(No, I’m not talking about weapons, or anthropological determination, sorry :).
Organizations have to be nimble; the environment we face is more like sitting in the ocean waiting to ride the ever-changing waves than it is striding down a concrete road. Increasingly, in these chaotic times, changes are unpredictable. There are changing tides, swells, weather, and the resulting waves. You’d rather ride them than be tossed by them, but what do you do? When it comes to waves, how do surfers cope, and what are the implications?
Beginning surfers typically have a board, a solution for riding waves. And that’s ok, because there’re a limited number of wave conditions they should go out in. Sometimes they get a good board for general small wave conditions, but sometimes for a variety of mistaken reasons they get something like a gun. A gun is a board specifically for big fast waves. It’s a board if you’re surfing on the North Shore of Oahu in winter. Not for beginners.
More experienced surfers start accumulating a quiver of boards for different conditions. Short boards, long boards, and a gun, etc. Depending on their budget, storage space, and commitment to surfing, they could have two to as many as 8. The pros have quivers in the teens, but they get them free and on-demand. They’ll check the conditions, and then choose the appropriate board.
The analogy is that when you’re moving from just beginning to being able to adapt to a changing environment, you need to have a suite of tools that provide the flexibility you need. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, just as there isn’t the perfect board. There are boards that suit a wide variety of conditions, and if you’re small, cash-strapped, or whatever you may have to make do with one tool with most of the necessary capabilities, but when you’re serious, you need industrial-strength tools.
With my TogetherLearn colleagues, we’ve been evaluating tools for a while, and we’re not happy with any one. Consequently, we’ve a quiver of tools we use for different purposes, and we’re continually scanning for one that feature either better integration, or a more elegant delivery of capabilities.
There’s more, of course. Experienced surfers sit and watch the waves for a while, choose a board, and then when they’re out they’re scanning the horizon for swells, and moving to get optimal position. Once they’re riding, they’re watching how the wave changes and making spontaneous decisions. Sometimes they come in and pick a different board before going back out.
And that’s before you figure out how to choose tools that suit your organization, proactively adapt your culture, and align with your business goals. Surfers who want to get better get out in the water more, get more experience, and experiment. Surfers who want to get better quickly get coaching.
I reckon the business environment is going to get more turbulent, and organizations are going to have to be more flexible, more nimble, be able to adapt and move faster. That requires faster and more effective problem-solving. We know that innovation isn’t the product of one person, but of collaboration and ongoing work, by people who are motivated and supported. You need the right culture and the right infrastructure to support that collaboration. What’s your strategy?