To survive and thrive in the future, organizations should think about transformation through the lens of:
1) Innovation and Adaptation
2) Continuous Learning
Change is a driver of transformation no matter how you define it, and the way an organization responds to such drivers will determine its viability (perhaps its very existence). For example, IBM was a computer company that reinvented itself to become one of the most successful consulting firms today. On the other hand, Blockbuster was a popular video-game and movie-rental franchise with over 60,000 employees and over 8,000 stores in 2004. Yet, it failed to adapt, innovate, or learn from the market (as did its competitors).
Innovation and Adaptation
It’s important to acknowledge the impact of emergent technologies on how we work, live, consume, and communicate. In a world where you can crowdfund for capital or crowdsource for expertise, we need to think beyond the technology we work with today (computers, mobile devices), to think of technologies that will support new and more integrated solutions.
The focus should be on the ways we adapt our lives and our behaviors based on these innovations. For example, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are considered some of the most innovative organizations, particularly based on their ability to adapt and experiment with new ideas.
- It’s no coincidence that Amazon Prime Air made its first drone delivery this year,4 just as drones and flying cars continue to advance the technological landscape.
- It’s no coincidence that Facebook invested over $2 billion to acquire Oculus Rift, a virtual reality startup hailed as the next important computing platform.
- Google’s moonshot factory, Google X, plans to provide high speed internet access to the most remote areas around the world using a network of traveling balloons.
Organizations that innovate — that understand emergent technologies — are able to create and shape the lifestyle changes that such tools afford their customers. Staying complacent is no longer an option. Innovation is essential to transformation and it requires adaptation and continuous learning.
Just as you would not expect to exercise for one month and be physically fit the rest of your life, you cannot receive a degree and expect to be educated for the rest of your life. Continuous learning (both for organizations and individuals) must be a priority. Buckminster Fuller’s research7 revealed that human knowledge use to double every century until the 1900’s, and now it doubles every 13 months. The only way to keep pace with such rapid knowledge creation is through continuously educating ourselves.
Fortunately, continuous learning opportunities abound through formal and informal learning networks today — all of which have transformed how we learn. We are no longer required to travel to a university, pay for a mandated course, and earn a costly degree. Now, learning is ubiquitous. Which means that learning can occur anywhere, anytime. Individuals can steal learning moments throughout their work day (for example, using a mobile device and watching a 15-minute TedTalk during a daily commute on the train, or listening to a podcast presentation while jogging or eating lunch).
Not only has the information itself become more bite-sized and chunked for easier use, it’s also become less costly and more accessible. We now have free, open source MOOCs (massive, open, online courses) from the most prestigious universities in the world — courses anyone can complete with over 2,000-plus fellow learners. We have micro-degrees and nano-degrees in specialized areas that can allow learners to focus on specific competencies and skillsets (such as project management, change management, or marketing with social media). These options allow full-time employees the flexibility to pursue additional learning while maintaining their full-time work and other responsibilities.
Furthermore, given these drastic changes in the learning landscape, digital badging gives us alternative ways to credential and validate learning. Digital badges can be used to signal the demonstration of competencies and skills, or the completion of a course or learning module. Continuous learning can now be customized for the individual or the organization, and it is accessible through multiple modalities. The beauty of continuous learning today is that you can create your own customized, individualized learning pathway to develop the areas you wish to target.
The bottom line: If organizations want to survive and thrive in the future, they must transform themselves through innovation, adaptation, and continuous learning, while creating environments that allow their employees to do the same.