Optimal execution is only the cost of entry; continual innovation is the necessary competitive differentiator.
When I talk strategy, I channel my colleagues in the Internet Time Alliance about the changes being seen in the workplace. The rate of change is increasing, and the patterns we imagined we saw (and explained away when violated) are more clearly representing the chaos seen in a fractal world. As a consequence, organizational nimbleness is a necessity.
In a time when competitors can copy your innovation in a matter of months (or less), you can’t just plan, prepare, and execute optimally any longer. You now have to continually innovate in products and services, problem-solve faster, avoid repeating mistakes, and in general learn (big ‘L’ learning) faster than your competitors.
The learning doesn’t come from more hierarchy, bigger incentives, or more systems. Counter-intuitively, perhaps, it comes from being more open, taking time for reflection, having better conversations, finding ways to give people meaningful goals and giving them the space and support to accomplish them. It’s more than a process shift, it’s a culture shift, but it can be done, and it works.
Yes, there’s formal learning, and performance support because you can’t neglect the optimal execution, but there’s also community-building, because you need the continual innovation too. Neglect either, and you’ll fail. It’s not about more resources (yeah, as if), but about more sensible allocation of them.
My suggestion: use technology and people in ways that maximize their contributions. People can be really good problem-solvers, particularly coupled with complementary technology, but they’re really bad at rote tasks. However, technology, properly designed and developed, is really good at rote tasks. Need I say more? Hint hint, nudge nudge, wink wink.
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