Can you imagine life without air? Obviously not. Similar is the case with an organization’s culture. Henrik Kniberg of Spotify, says, “Culture tends to be invisible, we don’t notice it because it is there all the time. But if everyone understands the organization’s culture, we are more likely to be able to keep it – and even strengthen it as we grow.” His statement interpreted in light of McKinsey’s research fosters the importance of an organization’s culture. The research findings explain the three practices that hinder an organization’s survival in the digital age: silo-ed mindset, aversion to taking risks, and lack of customer centricity.
While there has been a lot of research on the key cultural practices for managing in this digital age, the three factors that aren’t emphasized enough are:
- Failing faster
- Building a learning organization
- Fostering a network of expertise
In the words of Mark Twain, “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” As we advance into the digital age, it is imperative for us to take risks, fail, and learn from setbacks, at an accelerated pace. This factor is easy to execute when there is a sense of trust and accountability across levels in an entire organization. Failing faster, then easily equates to quick success.
A classic example of failing fast was Starbucks’ initiative to serve wine and beer as an evening offering. They soon realized that it didn’t appeal to customers who sought productivity, and a quiet space to work. They quickly amended the evening program. Starbucks followed this pattern with their other initiatives – La Boulage Bakery and Tevana. Both ventures were quickly stopped when they failed to foster Starbucks growth.
Another company that practices failing fast is Toyota. They have failure alerts built into the assembly line. Employees are empowered to pull a cord for immediate problem solving if they spot a problem during assembly. If the issue isn’t resolved in a minute or less, the production is stopped till the matter is resolved.
Building a learning organization
According to World Bank Development report (2016), 69% of existing jobs will be lost to automation or become irrelevant with the maturity of the digital age. Therefore, an organization’s prerogative is to save its workforce from redundancy, which requires developing new skill sets, upskilling the existing ones, and reskilling employees. Communicating and constantly building a learning workforce, with a sense of urgency, is necessary to compete with the unforeseen competition, and cater to diverse customer needs. Some organizations step up to meet this challenge with incentivized programs for employees to learn new skills like design thinking, system literacy, problem- solving etc. Also, with options like Udacity, Coursera, Lynda and other platforms, the onus no longer lies with the organization alone. Employees too can learn through platforms, to stay relevant and grow in the talent market.
Fostering a network of expertise
Whether internally or externally, building a network or collaborating with experts is certainly key to moving ahead. Customer needs are constantly changing, and they seek a trusted partner to address their concerns. Thus, catering to the diverse needs of customers requires different experts to come together under one label and solve pertinent issues. A culture that supports new ways of working, such as freelancing, project-based collaboration and cross-functional teams are likely to emerge victorious in the Digital Age. As a result, automotive giant Ford now competes with the likes of Tesla and Google, though neither is a part of the automobile industry.
Another example of a network of expertise is the partnership between Accenture and Microsoft, where the best in strategy and technology come together to enable clients to unlock value through the best of these businesses.
In short, the benefits of failing faster, building a learning organization, and fostering a network of expertise are manifold. Organizations that implement these factors perform better as compared to their counterparts who don’t practice these. The same holds true for individuals too. Developing a fail fast mindset, with an openness to learning, and networking with experts is the core of developing a culture that thrives in this digital age.
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Published by: Hardik Chitroda in Blog