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November 5, 2019 - Comments Off on Busting the myths around Agile

Busting the myths around Agile


Author bio

With the advent of unprecedented digitization, the world today is spiraling into a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environment. Organizations are increasingly looking at a way to not just survive but thrive in this fast-paced, ever-changing environment. In this hour of need, several organizations are turning towards Agile. While Agile is the buzzword in the market today, it is a concept that is often misunderstood. Is Agile a methodology? Does it work in a non-software context? And so on.

As the buzz around Agile grows, so do the questions about it. When these questions are not answered adequately, several myths have cropped up around it. These myths can either prevent organizations from adopting an Agile way of working or make them choose it for the wrong reasons. Both scenarios are undesirable because they result in organizations not leveraging the full power of the agile way of working.

In this blog, we bust the three common myths associated with Agile. This would hopefully help organizations make informed decisions and adopt the agile way of working in the right manner.

Myth 1: Agile is a METHODOLOGY

This is possibly the most common misconception about Agile. Organizations and people tend to be confused that agile is a methodology that needs to be adopted and executed. Some people also think of agile as just doing iterations, retrospect meeting, daily standups, etc. So, what is it really then? Agile is a MINDSET - a way of thinking or philosophy. Mindset is one of the most important elements and something that is actually missing in the agile manifesto. Before we go any further, let’s first look at the agile manifesto.

4 values of Agile:

12 Principles of the Agile Manifesto:

As you can see, the Agile Manifesto is all about 4 values and 12 principles. It does not mention anything about methodology. Perhaps, it is the misinterpretation of the manifesto over years that has led people to believe that Agile is simply about implementing a set of rules or practices. However, Agile is more about a set of principles to guide you in the decisions you take. Agile is principle-driven (mindset) and not rules-driven (methodology).

According to Wikipedia, “Agile software development is a set of principles for software development in which requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing and cross-functional teams. Agile itself has never defined any specific methods to achieve this, but many have grown up as a result and have been recognized as being 'Agile'.” Words like Scrum, Kanban, XP, etc., that you must have often heard of are actually methodologies based on the agile values and principles.

Being agile, on the other hand, is a way of thinking primarily focused on the customer. Therefore, to deliver what the customer demands, in real-time, teams must focus on collaboration, continuous improvement and commitment to quality, focus on people and delivering value, empowerment and self-organization.

In other words, successful agile transformation starts with changing how we think—specifically, in my opinion, how we think about priorities and failure. Priorities become linear and organized instead of reacting based on what is broken. Failure is no longer looked upon as something to be feared; instead, we embrace failure as a learning experience.

Successful agile transformation requires an organization to be prepared to undergo a meaningful shift in both methodology and mindset. It’s not just changing what you do, it’s changing how you think. Once you make this shift in perspective and fully embrace it, you derive a higher chance of reaping the rewards of agile.

Myth 2: Agile works only for the TECH teams

Probably the number one question we get asked in the Agile context, is this - “isn’t Agile for software development only?” After all, the Agile Manifesto was born in the world of technology by a group of developers wanting to write software better, and to simplify and find commonality in the software development life cycle. But, why do you think the agile principles don’t work in any other context (non-tech)? Probably, not just because of Agile’s origin in the software domain, it could also be because of words like “software” and “development” that are seen very often in the same. Let’s just pull out the agile manifesto again and have a glance at the 12 Principles of agile. Though the word “software” is seen a few times, just try and replace it with another like a ‘product or project’, and you can see that it will still make sense.

Agile has come a long way since its inception back in 2001. Though it was initially meant to aid software development, it has evolved with time and a lot of non-tech teams and industries have begun adopting agile significantly. Any project with a high degree of uniqueness, unpredictable environment, higher potential of change, continuation and complexity, and shorter feedback cycles is well suited for agile. Agile works for any team - software or business. It is important though to implement Agile thinking and build Agile mindset at an enterprise level, for the goal to be met.

Agile, these days, is used for all forms of product development, from physical products to cloud-based software-as-a-service. But beyond product development (both hardware and software), agile principles are now being applied successfully in a wide range of industries like marketing, legal, human resources, communications, manufacturing, healthcare and financial services:

Though it took a while to catch on, Agile has found significant success among non-technology teams and industries and has seen major adoption and is only starting to spread its wings to various other streams.

Myth 3: Agile means just action and NO DOCUMENTATION.

The highlighted area in the above image is one of the primary reasons for this misconception, resulting from a misunderstanding of one of values in the ‘Agile Manifesto’: ‘Working software over comprehensive documentation’    

However, this doesn’t mean documentation has no place in an agile approach. Now, as you can see there is no indication that agile means no documentation or that documentation is not needed, it is just that the focus should be on delivering a working product instead of investing major time in creating a detailed documentation that may reduce the probability of success in delivering working product.

Therefore, we need to step back and understand the true essence of the agile manifesto -  ‘While there is value in the items on the right (working software/product), we value the items on the left (documentation) more’. A better way of looking at this is that Agile doesn’t do documentation for documentation’s sake. There cannot be any excuse for abandoning documentation in an agile approach, documentation is just as important in agile projects, though it is often more focused and value driven. Therefore, Agile does not support little or no documentation—Agile advocates the “right” documentation, just ‘enough’ that is required for a project, at the right time.

The level of documentation needs to be appropriate to the project you are working on and the level of maturity of the team. For example, think about the minimum viable information that needs to be captured, with whom it needs to be shared, how to document it in a collaborative way, and how that documentation might help you continuously improve. “Right” documentation also helps to save time and cost during the project development process.

Documenting key decisions and rationale also helps teams from repeating mistakes. The key to documentation is that it needs to be created when truly needed and contain details that will be used going forward. Ideal way to go about this would be to set a process to centralize and share all the documents that have information about the product and the overall project. This repository would also ensure that nothing is lost if team members are swapped or leave in the middle of the project, thus ensuring smooth functioning.

What other “facts” have you heard about that need to be addressed? Think about it this way, if it isn’t making sense to you or if implementing something is creating more chaos than helping you, chances are that you are either doing it wrong or you have understood it incorrectly. While the Agile Manifesto has stood the test of time, it cannot give us direct answers to everything. It is there to guide us on our journey to being agile. So, while you take a copy of the manifesto and pin it near your workstation, also take a minute to really understand what the values and principles are, and how they apply to you, your team and your work.

To make things easier, talk to us at KNOLSKAPE. We’ve got an awesome new simulation that is a surefire way to help you start your journey towards Agile.


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  • October 14, 2019 - Comments Off on Developing Growth Mindset – A Personal Leadership Principle

    Developing Growth Mindset – A Personal Leadership Principle

    Growth mindset

    Sourabha Jayanna

    In a decade’s experience, I have had the opportunity to work with many inspiring leaders. My key learning from them has centred around the ability to drive results. While there are many skills we can attribute results to, the key to success in most scenarios have been:

    • perseverance,
    • forward thinking, and
    • never give up attitude.

    The reason that this has stood out for me is because the resultant outcome of these behaviors has always been unimaginable business growth, be it high revenues, major client acquisitions, or creating avenues in new markets and segments. A leader who is always thinking four steps ahead, perseveres towards the goal and has a never give up attitude is someone who I have always seen succeed, not because they are more qualified or more intelligent than anyone else. Rather, it is because they take on every opportunity they find and make the most of it. Such individuals are rarely discouraged by failure. Rather than seeing themselves as failing in a situation, they see themselves learning, and then applying this learning to improve the outcome. In other words, these leaders have had an attitude that is geared towards growth

    As goes the saying - Ones attitude determines their altitude. While it is a saying as old as time, it has never been truer than in the current scenario of agile working that attitude is most important. Your response to challenges, difficult tasks and conflict situations within the workplace can define your true ability to adapt in an agile environment. As children, we are naturally predisposed to handle challenges head-on, take risks and be curious. As we grow, we place barriers around ourselves based on what we deem achievable and doable. Refocusing our attention onto our child-like ability to believe in endless possibilities is all it takes to develop this attitude and mindset of growth, according to Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck.

    One simple scenario could be how a salesperson responds to losing a deal. An approach to understand the reasons for failure, communicate and embrace the failure and using that as an opportunity to improve a skill will help the person grow better in the career. On the other hand, ignoring the signs will lead him nowhere in winning a similar deal again.

    Developing growth mindset behavior, not only improves one’s ability to manage their personal growth, but also influence others around and transform oneself as a leader. Let’s look at some of the growth mindset behaviors in the workplace that can change one’s growth trajectory -

    - The ability to learn drives one towards challenges tasks
    - The ability to achieve mastery in one’s work
    - The ability to see the positive side of criticism or feedback
    - The ability to learn from the success/failure of others
    - The ability to understand the big picture and drive towards the greater good
    - The ability to set new processes and drive results
    - The ability to be an agile learner and constantly update their skills
    - The ability to set demanding goals for oneself

    While this is an ideal state of being, it is not possible for a person to constantly be in growth mode. However, it is important to understand that reason behind this attitude, as well as the pitfalls of it. A growth mindset has a proven track record for success in the age of agile. Therefore, positioning one’s orientation naturally to a mindset of growth is pertinent to their growth and success. Therefore, the first step is believing that one can constantly improve and acquire new skills to be better for the future. With this belief firmly engrained in the mind, an individual is more likely to stay motivated and put in the effort required towards developing a new mindset.

    To put this into perspective, Dweck also famously quoted, “We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.” By removing ourselves from those better than us, richer than, more famous than us, or more seemingly accomplished than us, we like to believe that they possess in themselves something that is elusive to us. It is true that these people have something we don’t, but it doesn’t mean that we cannot develop it. Developing a growth mindset isn’t rocket science. It simply requires constant effort.

    Let’s look at some areas where working with growth mindset can help –

    • Continuous Learning to drive Innovation
      • Be agile and learn new skills. Believe in the purpose/objective and be aligned to work for the same. Be open to communicating your ideas. This improves ones’ resilience to failure and builds confidence to move forward. Understand the power of “not yet!” - you are not there yet, but you will be if you work hard. Retain the focus on the objective and understand one’s strengths and weakness to better manage oneself. That is the mantra to drive new initiatives, make progress and grow ones’ abilities.
    • Developing Leadership Skills
      • Leading by example is the way for one adopting growth mindset. Owning ones’ attitude is also important to be on the growth trajectory. There is no need to shy away from your attitude for the sake of blending with others. It is important to take up risks in front of others to drive the message of growth to others. At times, these risks might fail, then it is also important to admit the one can be imperfect and use it as a path to learning. Stretch yourself to achieve more and sometimes work out of comfort zone. This will not only build your skills but also team and others in the organization would be able to identify you as someone who is growth-focused.
    • Helping Others
      • As quoted by Sheri Dew “Having influence is not about elevating self, but about lifting others”. Positivity spreads through people. It is important for one to find opportunities to influence others at every touchpoint. Help teams set stretched goals which include them to learn and experiment. Bring in mindset change in people on the purpose of receiving continuous feedback. Also, do receive feedback with the same purpose. Build supportive relationships across the workplace to encourage new ideas and use it as a platform to support and coach others for success.
    • Developing a growth mindset environment
      • It is important to drive a growth mindset in an organization to be constantly relevant to the industry. It brings in the purpose and sense of alignment towards organization goal and how one can contribute. Allowing the team to try new ideas with an environment which embraces failure, and recognize the effort, can have a long way in building the culture of learning and growth.

    To summarize, focus on improving the skills of self and others to drive success. This will not only change one for the better, but also people around create a better working environment. Nobody knows what the future of work will look like, better to be prepared with the ability of continuous learning. Developing growth mindset will only help one be cognitively aware of the situations and be responsible for the unforeseen challenges.


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  • September 24, 2019 - Comments Off on 21st Century Learning: The effects of IR4.0, globalization, the changing workforce and shorter shelf life of knowledge

    21st Century Learning: The effects of IR4.0, globalization, the changing workforce and shorter shelf life of knowledge

    Learning and development

    author - Shantini

    Learning is the lifelong process of transforming information and experience into knowledge, skills, behaviors, and attitudes. Learning in the 21st century comprises skills, technologies and insights that leading-edge academicians and organizations are using to create learning systems that are better suited to the emerging challenges. This is done through the practice Instructional Design - systematically designing, developing and delivering instructional products and experiences, both digital and physical, in a consistent and reliable fashion towards an efficient, effective, appealing, engaging and inspiring acquisition of knowledge.

    At its inception, Instructional Design was dominated by the views of behavioral psychologists, B.F. Skinner, whose stimulus-response operant conditioning theories gave us the famous drill and practice routine – the idea that knowledge and skill are acquired through repetitive practice. Today, there’s discovery that learning occurs most effectively when courses or programs are carefully designed around the key tasks and skills needed to perform the job.

    Recently, there seems to be new buzzwords such as e-learning, byte size learning, gamification, digitized simulations, etc. Having been in the corporate learning and development space for quite some time, I was bewildered with the new buzzwords and decided to immerse myself in recent developments and emerging trends in the learning and development area. Hence, in March 2019, I attended a Learning & Development Conference in Kuala Lumpur with an interesting title - Big L&D Summit 2019 - Emerging Trends in Learning & Development: Are You Ready to Up Your Game!

    The two-day event was an insightful session with the exchange of knowledge and experiences by various speakers. At the end of the two day conference, I discovered that there is a “new world of work”  emerging in the 21st century disrupting the corporate learning paradigm. It’s turning old instructional, episodic and live training models upside down, as technology, financial, people and competitive pressures drive change to achieve 21stcentury corporate success, growth and sustainability.

    During the session, a speaker from Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific shared very interesting insights, talking about the 4th Industrial Revolution (IR4.0):

    1. IR4.0 is leading to Mega Trends and transforming the way businesses operate. Mega Trends are transformative, global forces that define the future world with their far-reaching impact on business, societies, economies, cultures and personal lives, e.g. robots have entered our homes for personal use, mobile financial transactions are now in crypto-currencies, self-driving cars, etc.
    2. IR4.0 is enabling connectivity that allows for the convergence of industries, products & functions. This convergence is likely to drive unconventional players to contest for new markets. For example, cars plus unmanned technology leads to the development of autonomous cars.
    3. Every company will become a technology company, as most companies will use mobile applications, data and analytics, IoT, cyber security, cryptocurrency and blockchain, cloud computing, etc. The banking sector, for example, is moving towards branchless banking and uses more than one technology i.e. mobile applications, cybersecurity, data and analytics and others.

    These megatrends, coupled with globalization, the changing workforce, and a shorter shelf life of knowledge, reveals that “one-size-fits-all” content is no longer relevant where instructional design is concerned. Just as businesses are personalizing their products and services for clients and consumers, so should instructional design methods innovate to meet the changing needs for the new business landscape.

    Learning and development is expected to play a critical role in enabling to build the future-ready organization. How could learning and development play this role?

    Again, from the perspective of the speaker from Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific, the first step would be for learning & development to align with the maturity and vision of organizations. As such, instructional design needs to align learning priorities with the changing business landscape.

    Secondly, learning & development will need to have an outside-in view with a holistic approach. Outside-in perspectives will enable the identification of new skills, new leadership capabilities and new competencies required based on the changing business environment.

    Thirdly, the pace of enablement will be essential for Learning & Development. Learning & development would need to change and be more agile to keep up with the changing pace.

    Finally, digital will be a catalyst in enabling learning & development to achieve desired outcomes. Digital learning solutions and platforms could be deployed as per the examples below:

    • Bite-sized learning solutions delivered through a range of accessible technologies.
    • Mobile learning solutions
    • Virtual and live simulations of real-life experiences using online game methodologies.
    • Gamification built into online learning methodologies aligned to demographic styles.
    • Using social media to assess and predict personality types and learning styles.

    Implementation of training is expected to see the greatest change in non-classroom delivery, including computer-based, web-based, distance learning, self-study and other blended forms of learning. These delivery methods would allow trainers to reach employees where they work, rather than having them removed from their work environment. Trainers would no longer simply stand in front and lecture groups of learners. Instead they facilitate discussions, role plays, case studies, games, simulations and other innovative ways to get learners to open their minds and practice new skills in ways that can be readily assimilated and applied.

    In short, 21st-century learning should recognize the effects of IR4.0, globalization, the changing workforce and the shorter shelf life of knowledge. It needs to address the specific skills needed for the 21st century and focus on individual needs based on the changing business landscape. As the pace of change is accelerating due to IR4.0, 21st century learning should incorporate the use of cutting-edge technology which enables more flexibility in learning.

     I’m imagining that in the future, there would be an instructional design expert system, powered by artificial intelligence. This would enable an instructional designer to feed the design specifications into it and automatically generate learning materials and activities that can be applied immediately.  Employees also may be able to order their own custom training on any subject of their preference, delivered instantly through accessible technology platforms without the intervention of human hands.

    Is this going to happen in the 21st century? I think it’s already happening. As with the changes in various business landscapes, learning and development is not spared and would need to innovate to meet the new challenges of IR4.0.


    Building L&D Leaders in the Digital Era. Frost & Sullivan

    Bottom-Line Training, Donald J. Ford


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  • September 17, 2019 - Comments Off on Running for Resilience

    Running for Resilience

    BLOG COVER - Dr Williams

    William Thomas

    I have had a lot of good days in life, but there was one day where I was on top of the world. Literally.
    Finishing the 2016 North Pole Marathon was a dream come true, but more than being just a single race, it also represented the end of my journey to complete The Marathon Grand Slam (a marathon on all 7 continents and at the North Pole). From the time I set that goal until I achieved it was just over six years, and the lessons about resilience that I learned along the way taught me a lot about pushing past obstacles and recovering from setbacks. My book about that goal, CROSS THE LINES, devotes a chapter to “26.2 lessons I learned running marathons,” and there are some that really stand out when it comes to dealing with change and overcoming obstacles. It’s a good reminder that there are many things you learn in your personal life that can help you in your professional life.

    1. Set specific goals

    I only started running at age 42 with the idea that “I want to be in better shape.” While that sounds like a good goal, in reality it’s hard to measure. How do you know when you’re in “better shape?” When you lose a kilo? Or maybe 5? Or how about if your resting heart rate is a little lower… but how much is enough? There’s not really a definition of “better shape,” so it’s hard to know when you achieve it, and it’s equally hard to come up with a plan for doing so.

    Saying “I want to be able to run a marathon” and later, “I want to complete The Marathon Grand Slam,” gave me clear and measurable goals that led me to make changes in my exercise, nutrition, and sleeping habits so I could achieve them.

    When you set goals for yourself, you need to give yourself a clear Finish Line if you want to make sure you keep moving forward. Without a defined goal ahead of you, obstacles can be very discouraging. The lack of clear milestones along the way makes it hard for people to recognize how to change course and get around a challenge, leaving you more likely to give up.

    Pro Tip: If you want to be resilient while working towards a goal, you first need to know what that goal is.

    2. A goal is essential, but accountability makes it happen

    Once you have set a goal, it's still easy to get distracted or frustrated, especially if you’re leading a busy life. What got me to follow through on my plan was telling people I had signed up for a marathon; once word got out, I would have looked bad if I quit. I did the same thing when I set the Grand Slam goal. Finding people whom you do not want to disappoint, whether friends or family, can keep you from disappointing yourself, and I have been lucky to have a group of friends whose opinion really matters.

    When you set business goals, don’t keep them a secret. Make sure everyone in your organization knows what your strategic goals are and understands how they contribute to them.

    Pro Tip: Consider sharing your personal KPIs with your peers; failing to meet them could make you look pretty bad, so knowing that others are watching can encourage you to make whatever effort is needed to hit your metrics.

    3. You do not control everything, so focus on what you CAN control

    When we arrived at the North Pole for the North Pole Marathon in 2016, we expected to be there for about 36 hours. Mother Nature had other ideas, though, and a crack in the ice cut across not only the marathon route but also the runway. As a result, we ended up being there for four days. There was nothing I could do about it, so while the camp staff focused on building a new runway, I focused on acclimating to the running conditions. Coming from Southeast Asia, I'd had no opportunity to run on snow and ice since the Antarctic Ice Marathon 18 months earlier, so I used this opportunity to put on my running gear and take advantage of the extra practice time.

    Pro Tip: We all have a finite amount of available time, so spending that time on things you cannot control wastes the opportunity to affect those things that you can. Focusing on things you cannot control stops your forward progress, while doing what you can allows you to move somewhat farther ahead. By advancing even a little bit, you may open up some opportunities that did not exist before, opportunities that could help you get around your problem and keep moving toward your goal. If nothing else, you can reduce your stress level but cutting back on worrying about things, and instead doing something constructive.

    4. Change is a marathon, not a sprint, so pace yourself

    At the end of February 2009 I flew from my home in Washington DC to run the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon. The temperatures in Washington, where I had been training all winter, were often down to freezing when I went out in the morning, but on race day Hong Kong’s temperature was in the 20s. Midway through the race I started seeing some symptoms of dehydration, but I kept pushing myself. I finished the race, but made the mistake of lying down soon afterwards, and before I knew it my muscles had all frozen up and I was being taken to the medical tent in a wheelchair. The lesson from that experience was that there are times to go fast and times to slow down, and you need to pay attention to what your body is telling you.

    Similarly, when you initiate a major change in your organization, you may be tempted to push through it quickly and get it over with, so you can get to “the new normal” as soon as possible. Try to resist that temptation. If you have been doing things the same way for a long time, your employees need to adapt to changes over time rather than trying to accomplish everything at once. If you go too fast you create a lot of uncertainty about what’s important and what’s not, and your team will often slow down while they try to figure out what’s happening.

    Pro Tip: Try to plan major changes in stages, and make sure everyone knows what those stages are, so you reduce the shock of change and instead make it more predictable and easier to adapt to.

    5. Going alone is easier in a group

    Distance running can easily be one of the loneliest sports, but even when people run races individually, they can connect with others from whom they can learn. When I started running with a club in Singapore a few years ago I realized I would push myself faster with them than when I was training alone. From the other runners I learned more about pacing, hydration, nutrition, and ways to overcome challenges in different climates. These days I still see other members of the small Grand Slam community at races around the world, and the camaraderie and support from those relationships pushes me to be better.

    You can learn a lot at work from both your internal and external relationships. When you share ideas and information with others at work, especially with people from other functions and business units, it’s easier to see opportunities and identify emerging problems than if you were limited to your own perspective. Your external networks help you learn about market changes, and learn about best practices from other industries that could be adapted to yours. Whether it’s as simple as having a broad LinkedIn network, or more active like participating in chamber of commerce sessions, you can boost your resilience by being part of a group.

    Final Thoughts

    When it comes to learning and development, we often embrace the 70-20-10 idea, where 10% of learning comes from classes, 20% comes from mentoring and coaching, and 70% comes on the job. Expand your definition of "on the job" to include the things you do in your personal life, and you will be amazed at how many more valuable lessons you can learn. My running experiences have helped me be more resilient as I have undertaken dramatic career changes in the last decade. From my own experience, I encourage you to ask yourself: what are you doing in your personal life that could help you professionally?

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  • July 9, 2019 - No Comments!

    DESIGN THINKING SERIES || Part 4 of 4: Thinking Design Thinking – Ideation & Deployment

    Design thinking stat

    George Panakal

    In this series till now, we’ve looked at some myths around design thinking, took a closer look at how Design Thinking comes up with innovative solutions for day-to-day problems, and began to flesh out the process of design thinking, beginning with defining the challenge (at the end of the ‘Discover’ stage).  We now come to the fun part of design thinking, where the rubber hits the road. So, strap yourselves in for the last mile of this rabbit hole 😊

    I say fun part, since this is what most of us enjoy – overcoming a challenge. And that is exactly what we do in the ‘Ideate’ and ‘Deploy’ stages. However, we need to note that the success of these two stages depends heavily on the discovery phase, else we stand the risk of creating a solution that is irrelevant.

    To quickly summarize what we do in the ‘Discover’ phase:

    • Observe the consumers or users of the product or solution, to see how they interact with it
    • Empathize with consumers by mapping their pain and gain areas
    • Pinpoint their challenges by defining a problem we’d like to solve for them.

    In short, we diverge, while exploring, the root causes of a challenge and converge to define what problem/s we will solve. We’re now primed for ideation.


    The ideate phase comprises three activities:

    Design Thinking Blog-4

    What we seek at the end of this stage is a solution or idea that addresses the needs of the users, that is validated by the users. This is a necessary phase since we can ascertain that the solution will be adopted before we g all-out and implement it.

    Brainstorming: This is where it begins. We pick up from the challenge definition and as a team, brainstorm on the possible or impossible solutions to the challenge. This is when we will diverge again in terms of ideas. There are a few ground-rules, though:

    1. Articulate a challenge statement. Prioritize the challenges in the order of importance and the perspectives to consider while coming up with a solution.
    2. Have a diverse group. A diverse group not only ensures that ideas cover multiple angles, it can also enable us to club similar ideas to arrive at very clever solutions.
    3. Allow incubation. Introduce the challenge to the team and allow them a couple of days before the ideation session. This helps the brain connect dots in the background.
    4. Do not validate ideas. The purpose of ideation is to generate a volume of ideas that can further be processed to arrive at the right fit to the challenge.
    5. Build on ideas. Do not hesitate to take up from one person’s idea and build on it. You could also look at tweaking existing solutions to suit the brief. Cluster similar ideas to arrive at solutions that offer the most promise.
    6. Be visual. Being visual will enable people to appreciate ideas better. It compensates for any gaps in articulation and enables everyone to ‘see’ the big picture.

    My first job was that of a Marketing Consultant for Mitsubishi Motors. We were launching the Mitsubishi Lancer in India in 1998, and I was responsible for a state. The challenge was to convey the hi-tech capabilities and features of the Lancer to a customer at a time when the state of the art dial-up modems could reach a blazing speed of about 56 kbps! So, somebody had an idea: Why don’t we take the experience to the customer on a laptop? A typical laptop at that time was priced at about $3,000, but Mitsubishi (India) did not shoot the idea down and built on it to create a stellar experience. That was a huge success (at least in my territory where we dominated the segment for 2 years) with the buyers to experience the technology in a car, outside the car, enabled by technology!

    Prototyping is the next stage in ideation. The purpose of this stage is to create mock-ups of the ideas that one may ‘touch and feel’. This allows a user or a user persona to experience the solution and iron out minor inconveniences.

    The common misconception of prototyping is that it is expensive. Far from it. Think of frugal and innovative ways to bring your ideas to life. Like drawing up what each screen may look like for an app, or a poster that communicates the benefits of a policy change. This stage will also allow you to predict some early execution challenges for the designed solution.

    Testing is the final stage of the Ideate phase. This is where the solutions are validated on their DFV parameters. DFV here stands for:

    • Desirability: Is the solution something that the users/consumers/customers want?
    • Feasibility: Is the solution going to be practical to build and deploy?
    • Viability: Is the solution sustainable?

    There are also other metrics that we may create to validate the solution based on the challenge. These will be unique to the specific solutions and will look at solving sub-challenges identified in the discover stage. In this stage, we converge for the second time in the design thinking process to identify the idea/s that will make it to the final phase.


    Deployment is the phase where the draft solution becomes an actionable. This is the final phase of the design thinking journey and can be broadly divided into ‘Socializing’, ‘Piloting’, and ‘Integration’.

    Socializing is the part where we gain buy-in for the idea and get people on board. A key skill to possess here is the ability to tell stories. And the reason why storytelling is important is that people think in terms of stories more than numbers. Some of the greatest ideas were brought to life with stories. Take for example how Steve Jobs introduced the Macbook Air, with his “there’s something in the air’ talk at Macworld San Francisco in 2008.

    Piloting is the stage where the solution is introduced to a ‘pre-determined’ group to gain real world feedback and reviews. This is the stage when the solution leaves our hands, so we need to be extra careful that the solution is spot-on and that the early users are properly identified. Even tech giants have fumbled at this stage. Take for example, the Sony Walkman. It was initially given out to a test group of journalists who were disappointed that it did not have the recording ability that ‘Pressman’ had. But like any great innovation, probably its time was yet to come, and when it started getting noticed by music buffs, it spread like wildfire and became the cult icon of the 1980s and went on to revolutionize portable music players.

    Integration is the final stage of the design thinking process and it seeks to incorporate the new design into the business model of the organization. Looking at markets and customer segments that will drive growth, identifying secondary markets that will sustain growth, creating a supply-chain or delivery model that goes together with the product and organizational aspirations are all part of this phase.

    Now that we have understood the design thinking process, our next post in this series will introduce you to our Design Thinking Simulation, and how you can learn, apply, and master the design thinking process in just a day! We created it using the design thinking methodology, and our pilot groups were raving about it before its release. So, stay tuned!

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  • June 25, 2019 - No Comments!

    DESIGN THINKING SERIES || Part 3 of 4: Thinking Design Thinking: Stage 1 – Discover

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    George Panakal

    This piece is Part 3 of a 4-Part series on Design Thinking. In Part 1, we introduced you to the concept of Design Thinking and busted some myths which surround it. In Part 2, we took a closer look at why Design Thinking is a good tool to have in your kit as a professional. In Part 3, we will look at the design thinking process in detail.

    First off, design thinking has been around since 1969, when Herbert A Simon published “The Sciences of the Artificial”. The book made designers look at problems and solutions from the eyes of a consumer, and the idea gained momentum in the 1990s with the founding of the legendary design firm IDEO, followed by the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford in 2004. Though principally similar, over the years their design principles have created cults – each practitioner swearing by his or her choice.

    Irrespective of the school of thought you lean towards, the crux of design thinking is in answering three simple questions:

    1. Will people use it happily?
    2. Can we build it without much trouble?
    3. Will it be sustainable?

    Though simple, the responses to these questions are crucial to the process of design thinking, which has three distinct stages:

    Design thinking stages
    In this post, we shall dig deeper into the ‘Discover’ phase and seek ways to sharpen skills that will enable us to take a step closer to being better design thinkers.


    Arguably, the most important stage in the design thinking process is discovery. In this stage, we seek to:

    • observe the customers/users
    • empathise with their experiences, and
    • define the problem statement which we will seek to solve using the design thinking methodology.

    Easier said than done. Let’s delve a little deeper to understand what is required here.


    Observation, in this context, seeks to uncover the ways in which a user experiences your product or service. Observation also helps you understand the expectations of the customers. There are multiple ways to gather information in the digital age, but none of them beats analysis of the real user experience. This is because a person’s ‘real’ reaction could be clouded by the ‘moment’. For example, if you were to ask someone if they are a football fan, they might say ‘yes’ if a local team has won a championship. This response is despite their lack of interested in the game otherwise. Or, you could also have an instance where a die-hard fanatic of the game claims they do not like it, if their team, usually considered a strong contender, got knocked off in the early stages of a championship. In either case, analysing real behaviours give you better insights than depending on reactions.

    Another factor to consider is the consistency of the behaviour. Our dog, Dopey, wasn’t a fussy eater at all. Once, when we were visiting a friend, Dopey sampled a “super premium canine food brand” and he lapped it up in a blink. On our way back, we bought the biggest sack of the product. Back home, Dopey did not even finish a quarter of what he usually does. After a week of futile attempts, we had to give it away. Maybe Dopey was famished the day he sampled it, or was in some sort of canine peer pressure, I’ll never know. But what I learnt that day was that unless a behaviour repeats itself in different circumstances, I shouldn’t generalize 😊


    Empathizing is the ability to imagine yourself to be the customer and ‘see what they see, hear what they hear, and feel what they feel’. It is the ability to describe the agony and the ecstasy of the solution you seek to deliver.

    One of the most difficult job roles I have consulted for is a life insurance claims agent. The agent regularly meets people who are grieving and in despair. They do not always come in with all the right documentation. However, there is a certain amount of minimum due diligence required for you to accept (let alone process) a claim. How do you build empathy into a system without wiggle room?

    We invited the team for a session at a managed facility. Before lunch, we asked the facility managers to clamp a few vehicles, come into the workshop, and announce the vehicle registration numbers. The ‘offenders’ were asked to produce, in addition to the usual ‘license and registration’, documents like the original sales invoice copy, proof of last lease instalment, invoice from the last service, and so on. Needless to say, there was absolute chaos, with people insisting how irrational and absurd the documentation requirements were. And once we reassured them that this was a charade, they had to reflect on the experience and describe how they felt. They were then asked, “So, how do you think the next of kin feels, when they come in and you put this list of documentation in front of them?” The silence was deafening! Empathy.


    Here’s when you put two and two together to arrive at the problem statement or need statement. In my opinion, this convergence is the first milestone in design thinking. If the problem or need is not articulated well, the solution will be far from ideal.

    In an earlier organization I used to work for, flexi-timing was an idea that was gaining a lot of support. We created an internal committee, mostly comprising HR and Administration staff (this was pre-design-thinking days for us). The output was a seven-page list of guidelines on what flexi-timing means, how someone may opt for it, seek approvals, and the other usual stuff. With every question raised, the document was updated, till it became a 12-page document at the end of a fortnight. It created more confusion than clarity, and the whole idea was scrapped as a result.

    The point here is that your solution is only as good as your problem definition. Which in turn, is only as good as your observation and empathising outcomes. A similar activity conducted five years down the line (post-design thinking) resulted in a telecommuting policy. This policy was able to address all the problems identified during the ‘flexi-timing’ phase and solved many other issues proactively.

    In the next post, we will explore the rabbit hole a bit further and demystify the Ideation and Deployment phases.


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  • June 11, 2019 - Comments Off on Arresting the GIC Talent Challenge

    Arresting the GIC Talent Challenge



    AVBC Enterprise is a large organization based in Texas, USA. Which industry it is in doesn’t matter – you decide. What you need to know about this organization is that they once felt that they were paying too much money to get operational, backend support functions done. They realized that they could cut their operational costs significantly by outsourcing this job to India, where labor was abundant and costs low.

    In the subsequent years, AVBC was able to cut down their operational costs by over 30%.

    Sound familiar?

    It should. For the better part of the 1990s and 2000s, many large enterprises across the globe did this – outsource operations to countries with cheaper labor. If it wasn’t India, it was Indonesia, the Philippines, Turkey, Poland… you get the picture!

    This is where the story usually ends. What is rarely talked about, however, is what followed. After the initial years of cost saving, AVBC spending more money on its GIC, and it wasn’t because their workforce was growing, or output was increasing. The problem seemed plain and simple – operational costs were rising.

    Upon further inspection, however, a new reality came to light. It wasn’t just that the cost of infrastructure or vendor payments were increasing. The challenges ran much deeper, and they continue to fester. In essence, ABVC Enterprise is a representation of most GIC organizations - undergoing massive volatility, much greater than most industries. The bend in the road that they are at leads them to one of two extreme outcomes:

    1. Become a part of the parent enterprise by aligning and adapting to the business strategy, or
    2. Dissolve entirely because it has become a liability to the parent organization.

    How did it come to this for GICs? Let’s take a step back.

    The lay of the land

    Global In-house Centres (GICs) or Captives emerged as a way for organizations to cut costs. Digitalization, however, has given every business a global presence and market. This means that every part of business, including the GICs can contribute significantly and beyond just being a shared, back-end operational service.

    To support themselves in the new business landscape, many multinational corporations are seeking to restructure their business models to integrate GICs in more expansive ways. In doing so, GICs are being challenged to rapidly alter their own way of functioning to move up the value chain - transitioning from being pure play cost centers to becoming centers of excellence delivering innovation, quality, and strategic value.

    The changes happening in the business landscape require GICs to undergo the following shifts:

    Global inhouse centerSource:

    Not all GICs, however, have managed to achieve this shift. In fact, GICs are currently at various levels of the maturity curve.

    Global Inhouse center innovation

    Illustration: Based on the Captives Maturity Model

    Level 1: Resource Centre Provide a cost advantage by executing a targeted business process
    Level 2: Quality Centre Function as subject matter experts, and improve quality and scalability through process standardization and optimization
    Level 3: Innovation Centre Act as strategic entities that drive innovation and accelerate the parent company’s foray into new and digital-enabled products and services
    Level 4: Market Expansion Centre Help parent company expand into emerging markets, by conceptualizing and executing products and services relevant to consumers in the local market and ultimately at a global level.
    Level 5: Global Delivery Centre Align with the parent company, and its strategy and style of working.

    The Ground Reality

    Most GICs, unfortunately, stagnate at level 2, as low-cost centers offering high-quality processes.

    Cost centers to value centers
    This is because they find it difficult to move to the next stage of maturity where they are required to act as strategic entities driving innovation and accelerating the parent company’s foray into new and digital-enabled products and services. Part of the problem, according to Cognizant Perspectives lies in:

    1. Productivity and operational cost pressures.
      1. Challenge: Optimizing operational and productivity models, resulting in high cost due to poor governance, lack of automation, reliance on legacy infrastructure and an unscalable business model.
      2. Need: Evolve applications, platforms and infrastructure to contain costs, streamline operations and allow for growth aligned with enterprise goals.
    1. Slow digital adoption.
      1. Challenge: Adapting to market dynamics and changing business priorities, and demonstrating sustainable value to the enterprise
      2. Need: Accelerate evolution toward digital, transition into an innovation hub and revenue center, and develop a relevant value proposition.
    1. Difficulty acquiring and retaining top digital talent.
      1. Challenge: Developing and retaining employees with the necessary digital skills, domain expertise and leadership qualities due to poor career advancement opportunities and high employee attrition can be high.
      2. Need: Develop a sustainable way to shift the talent pool from legacy to digital, from operation-focused to innovation-oriented, and from functional experts to business experts.

    This is an important consideration because, while several GICs have succeeded in delivering significant cost savings, increasing operating costs are making it harder for even the most successful GICs to generate incremental value moving ahead. Therefore, it has become imperative for GICs to reinvent themselves to stay relevant and add demonstrable, sustainable value to their parent organizations. The way to add value is by maturing beyond being just resource or quality centres.

    The Silver Lining

    The ideal state for GICs to be operating at right now involves them:

    1. acting as global centers of excellence,
    2. providing standardized, scalable and economic solutions,
    3. enabling regional/local innovation, and
    4. ultimately driving market expansion opportunities for the parent organization.

    This requires developing a value proposition that is relevant to the changing marketplace dynamics in which the parent organization operates.

    Achieving this requires overcoming a larger problem – TALENT READINESS. While the goal and mandate for GICs is chalked out well, GICs continue to face a significant lack of the right talent with capabilities to execute and deliver on these innovations and enhance maturity of GICs and their workforce. Peepal Consulting’s 2018 GIC Report outlined 6 key CxO priorities for GIC Talent Development:

    1. Business Accountability - Be an owner of key enterprise priorities, including market sensing and customer-facing core functions, with clear influence of profitability.
    2. Becoming a world-class talent hub with deep domain expertise, exporting talent to the rest of the enterprise.
    3. Being digital ready, starting with a digital-first mindset for the adoption and implementation of digital technologies
    4. Becoming the analytics center of excellence that generates sustainable competitive advantage for the enterprise in functions owned by GICs.
    5. Sustained cost excellence - Continue to be center of efficiency by being at the vanguard of productivity enhancement (automation, AI, cognitive).
    6. Agile and collaborative working for high value creation.

    In our own conversations with GIC companies, we commonly hear about 8 key talent capability challenges.

    Talent problems
    Download PDF of GIC Talent Capability Challenges

    The reality remains this – for GIC’s to make the shift from being cost centres to value centres, they need to invest in reskilling or upskilling initiatives for their workforce. Unfortunately, market research by the Everest Group shows that only 33% of GICs are already implementing reskilling/upskilling initiatives while another 33% plan to implement such initiatives in the next 12 months. Unfortunately, a whopping 34% of GIC organizations have no foreseeable plans of investing in employee development.

    Without a clear workforce development strategy and plan for attracting and retaining top talent, existing GICs will struggle to move to the next level on the maturity curve.

    As a result, GICs could forfeit their:

    1. cost advantage
    2. opportunity to become innovators
    3. connection to business objectives

    GICs are uniquely positioned to play a larger role for the parents organization, potentially accelerating the growth and transformation of the parent enterprise. But getting there requires a holistic approach, a concerted effort and a shift in mindset.

    As businesses evaluate their GIC investment and determine next steps, focusing on developing a comprehensive people strategy – from attracting, hiring, developing to retaining talent - is essential for GICs to succeed.

    GICs that attract and retain relevant talent are those that:

    1. Have a clear sense of purpose
    2. Possess a dynamic culture
    3. Provide access to cutting edge tech
    4. Encourage innovation

    This is not just true of the GIC work culture, but also in their learning culture. The GIC workforce, much like other industries employs a sizable millennial cohort. Therefore, while investing in talent development programs is a must for GICs to succeed, it is far more crucial to ensure that the right talent development challenges are addressed and in the right way.

    The right approach to developing the modern learner is in ensuring that the learning initiatives are:

    1. Immersive
    2. Experiential
    3. Fun
    4. Engaging
    5. Hyper-personalized

    In achieving this, GICs can ensure that learning is impactful, knowledge and skill are retentive and behavioral change is sustained and business is positively impacted.

    To help you arrest your talent challenge, KNOLSKAPE GIC Insights 2019 highlight the solutions that our GIC clients leverage to solve their talent development challenges.


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  • June 11, 2019 - No Comments!

    DESIGN THINKING SERIES || Part 2 of 4: Why should you care about Design Thinking?

    Design thinking part-2

    George Panakal

    This piece is Part 2 of a 4-Part series on Design Thinking. In Part 1, we introduced you to the concept of Design Thinking and busted some myths which surround it. Part 2 takes a closer look at why Design Thinking is a good tool to have in your kit as a professional. And perhaps as a human being 😊

    By now, we have established that design thinking is a structured process to solve problems, that assures you of a solution that meets both the customer and business aspirations. The reason for it to gain prominence in the 21st century is that it is an eclectic mix of human, design, and business philosophies. While most problem-solving targets one, or at best two of these aspects, design thinking does a wonderful job of addressing all three. The design thinking methodology progresses from the customer, to the designer, to the stakeholder to ensure that their needs are met, and their innovations are realized.

    Let’s look at three reasons why you should consider design thinking as a problem-solving methodology.

    1. It fosters human values.

    Core to the philosophy of design thinking is the human centered nature of the process. It seeks to solve real problems faced by real people. The process requires you to immerse yourself in the context of your user, customer, client, or consumer and experience it as they do. This necessitates a high level of empathy and imagining a solution that will delight them.

    Another key skill you develop as a design thinker is the ability to listen without judgment. And the listening skills you employ as a successful design thinker is more than skin-deep. In face-to-face conversations, it means that you have to pay attention to body language and non-verbal cues; in telephonic conversations, you have to listen for the tone, pitch, and pace; and in written conversations, you will need to read between the lines for subtext and context.

    Collaboration is also an important ability that a design thinker should possess. As a methodology, design thinking thrives on diversity. Diversity of perspectives, ideas, opinions, abilities, perceptions, etc. help you view the same situation with multiple lenses that give you a varied body of insights. So, the ability to collaborate helps you understand the problem and frame it better.

    2. It values innovation.

    I am sure we can all agree that design thinking is a way to drive innovation. However, what should motivate you to try design thinking at the workplace is the ease and simplicity with which the design thinking methodology achieves it.

    In the previous blog post, we busted the myth that only creative people can be adept at design thinking. We also saw how discipline, in terms of adherence to the methodology and usage of tools, can compensate for a perceived lack of a creative disposition.

    Now that we’ve established that anyone can innovate, let’s examine the reason behind my confidence in the claim 😊

    a. Power of the collective: Two heads are better than one. When multiple people look at a solution, they see multiple ways of overcoming the same challenge, based on their own perception or frame of reference. For example, while I was running a design thinking basics workshop for a major airline company, I wanted the learners to take back an implementable solution at the end of the workshop.

    The consensus (from many options) was to enable a single parent traveling with an infant to have a memorable and stress-free flight. The class came up with seven (near zero cost) ideas ranging from a pre-flight email to regular in-flight checks that could positively impact the experience of the flyer. And each of these were prototyped (as a welcome note and a role-play) during the session and improved on by the collective.

    Collective brainstorming helps us come up with multiple ideas, weigh each option and come to a consensus on which ideas make the most sense to try. This can be an iterative process, but one that is less overwhelming because of collective inputs.

    b. The truth in numbers: While ideas are linked to the credibility of the individual/s supporting it, the strength of numbers speak for themselves. Whether it is the brainstorming session, prototyping workshop, or a validation exercise, the numbers generated to give you the true picture. This ensures that innovation is adding value to the solution and not taking away from it.

    While working with an international banking major to build ‘savings mentality’ for its customers, the stakeholders agreed that we would also create an easy to use the companion app for the program. While the app elements were prototyped and appreciated, the idea didn’t get the intended response from internal teams. When probed, it was clear that the logo, a take on the ‘piggy bank’, caused discomfort to a good number of people, specifically among the Moslem and Jewish communities. Now, despite having both Moslems and Jews in the design team, the euphoria of co-creating a product made them overlook the logo. It was the data of the poll, tied to demographics the helped us connect the dots!

    It can be absolutely any aspect of an idea that can cause a solution to failing, but the numbers don’t lie. Which is why gathering constant feedback and acting on it is important, and design thinking has this action built into its construct.

    c. The vision of retrospect: Everyone has a 20:20 hindsight. It is easier to learn from past successes (or failures) than with any theoretical model (That’s one reason why simulations are often regarded as one of the best learning methodologies). The design thinking process gives you the edge in terms of iterative implementation based on test data (we will see how in the next post in this series). Thanks to my experience with the piggy bank, I always make it a point to be very careful of symbology and depictions in any new creation or review 😊

    3. It improves business acumen.

    Another major ability honed by design thinking is business acumen. With design thinking, you will be able to think more holistically about solutions, with not just the business viability, but also the impact on people and processes.

    To be a design thinker, you will need to both diverge and converge in terms of situations and solutions. In the process, you gain both a big-picture appreciation of your business and a tacit knowledge of the process (or product, market, customer, etc.). You will gain insights on how the organizational machinery is geared and appreciate how the cogs interact with the wheels and spokes within it. It helps you connect the dots within your business and visualize an end-to-end solution that spans customers, teams, and stakeholders, thanks to the DFV (or desirability, viability and feasibility) analysis of the ideas. The diversity mandate for teams helps you build better intra-company networks. These are excellent opportunities to gain insights and socialize innovations. This part of how the design thinking methodology brings these aspects together is the crux of the next post in this series.

    I hope this blog has convinced you to try out design thinking as a problem-solving methodology. However, in my opinion, it should be the collateral benefits of using design thinking that tip the scale for you to try it at your next workout.

    But before that, we’ll need to know what the design thinking methodology is! That is a topic that I will take up in the next post in this series. In Part-3, we will demystify jargons like desirability, feasibility, and viability in the context of design thinking, and look at two of the most common frameworks in use. Finally, we will arrive at a composite model that you may use irrespective of the school of thought you subscribe to.

    Keep tuning in!


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  • June 6, 2019 - No Comments!

    Four Blind Spots for L&D Teams to Watch Out For


    (This is part 1 of a 3-part series on the role of L&D in digital transformations)

    In our conversations with learning leaders, one thing is clear – everyone seems to be talking about the role L&D needs to play in helping organizations succeed in their digital transformation initiatives.

    A key point to consider, however, is that, today, L&D is operating in unchartered territory. The newness and speed of change driven by digital disruption is putting pressure on the best of business leaders, and learning leaders are no different in this regard.

    This blog series is inspired by these conversations, our observations and research in this space, with a view to share knowledge and best practices.

    Part 1 of this series is focused on the most common blind spots that we feel L&D leaders are likely to experience. Part 2 will talk about some key areas where learning leaders need to upskill themselves. And finally, Part 3 will focus on best practices and ideas for learning leaders to bring about in their learning strategies.

    Learning point #1:

    The misconception that management has all the tools, knowledge, skills, time and resources to cascade the vision

    • It is assumed that once the transformation strategy is defined, the management team is uniformly and consistently communicating the story down the line, and that they have the necessary capabilities and time to do so. That is not the case.
    • This is a common misconception. I mean, these guys have a business to not only run, but transform at its core. Even if they have the capabilities, would they really have the time and energy to bring everyone on board. The resounding (and humane) answer is no. It’s our job as learning specialists to guide them in this regard.
    • For a successful digital transformation, management requires new skills, a common language, focused approach to strategy cascading along with the support of change agents across the organization. The last one is particularly important - learning teams need to identify, assess and equip change champions to help cascade the message. This requires specific interventions to sensitize, develop mindsets and capabilities, and an execution plan for the change champions to deliver the goods.


    Learning point #2:

    “We’ve implemented it, they will adopt it”

    • Adoption of new tools is not guaranteed unless the ‘what’s-in-it-for-them’ is spelt out clearly for employees (i.e. digital ways of working). Moreover, not all employees have the same learning agility to adopt the new way of working.
    • The number of times I have had this conversation is not amusing. I have seen the sense of pride and satisfaction when I am talked through the amazing new initiatives being rolled out in the company. And within a quarter, a sense of frustration when none of the initiatives really get off the ground.
    • Why does something like this happen? It’s deceptively simple to understand, and deceptively hard to execute. In most such cases, the “what’s in it for me” just doesn’t get established. So, amidst so much of change going in, this lands up as just another initiative.
    • For a successful digital transformation, employees must be sensitized to the business context, made aware of their digital quotient, and provided specific training on topics such as how to make sense of data. I have heard of organizations spending 50% of their training hours dedicated to building context. I think that is an amazingly brave but extremely appropriate thing to do.

    Learning point #3:

    Incrementalism / lack of thinking at scale

    • One reason is that companies tend to pilot the changes in smaller groups and then scale. While this seems like a lower risk approach, it not only slows down the speed of the initiative, but also prevents valuable insights and learning from across the organization to flow in at the right time
    • Why would organizations and leaders tend to go slow with this? On the one hand, the business imperative is huge. On the other hand, there is extreme tentativeness regarding the new initiatives. Isn’t this natural? Of course, it is – why would you expose the organization to any risk when you don’t know the outcome. Unless, of course, this risk is lower than the overall risk the organization faces. Remember that only 16% of digital transformations are successful. Isn’t that reason enough to rethink the incremental approach?
    • For successful transformations, there is a need for critical mass of learning coverage across the enterprise in a systematic and sustained fashion. Key skills required for growth and survival are no longer in question. It is up to the learning leaders to identify, prioritize and execute competencies based on the business needs (more of this in part 3 of the blog)


    Learning point #4:

    Mis-assessment of what it takes to change the hardwiring / core of the organization

    • Most employees are married to the legacy business model. They don’t have a clear understanding of the economics of digital and tend to over-index on the usual competition.
    • There is a complete inability to reimagine the workplace with a sense of urgency can be a huge hindrance to digital initiatives. And let’s face it – this is the largest change initiative being experienced by an entire generation. Yet, most organizations are slow to fathom the extent of change required in the hardwiring of the organization. So, on the one hand, there are organizations best classified as digital masters – paranoid, agile, anxious. And on the other extreme are the fence sitters. Its incredible how many of them actually exist. It is no surprise then that 50% of companies that existed on the Fortune 500 list have disappeared since 2000, thanks to digital.
    • For successful transformations, organizations need to define new roles, capabilities and ways of working (e.g. being agile, rapid prototyping and failing fast, etc). Without these core changes, every new idea is going to face a huge wall of resistance from various parts of the organizations. Commonly heard statement – “How can we go agile when it takes 60 days to approve an idea, 100 days to get it off the ground, and the motivation to continue when there is complete lack of interest from my bosses”.

    Needless to say, given the nature and pace of change, these learning points also need to evolve. These learning points highlight the challenges that organizations and leaders face in adapting to the digital way of working. Overriding these challenges is only the first step – they don’t guarantee success in digital transformation. Each level of the digital transformation process comes with its own challenges. Some of these are known while most are still in a state of blur. This is because we are still in the nascent stages of digital transformation.

    What’s your experience in this regard? Please drop a mail to - I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on this topic.

    Shobhit Mathur is Chief Business Officer at KNOLSKAPE. Shobhit is instrumental in ensuring that business is on a rapid growth track and delivering value to all our customers. He comes with over two decades of rich experience spanning business strategy, sales, marketing, and product management. Throughout his career, he has earned the trust of customers through successful business transformations. Shobhit is also the driving force behind KNOLSKAPE’s position as a thought leader in the talent transformation space.

    Coming soon:

    • Part 2: Key Areas Where Learning Leaders Need to Upskill Themselves
    • Part 3: Best Practices and Learning Ideas for Learning Leaders to Implement


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