Leading People in the Digital Age

We are living in an era defined by one continual exponential technology wave after another, called the Digital Age. It is transforming everything we do, from how we do business and putting leading people in the Digital Age at the top of the corporate agenda. In fact, we have never seen a change of this scope and speed in human history, creating a seismic shift from an Industrial Age to a Digital Age.

After all, as we said in our April blog “Why mindsets matter in digital innovation and Transformation” that innovation is an organization’s ability to stimulate and transform new ideas and knowledge into products, processes or services. That tangibly increases value to customers, accelerates growth, enhances operational effectiveness and/or improves profitability. To do this, you have the best strategic and aligned leaders, an adaptive and innovative culture, awesome digital architecture and mechanisms, and agile and flexible structures and systems in your organisation, to support and enable ongoing growth and competitiveness.

What is the Digital Age?

Some defining characteristics of the Digital Age, mentioned in the Digital Leadership EdEx course I recently completed include:

  • All information can be easily digitized, hence the data revolution.
  • Digital devices that are fast, powerful, cheap, networked, and prevalent are in common use globally, hence the radical changes in medical, biotech and fin-tech.
  • The global network of people and devices enables anyone and anything to connect, anytime to anyone in the world, hence the need for teaming and networking skills to cross boundaries and geographies.
  • Cheap storage (the cloud) and smart access tools connected by the broad-band, hence the internet of things.
  • The internet enables rapid access to information by virtually anyone anywhere and the plethora of available information.

The Digital Age has unleashed three powerful forces:

  1. Continuous change in customers’ needs, priorities, and preferences, especially in regards to what is of value.
  2. Ubiquitous (pervasive, expected to be everywhere, global) innovation: digitization tools enable an exponential increase in the speed of organizations’ ability to harness and apply new innovative technologies to bring products and services to market faster and align them with evolving customer needs. By quickly connecting on a global scale, people (digital natives) at any level can collaborate with colleagues, partners, or customers anywhere in the world to create better ways to do their work or to co-create mutual value products and services that people value and cherish.
  3. Global markets, customers and competition: the pace of communication and ability to share information globally across customers and organizations means that new customer needs, new technologies, and new competitors can appear at any time from anywhere in the world.

Organizations are complex adaptive systems

To maximize both the constraints and the possibilities emerging in the Digital Age, it is important to acknowledge that organisations are complex systems, rather than merely a set of complicated processes. Organisations are influenced by their environments, and conversely have an effect on the environments in which they function through new or refined products, services processes, or structures that are offered through their innovation or digital transformation efforts.

“Organizations, as cognitive systems strive for ‘intelligent action’, meaning that they are ‘intelligent’ to the extent that they are to ‘act with relevance to the maintenance (and advancement of themselves)’”

Suggesting that there is a duality existing between the people working within the organization and the broader organizational system of which they are a part, which can be described as a cognitive system. This, in turn, influences how leaders think, act and make decisions. Making organizations cognitive systems that possess a unique cognitive architecture, which is expressed through its cognitive style, which then shapes a leader’s actions.

Making people matter

As we move further into the Digital Age, it appears that there is a greater disparity between an organisation’s members and how the organization is perceived as an independent entity. People (talent and customers) now want more of a voice in how they are treated and how they are incorporated into the organisation as a whole.

Making both management and leadership less of an “inside out” process, pushing products and services out to customers, and more of an “outside-in” process, of pulling people and customer’s needs, wants and desires into the organization.

This requires the development of a new set of capabilities, to shift the cognitive system, and re-scaffold the cognitive style, to lead people in the digital age.

By developing a cognitive style that embraces;

  • Deep and dynamic learning.
  • Collaboration and co-creation.
  • Adaptive change.
  • Revenue growth and long term sustainability through innovation.

The Digital Age requires new Leadership Capabilities

There is a symbiotic relationship between leaders and the organizational system of which leaders are a part; leaders shape their organisational culture and it, in turn, shapes how leaders focus their attention, their operating mindsets, behaviours, as well as to how they solve problems and make decisions.

Especially in their willingness to adapt, grow, learn and innovate when producing value for customers and driving success within their ever-expanding areas of influence and responsibility.

In our last blog “Why mindsets matter in digital innovation and Transformation” we reinforced the need for organisations to focus on initiating a culture that supports digitization. By strategically and systemically aligning the culture through the 4 OGI® mindsets; Imagine, Resolve, Analyse & Align Mindsets.

These represent the basis for understanding and describing an organisation’s cognitive system. Which of course, shapes the organisational culture both positively and negatively in terms of its ability to achieve intelligent actions to change, adapt, transform to achieve its strategic and revenue growth goals.

The OGI® measures organizational and employee mindsets, capturing the crucial emotional, intellective and volitional elements that other cultural tools overlook because it incorporates a multifactorial model within a holistic organizational assessment illustrated on the right.

The 4 OGI® Organizational Mindsets also relate to eight specific factors, the OGI® Orientations, and the seven core Leadership Capabilities required to underpin success in the Digital Transformation Process.

Shifting leadership styles to adapt, grow and innovate

What is crucial to success is an organisations ability and the capacity to shift and target what is needed to adapt and grow and deliver organizational strategic objectives. This is achieved by understanding the operating collective mindsets, and how they impact the current organisational culture.

Our Client Case Study Continued

For our client, described in our last blog, to achieve its strategic intent and growth objectives, at a high level, it needed to cultivate stronger;

  • Participative & inspirational styles of leadership to engage and cultivate people’s collective genius.
  • Pacesetting style to develop a more connected customer-centric element towards adding value through innovation.
  • Analytical style to see and solve problems to ensure consistent delivery of high-quality products to salvage the brand’s reputation.

Integrating people, leaders, culture and the cognitive system

For an organisation to succeed in the digital age it needs to intentionally and strategically ensure that the cognitive system gets expressed by completing an initial cultural diagnostic incorporating the OGI® that;

  1. Measures and contextualizes an integrated summary (picture) of the Cognitive System.
  2. Measures and contextualizes an integrated summary of the Cognitive Style (collective mindsets) & the 8 Specific Factors (orientations) that influence its ability to adapt & grow through the OGI®.
  3. Diagnoses and analyses the initial OGI® results & defines the Cognitive Style and its impact on the operating mindsets & orientations on revenue business & growth strategies.
  4. Aligns and describes the desired core cognitive, strategic & systemic changes & the gaps between the current and desired future states.
  5. Develops & implements change, leadership & learning strategies to achieve the desired cognitive style and collaborative corporate culture.

Making the commitment 

As the Digital Age continues to evolve at a dizzying pace, organizations that are not keeping up will continue to be disrupted by digital attackers and will not survive in today’s fragile macroeconomic environment. In our current VUCA times, political and economic uncertainty is continuing to increase whilst company life expectancy is on the decrease.

What about hitting your pause button, and retreating and reflecting, as to what all of this means about leading people in the Digital Age to achieve long-term growth and sustainability?

What if you could immerse yourself in a long-term vision as to what could be and make the commitment towards understanding your cognitive system and cultivating a collective cognitive style that intentionally achieves intelligent actions to deliver your revenue, strategic, business & growth strategies, and long-term sustainability?

This is the third of three blogs in our Digitization series.

 At ImagineNation™ we provide innovation and leadership coaching, education and culture consulting to help businesses achieve their innovation goals. Because we have done most of the learning and actioning of new hybrid mindsets, behaviors, and skill-sets already, we can help your businesses also do this by opening people up to their innovation potential.

Find out about The Coach for Innovators Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate & deep personalized learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 8-weeks, starting October 22, 2019. It is a deep blended learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles & applications of a human-centered approach to innovation, within your unique context. Find out more.

Contact us now at janet@imaginenation.com.au to find out how we can partner with you to learn, adapt and grow your business in the digital age.