A digitally-savvy, convergence-ready, innovation-geared, corporate culture
Radical Innovation Award is a platform promoting the most innovative and radically new concepts, in the context of travel. They recently announced their 2018 awards, and in my humble opinion, two ideas stand out from the lot: Room Extension Solution, it’s a autonomous traveling room that greets the hotel guests at the airport and delivers them at the hotel facility, by enduring an optimized and end-to-end travel experience. The second concept also belongs to the mobility space: Autonomous Travel Hotel, is an hybrid autonomous car/ hotel suite, which promises end-to-end travel, with comfort and convenience in mind.
Both concepts are the effect of the blurring boundaries of categories, industries and lifestyles, and signal a convergence between the automotive and hotel industry, which are not adjacent industries. The emergence of IOT, at the crossroads of fashion, healthcare and consumer electronics, is also an example of convergence among non-adjacent industries. But how do you get your organization ready for this type of digital transformation?
In a nutshell culture is the highest perceived barrier to a speedy effective digital transformation process: the case of converge with non-adjacent industries, is also a case of digital transformation, so culture is the key. But the culture needed to cope with that type of landmark change, is quite peculiar: it needs to be more flexible and agile, and dynamic. But before addressing that in detail, we need few words on the notion itself: culture is a word, which – like vision and mission, and purpose – has resonated well with the corporate world, which quickly incorporated it in their jargon. Nonetheless, we have already examined how culture is hollow, if not tackled together with systems and talent. I went as far as claiming that culture, systems and talent are the Holy Trinity of Innovation: three aspects of the same dimension. This comes with a big caveat: real change cannot happen along one of the three dimensions alone; change is successful only when culture, talent and systems progress accordingly.
Traditionally designing and re-building a culture has been a very challenging process, which nowadays, got a bit more complex. Before social and technological disruption, cultural change could be approximated to a vector from a static position – e.g., a culture of manufacturing excellence – to another static position – e.g., a more customer-centric culture.
The true challenge of designing a corporate culture in this convergence era, particularly in this day and age, is the dynamic end position of the transformation process: long-term survival of any company depends on the ability to adapt with agility: otherwise your firm will not be able to cope with the complexity and uncertainty of dealing with insights from unknown extremes of the universe, rapidly converging towards your sector: think about smart-watches transcending the functional and emotional kingdom, to become key enablers of your connected health and lifestyle. Metaphorically, “that’s two galaxies colliding”. And if we consider also the change that premium craftsmen and craftswomen – like watch and jeweler manufacturers – are experiencing to cope with the intrusion of consumer electronics in their kingdom, the number of galaxies colliding becomes three.
When Ralph Talmont writes about Listening to the Dissenters, he describes a culture able of dynamically renewing the shape, form, and business model of the company, by shattering the norms, which have been in place. In other words, a digital-savvy, convergence-ready corporate culture, needs to tap on the firm’s dormant resources – laying there, hidden in plain sight – by promoting – in Ralph’s own words – “hunger for new, positive, interesting ideas by a multitude of ordinary, intelligent human beings”.
In practical terms, culture is the sum of the collective and personal behavior of all employees in the company: key to embracing a new culture is to change employees’ attitudes and rituals, while at the same time ensuring that the right processes and systems are in place. In other words, if you want to promote risk-taking, ensure that failure and risk-taking do not automatically lead to slower career paths or unemployment. Innovation breads on failure and learning, and companies need to have systems in place to manage both. Talent needs to be educated, and education stems from engagement. (Assuming your firm has the right talent).
In this context I stand-by my thesis that Design Thinking can be an effective approach, not only to design the new corporate culture, but also to engage employees by reducing the adoption resistance; design thinking, can also be used, once part of the culture, as a platform to listen to the dissenters, and to promote creative engagement from the otherwise silent majority of resources in a firm. Furthermore, it becomes more and more critical for firms to establish, as part of their corporate culture, a series of engaging, creative, inspiring TedX-like events, to ensure that, more and more light-bulbs in the chandelier are on, to use an old quote from Jack Welch.
In conclusion, whatever the characteristics of the final object are, a digital-savvy, convergence-ready, innovative culture, needs to be dynamic, by promoting corporate renewal. This ensures that we listen to all parts of the organization, no matter what or no matter how fare they are from the center and the top. Design thinking can be used, not only, to describe the object in the creation phase, but can also play a pivotal role making change happen in reality. Of course, dormant resources need to be discovered and awoken, and this is the role of innovative platforms – like Internal TedXs – which should be used to ensure employees around the organizations are inspired and engaged.