …Recontracting for co-elevation.
The work of a true co-elevating leader is to promote a shared sense of responsibility among team members and nurturing a common ethos with which everyone is committed to each other’s success. …Co-elevation requires interdependency among team members in the form of candid peer-to-peer support and peer-to-peer accountability.
No one is successful until everyone is successful; the team crosses the finish line together. …(RM – “Everybody counts or nobody counts” is the personal credo of LAPD detective Harry Bosch).
In any collaboration, a common social contract needs to be negotiated, or a faulty one is likely to be the norm.
Physical distance is not the main roadblock to co-elevation involving remote workers. …Strategic distance (a lack of team alignment) operational distance (a lack of well-oiled team process to operationalize the work), and affinity distance (the lack of team members’ commitment to one another).
The co-elevating ethos of empathy, generosity, and candor naturally compels the group to expand the boundaries of its reach beyond the tight inner circle. pg. 49
One study concluded, “Because many large companies have pockets of expertise and knowledge scattered across different locations, we have found that harnessing the cognitive diversity within organizations can open up rich new sources of innovation.
When leaders actively reach beyond their businesses to seek out fresh ideas, listen, and act on the solutions, the benefits stretch beyond the commercial impact of whatever result is put into practice, whatever new product is launched, or whatever service is taken to market. …To the evergreen culture question, “Why are we doing this?” there is no better answer than “I was among the voices that said we should.”
“We always started by asking people to open with what their silver lining was. It turned into a great forum for best-practice sharing.” …overall, I would say the people who have gone outside of their organization and leaned on peers have been more effective. This is the power of crowdsourcing ideas and collaborating with external partners.” …but certainly something I confirmed is how important it is to lead with generosity,” Frank explained. This simple, powerful idea of inclusion—reaching out to draw people closer in—ultimately blossomed into the GFTW Institute and this book.
As you consider your role as a radically adaptable leader, it’s time to pause and ask yourself, “What business are we really in?”
Peter Diamandis likes to say that there will be two types of companies in ten years’ time: “AI-led companies, and dead companies.”
If you think your business is safe from the forces of decentralization, think again.
External experts provide an outsider perspective and can ask the tough questions; internal members generate the institutional knowledge needed to commit to a massive workforce transformation.
The truth is, work in the future will be a balance between human intervention and automated technologies.
So how do you decide if your workforce should be based on a traditional full-time employee model, a gig-economy model, or a hybrid somewhere in between the two? There is no one right answer but only an answer that is right for you. But we do know that there are some wrong answers to avoid.
Specialists who are critical to your business should be internal hires. Tiger teams, which are tasked with finding new pathways of innovation for your organization, should be fully internal employees. — …We argue that any task can be dialed up on the gig knob if it is repetitive, not core to your business, does not need consistent direction over how the work is done, and can be done by workers who don’t require internal firm knowledge.
Most employees are dissatisfied with reskilling if it doesn’t expand their opportunities for advancement or better pay. …74 percent of respondents believe developing new skills is “strategically important in their organization,” but less than a third said they were rewarded for developing new skills. The gap between the two numbers is expressed in worker disengagement.
In addition to key excerpts, those “best of” my highlighted passages, I ask what are the key points, and principles, and insights from the books I present? Here are a number from this book that I included in my synopsis. (Note: if I got it right, sections below in italics also came directly from the book):
- Tilly Smith, 10 years old from Surrey, England; and the Tsunami that hit Thailand
- more than two hundred thousand people were killed by tsunami waves all across the Indian Ocean basin. Thailand’s coastal towns suffered tens of thousands of deaths, but the secluded beach where Tilly and her family were staying was the only beach in Thailand with zero fatalities. …What made Tilly a hero was her resolve, her belief in what she knew, and the courage it took to put her knowledge and insights into action. …When Tilly’s mother first tried to shrug off her daughter’s warnings, Tilly didn’t back down. Instead, she got angry. She told her mother, “Right, I’m leaving you, because there is definitely going to be a tsunami.” …Courage, not knowledge, is what made Tilly Smith a hero. Her knowledge was essential, but without the courage of her convictions—without expressing her righteous anger to her mother in that crucial moment—her knowledge about tsunamis would have died with her that day, along with her parents and everyone else on the beach.
- Apparently, we all need to go to Burning Man…
- creativity; experimentation; necessity…
- When the pandemic hit…we weren’t ready. Our organizations weren’t ready…
- The need for a new level of adaptability in the workplace became a dire necessity, not just a competency of the truly best.
- But…we learned fast; out of necessity.
- In a single year, adversity ushered in more changes in ways of doing business than we had seen in decades.
- Team members also became more generous. They broke out of siloed that’s-not-my-job behaviors. And out of sincere concern for each other, they asked, “How can I help?”
- We found that the urgency of the situation melted the frozen routines and the ossified protocols that had long posed obstacles to growth and change.
- But also…
- Without proper support for sustaining these new modes of work, many companies were merely “crisis adapting.”
- Now the open question is, how can we sustain that sense of mutual commitment as a matter of choice, not crisis?
- Big ideas:
- We call this methodology radical adaptability. — It presents all the lessons of crisis leadership in the form of a sustainable model for leading continuous change through the coming years of unexpected turmoil, opportunity, and transformation.
- Radical adaptability is a transformational mechanism. Radical adaptability prompts you to constantly anticipate change, reinterpret it, and transform yourself through change. Through radical adaptability, you embrace the new world of work and grow with it, while others merely adjust and adapt to it.
- Collaborate through inclusion.
- Collaboration has nothing to do with where employees show up for work; it has everything to do with how they show up.
- Inclusion in the workplace must extend to race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, and physical ability because it’s the right thing to do and because all successful innovation and transformation benefits from including the full diversity of voices and perspectives.
- Inclusion is the vital ingredient missing from these teams. As Telva put it, “Inclusion is not just in service of the DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] agenda. It’s core to any organization’s capability to transform.”
- We started realizing that there are people whose advice we could seek everywhere, but we had to reach out to them deliberately instead of waiting for the occasional serendipitous get-together.
- Lead through enterprise agile — short-term sprints
- act very, very quickly…faster than you think you can…FAST!!!
- By its nature, agile invites breakthrough innovation, because agile presses every team member to keep asking, who else do we need on this team? …“During crises, you’ll see managers astonished by how fast their teams can innovate and come up with solutions.”
- You shift your leadership approach and delegate responsibility to teams closest to work and closest to the customer.
- Crisis agile was frequently achieved through weekly sprints.
- Promote team resilience — good leaders strive to maintain the emotional and physical energies of the team.
- Develop active foresight — Learn to see around corners
- Sociological, Technological, Economic, Environmental, and Political (STEEP). • Sociological: Mainly refers to demographic and other societal changes that might affect consumer demand in your industry. It’s why toy manufacturers are mindful of changes in birth rates and why carmakers are concerned that record-high percentages of teenagers aren’t bothering to get driver’s licenses in the age of car sharing and ride hailing.
- Technological: Includes all the developments in disruptive technologies. The slightest shift in any of these technologies could open new, unforeseen opportunities or create new, unexpected threats within your industry.
- Economic: Refers to the business cycle’s ebb and flow; shifts in interest rates, the stock market, and the labor market.
- Environmental: Includes not only short-term elements that may impact your business or supply chains (like hurricanes or outbreaks of contagion) but also long-term climate change and prospects for future access to natural resources.
- Political: Includes trends in government regulations, taxation rates, import tariffs, labor laws, treaties, international alliances, and overall stability in domestic politics and politics in nations wherever your company has offices, customers, and critical suppliers.
- Future-proof your business model.
- In January 2021, General Motors CEO Mary Barra shocked the global auto industry by announcing plans to phase out all fossil-fueled models by 2035 and make the transition to an electric-only fleet.
- Develop an ongoing process of experimentation
- Build a Lego block workforce.
- Ask, “What work needs to be done?” Ask, “What workforce will we engage?” Ask, “Where will the workforce work?” — a fourth corollary question: How do you move your current workforce into this new paradigm?
- How do you decide if you should build, buy, or borrow that talent?
- Supercharge your purpose.
- Companies like Salesforce, with a high level of employee engagement through a shared common purpose, were much better prepared than most other companies were to go on the wartime footing that the pandemic called for.
- There was a time when having a shared mission was enough to drive organizational change. Employees could team out around their collective desire to be the biggest or the best. But missions are more about how. They’re not about why. …In the new world of work, change happens too fast for your mission to be a dependable unifying force. …“Purpose is about having an impact beyond yourself, outside of the company’s own profits.”
- Bill Gates, had always been “a PC on every desk and in every home, running Microsoft software.” In 2014, when Satya Nadella became CEO, he set Microsoft on a much more inspiring and enduring purpose: “to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”
- Can everyone in the company recite it? Are they clear about the values and principles that underlie it? Can they say how decisions are made with respect to those values and principles?
- Act now…NOW!
- For example, take a moment to visualize what you assume might be the reality of your job or industry in five years. There’s a good chance that all those things need to get done in the next eighteen months if you want to be anything more than a follower and if you don’t want to lose ground to your competitors. The hurdle for success has been raised exponentially, and the terrain has become simultaneously rockier.
- This new world of work requires a new set of attitudes, processes, and practices that will achieve not just 10 percent improvement over yesteryear, but 10X transformation to prepare you for a future that is faster than you think.
- Adopt asynchronous collaboration. (“asynchronous by default”).
- Asynchronous means doing more work through collaborating through written or recorded form without meeting at the same time. The keys to successful asynchronous work include (1) simplified, concise communication; (2) clearly identifying the decision-maker for each action item; (3) making every communication transparent to the whole team; (4) being responsive to every communication you receive; and (5) allowing your team time to review the material you share with them.
And here are my five lessons and takeaways:
#1 – You really do have to find a way for many, many more people – your people; other people – to have a voice; to be genuinely heard, and respected.
#2 – You have to treat your workers as fully human. All the time.
#3 – It would be really good to put into practice, and keep in practice, the rapid decision making and innovation and change and adaptability and work that was required during the pandemic – even when there is no crisis at hand.
#4 – It is a good idea to do more reading about companies that were successful; and companies that were not successful.
#5 – It is a time when we have to know the modern-day absolutes. — Here’s one: a company/organization must have a mobilizing, energizing purpose greater than the bottom line.
This is a good book. The issue it deals with is this: how do we disrupt and jettison the status quo, and embrace the practices of radical adaptability? Until we get that right, we are in serious danger of being left so far behind that we can never catch up.
Quite a challenge, isn’t it?!
My synopsis of Competing in the NEW World of Work, with the audio recording of my presentation, and my comprehensive, multi-page handout, will be available soon on this web site. Click here for our newest additions.
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