By Brent Duffy
With the very epicentre of leadership facing a depth of change not seen before, our leaders must make massive shifts in the way they strategise, engage and lead. Creating diverse experiences in enlightening environments goes a long way to help to direct that shift. The prediction is not thousands, rather millions of people around the world will need to change their roles or even entire careers in the face of this new wave, and the changing market landscapes show that this is already happening.
A list of the world’s largest companies as measured by market cap looks nothing like that of even a decade ago. In 1968 the top five companies, including General Motors, IBM and Kodak, employed more than two million people. Today the top five, including Apple, Alphabet and Amazon, employ fewer than half that. The digitisation of businesses brings new organisational structures, demands and ways of working. Legacy businesses must change their shape – and fast – to keep up.
The World Economic Forum report calls out the need for all of us to focus on bold leadership, entrepreneurial spirit and lifelong learning. The Maximus approach also champions curiosity, by influencing networks of teams and consistently demonstrating a sense of values and purpose. In this rapidly changing work environment, resilient and adaptive leadership is required, and individuals at every level in every kind of organisation must view learning as a lifelong priority.
FROM IDEAS TO ACTION
Organisations proclaim their commitment to a self-driven, social-learning culture and future-fit leaders, but go on rolling out old-style programmatic training and one-off coaching sessions. As well as addressing the drastic changes that leaders must make to the way they work, organisations must create an environment that allows these changes to become embedded until they’re an organic part of the culture.
Maximus promotes free-wheeling curiosity, deep reflection, relentless prioritisation, sound judgement, raw vulnerability and a clear purpose in the experiences we design and develop. We work with organisations to extinguish the very notion of the ‘role of the leader’, and build new expectations. A simple deconstruction of our approach is that we immerse, expose, disrupt and embed. Here’s a taste of how we go about it.
To break the historical view of the capital ‘L’ leader, we design experiences to shift mindsets and paradigms. We connect leaders with partner organisations such as OzHarvest and Reach and together they dive right into purpose. You could say that those two organisations are at the extreme edge of purpose, trying to solve two of the world’s biggest problems: food waste and wellbeing. When leaders are immersed in this type of development experience, they’re inspired, energised and achieve real clarity about what it means to lead with purpose.
We show the culture of back-to-back meetings and over-scheduled executives for what it is: destructive. It stifles outside-in thinking – by which we mean actively bringing in diverse perspectives and ideas – creates and protects silo mentalities, and kills creativity and innovation. Instead of fearfully battening down the hatches, leaders need to open up and connect with all kinds of organisations and people.
At Maximus we do it for our own organisation, and that’s led to a network of local and global partners, whom we now love to connect with our clients. We explore how others do it, in depth. Working with the likes of Google and Vodafone and local-grown heroes Atlassian and Seek. We dig deep into ideas, cultures and ways of working, and show how outside-in thinking, and true agility, are integral to success. We also upend any notion of a study tour being something of a boondoggle which comes to a stop when everyone gets home. The learning has to continue, and part of our strategy is working with our clients to embed it in the culture and drive true transformation of practices.
The reality is that while leaders are taking their organisations on epic journeys of digital transformation, few have experienced first-hand the technologies they are talking about deploying. It’s not their fault: we are all navigating fast-flowing rivers of digital game-changers such as advanced robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), additive manufacturing and customer chatbots. Digital is disrupting every industry, even those that once seemed to sit outside the reach of technology, such as law, real estate and aged care. Why would we expect – much less want – leaders to make decisions about how it all fits into their organisations without having a sense of how it works? Maximus partners with leading Australian tech lab Snepo to help demystify technology. Snepo is home to a FabLab, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology concept that’s all about opening up access to the means of invention. Here, leaders get to play with VR, build their own chatbot in a day and see small-scale 3D printing in action. It really brings to life what the whole Fourth Industrial Revolution could mean for their organisation.
If only one person ‘gets it’ – even if that is the nominal leader of an organisation – nothing will change unless the entire workplace environment and culture also shifts to make space for everyone to come on the journey. Culture is mostly made up of the routines and rituals within an organisation (read culture guru Stan Slap’s insights from page 36). The busy make-it-work culture is so familiar to us all, but it’s simply not optional to break those old habits right now and make time for thinking, reflection, exploring, planning and continuous learning. Unless time and space is deliberately scheduled for those things – and for everyone in the organisation – innovation can’t even get off the ground.
A huge amount of effort and thinking goes into every article we publish and we’d like to say thank you to Brent Duffy for contributing to this article.
This article was originally published in the 2nd edition of M Magazine, an exclusive print magazine aimed at inspiring and driving change through Australia’s executives and heads of HR.