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May 18, 2018 - Comments Off on Cognitive skills for the high-performing leader

Cognitive skills for the high-performing leader

What is common to the erstwhile CEO of IBM, Lou Gerstner and that of Apple, Steve Jobs? Both leaders were responsible for conceiving massive turnarounds in their respective organizations at a time when the fate of IBM (1993) and Apple (1997) was hanging in the balance. While it is unlikely that most managers would be called upon to engineer such enormous transformations in their lifetimes, it may be worthwhile to learn about some of the critical capabilities that enabled Gerstner and Jobs to facilitate change at scale.

  • First, both CEOs were skilled at sensing market opportunities before they fully materialized.
  • Second, they not only sought out such opportunities but were also adept at seizing them, driving investments and redesigning business models where needed.
  • And third, both CEOs were deliberate in their execution, reconfiguring and facilitating strategic change by minimizing resistance across levels in their organizations.

Ergo, the dynamic capabilities of these leaders (sensing, seizing and reconfiguring) had an impact on the strategic direction of their firms (recognizing market opportunities, strategic investments and business model design, alignment and overcoming resistance to change), which in turn led to superior firm performance.

What specific skills did Gerstner and Jobs utilize that helped them take the right decisions at the right time, eventually leading to the unquestionable market dominance of IBM and Apple for many years to come? The answer may partly lie in the way the leaders acquired and processed information, in other words, their cognitive abilities..

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May 17, 2018 - Comments Off on Creating the right learning architecture and platform for their organizations

Creating the right learning architecture and platform for their organizations

Featured Image-Shobhit's Article

I speak with a lot of L&D leaders, and recent conversations with them have all steered towards a common topic - how to create the right learning architecture and platform for their organizations -  Shobhit Mathur, Chief Business Officer, KNOLSKAPE.

In trying to achieve this, I find L&D teams grappling with many challenges, but here is what I feel are the Top 7 challenges

  1. Distracted, impatient and demanding learners (but obvious!)
  2. The multitude of content and vendors choices that create confusion (it’s a jungle!)
  3. Legacy LMS solution ROI, and whether to leverage or replace (hard one to solve!)
  4. Integration challenges – how to avoid multiple logins across content sources (caution - high $$$ spend alert!)
  5. How to integrate classroom (not going away yet!) and self-paced courses (MOOCs have high demand but low completion!)
  6. Pressures from the business to align with digital (heard in 100% of my conversations)
  7. Pressure to try new tech (AI, AI, and more AI)

Companies have found different ways of addressing these challenges. Many are creating their own learner engagement platforms, while others continue to have the LMS in the center. Several are in experimentation mood. And so many still seem to be in wait and watch mode.

But here’s what I have observed as a few best practices in creating the right learning architecture and platform:

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May 9, 2018 - Comments Off on Digital 101 – Figital

Digital 101 – Figital

The Digital Age has placed the customer at the centre of the value chain. Customers in the digital age use channels such as Web, mobile and social to consume content, engage with brands and complete transactions. As a result, many organizations have adopted platforms to enhance their customer experience and retain loyal customers.

While customers in the Digital Age appreciate the convenience and experience of platform-based interaction, there are certain activities and experiences that they seek to not change. This impasse has given birth to ‘Figital’. A concept coined by consulting firm Bain & Company that places forth the best of both physical and digital experiences.

Figital, also recognized as ‘Phygital’ or ‘Digical’ is about reinventing the customer experience lifecycle by creating seamless customer journeys that boost business and conversion rates, by bringing virtual elements into the physical experience. It has garnered much attention in industries such as retail and is steadily gaining traction in other sectors like banking and IT as well.

Some cases of Figital at play are:

  1. Google expanding its ecosystem into the physical space with the launch of wearables.
  2. Apple has struck a fine balance between the two worlds with their products like Mac and iOS. They have also extended their offerings with iTunes and Apple stores.
  3. When particular shoe designs weren’t in stock or were in limited stock, Adidas partnered with Intel to render 3D displays of these designs to their prospective buyers, allowing shoppers to engage with the products in store.
  4. A Brazilian retailer initiated real-time Facebook ‘Like’ feeds on clothing hangers for certain products. This enhanced the buyers’ decision-making process, by creating awareness on the trends.
  5. The advent of 3D printing hasn’t merely given us access to replicating objects like houses or car keys from a photograph. 3D printing has opened up a range of avenues in the culinary space, popular amongst people who love to experiment with food and technology.
  6. Beer brand Beck’s playable posters allow customers to tap on the various shapes on the poster, resulting in musical notes, increasing customer interaction with the brand.

These are just a few examples of businesses moving to the Figital model. As the world moves towards ‘Limitless Digitization’ and being constantly ‘plugged-in’, Figital presents us with an opportunity to thrive in the Digital Age, while retaining the softer elements of ‘human touch and interaction’, significantly elevating customer experience.

May 9, 2018 - Comments Off on Three Factors for Managing Culture to Thrive in The Digital Age

Three Factors for Managing Culture to Thrive in The Digital Age


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
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April 3, 2018 - Comments Off on Digital 101 : Coopetition

Digital 101 : Coopetition

digital snippetThe Industrial Age popularized the concept of competition, and in the time since, we have also been taught the tenets of collaboration. Like most other lines, Digital Age Disruption is also blurring the lines between these two concepts, giving way to ‘Co-opetition’. The Digital Age sees the concept of ‘Co-opetition’ being prevalent because the focus is on unlocking greater value. Co-opetition, a concept adopted from Game Theory, allows for teams or even organizations to bring together their best resources to increase the benefit for all the players involved.

Co-opetition works on the mantra of ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, work with ‘em’, as evident from the Amazon Model – The Amazon Marketplace. This groundbreaking feature allowed competitors of any size to use Amazon’s online platform and technological capabilities to present their millions of new, used, and rare books to millions of customers, right next to similar products sold by Amazon itself. This allowed customers to choose between a large variety of offerings by inviting competitors to be part of this customer experience.

Co-opetition works on the mantra of ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, work with ‘em’, as evident from the Amazon Model – The Amazon Marketplace
Since then, we have seen hundreds of organizations on the coopetition business model, and it is definitely a concept that is here to stay. The Realty industry, NGOs, E-commerce are some of the key players to adopt this business model, but it is not limited to this:

  1. Ford and Toyota teamed up in 2013 to design the Atlas Ford F-150 Hybrid Concept
  2. Mortal enemies Apple and Microsoft teamed up to license mobile operating system features and patents
  3. Google and Mozilla started working together when Google-funded Mozilla’s free, open-source Firefox web browser (a rival to the Google Chrome) to limit the influence of rival browsers Microsoft Internet Explorer and Apple’s Safari
  4. Refrigerants Naturally is a non-profit that was established by fierce competitors Coca-Cola, Pepsi Co, Red Bull, Unilever, and others to develop sustainable refrigeration technologies to combat climate change and ozone depletion, by replacing fluorinated gasses with natural refrigerants
  5. The United Postal Services has teamed up with direct competitors Fed-Ex and UPS to lower operational costs and raise revenue for all three.

These are but a few examples of how Coopetition is becoming more mainstream in the way that business models are transforming to meet the challenges of the Digital Age, opening up new avenues to play a larger game than organizations once played within the confines of their industry boundaries.



April 3, 2018 - Comments Off on Why expressing belief in someone is the secret ingredient to coaching

Why expressing belief in someone is the secret ingredient to coaching

one to one coachingKNOLSKAPE offers simulation-based behavioral learning solutions to help organizations accelerate learners’ mastery of leadership and digital competencies, preparing them for the Digital Age coaching has been steadily gaining traction in organizations across the globe. The art of coaching, when applied correctly, can bear phenomenal results, akin to turning a piece of coal into priceless diamonds. It’s no wonder that surveys conducted across Fortune 500 companies reveal that organizations that invest in coaching earn an average of $7.90 more for every dollar invested in coaching. Honing an individual’s potential by placing belief in them fosters their willingness to put their best foot forward. This allows employee growth, enhances their ability to achieve goals, and add value to the larger business vision.

Focusing on coaching their teams allows managers to ensure that their teams reach their full potential and grow within the organization.  Coaching, however, is serious business. It takes a special skill set that managers need to imbibe to become great coaches. It is important to remember that the act of coaching places the needs of the coachee at the center of the coaching process, and a coach facilitates the process of growth.

A classic example of coaching done right was the pair of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan - the former a reluctant coachee at the start, and the latter an adamant coach. Under Sullivan’s coaching, Keller learned to speak, read, write and even sing. Sullivan’s patience, persistence, unconventional approach to teaching, her high expectations, and her belief in Keller resulted in Keller’s immeasurable success.  This is a success story not because of the steps that Sullivan followed to coach Keller; rather, it was a result of Sullivan’s focus on Keller’s needs, building a rapport, gaining her trust, and creating an environment to foster Keller’s willingness to be coached and grow.

“I believe in you. I’m investing in you, and I expect your best efforts.”
This is no different from the role that managers need to play to tap the potential of their individual team members. Great coaches enable growth, foster willingness, build trust, and invest themselves to ensure that their teams believe in them. The hook is a simple message - “I believe in you. I’m investing in you, and I expect your best efforts.”

One may wonder how a simple statement like that could produce phenomenal results. Being given the power of authority over a team automatically gives managers the leverage to establish

  • Trust,
  • Faith,
  • and Belief in their teams
  1. Trust: Building trust necessitates the manager to be upfront and honest in all his dealings with his coachees or team members. This fosters individuals to constantly look up to their managers for guidance and support, and not just in the tasks that need to be performed as part of their roles.
  2. Faith: Investing faith attributes to the tone and expectations that managers set at the beginning pave the path for the relationship that they share with their teams going forward. Thus, a great start to the relationship is half the battle won in coaching – there is the courage of conviction in the promises that the coach and employee make to each other.
  3. Belief in their teams: The most important element of all in a great coaching relationship is a firm foundation of belief – in the team’s capabilities.

However, being a great coach comes with a lot of practice. Lack of strong coaching abilities does more than just demoralize an individual, it also significantly impacts team dynamics, performance, morale, and productivity, all of which pose a serious threat to the organization and business. Therefore, coaching skills are greatly in need of being learned as quickly and as soon as possible.

Learning to coach through simulations takes the concept of learning by going to a whole new level, allowing aspiring coaches to make mistakes and learn from them. The added element of a safe learning environment helps accelerate the learning process, without deeply impacting business. Add to that robust analytics on performance, coaching strength and areas of improvement, and the art of coaching becomes an enjoyable skill to master. Bearing this in mind, KNOLSKAPE designed ‘Coaching Sim’, a real-life like simulation allowing aspiring coaches to boost their coaching performance, and add real value to their teams, and business.

After all, a coach’s belief in his/her coachee’s potential, and the latter’s sense of security from having someone to always turn to are the driving factors behind a successful coaching relationship. There are a perfect mix of learning, communication and agility at play, where both parties benefit from both personal (increased self-awareness, empathy, humility) and professional (builds credibility) fronts. The shared moments of sheer exuberance or grief, firmly cement the bond which goes beyond the material outcomes of the job/profession and moves the coach and coachee to a different plane of interpreting success, where delivery excellence then becomes innate. It is like the way Master Oogway says - “Anything is possible when you believe.”

March 7, 2018 - No Comments!

The ‘Wo’ in Women Leadership – Is it the woes or the wows?

women leadership blog article

International Women’s Day is around the corner, and it is a time when organizations and individuals alike deliberate about empowering women professionals and breaking the glass ceiling. In 2017, the United Nations’ theme for the day was “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”. Despite such emphasis on women leaders, achieving this goal continues to seem like a herculean task. Only 24 of the CEOs of Fortune 500 Companies are women, and this seems to be the leadership trend across most organizations. The obvious question that is being asked for decades is ‘why?’, especially when one continues creating reservation policies to enable women to receive basic rights and privileges.

The issue is twofold – (1) why organizations balk at the idea of hiring women for senior leadership roles, and (2) why women hesitate to take up the mantle of responsibility. Interestingly, the gender disparity in Senior Leadership teams isn’t a result of women dropping out to have babies; instead, the scarcity of women leaders is attributed to:

(a) an unconscious bias: As stated by Sheryl Sandberg, in her book ‘Lean In’, success and likeability are positively correlated to men, and negatively to women

(b) lack of work life-balance: Because of this unconscious bias, women have to work much harder than their male counterparts to prove themselves

(c) absence of women role models in senior positions: Women leaders only account for 3% of senior leadership across the globe

It is interesting that women professionals face these challenges in their careers when a McKinsey research reveals that companies with gender diversity outperform their competitors by 15 percent.

How can organizations alleviate these discrepancies?

  • Being aware that there is a bias and changing mindsets through active coaching. Organizations like Google and Facebook have made their Bias training courses public for the benefit of other organizations.
  • Ensure that hiring, promotions, appraisals are fair, and eradicating gender-specific pay gaps for the same roles. According to the survey conducted by Fairygodboss, a website for women to review their companies, Boston Consulting Group fulfils these criteria and was voted the top company to work for by its women personnel.
  • Flexibility to blend work with personal lives, has become a priority for professionals, especially women, to choose or continue a job. RMSI Private Limited, a global IT services company, offers women an extended maternity leave, flexible working hours/part time, work from home options, as well as an option to take a short-term break in careers.
  • Results oriented work environment. Shifting focus from time logs to accountability and results increases productivity and return on investment for organizations and employees alike UK-based E-Learning company MindTools has found great success operating on this model

How do women right the wrong?

Studies indicate that women are predisposed to accept blame and give out or share credit, often leading to self-sabotage.

Practicing confidence, openness and honesty, and displaying solidarity with other women to help others realise that women in Senior Leadership Team are not aggressive, but, possess splendid executive leadership skills is the way forward to address some of the biases around women leaders.

Women Leadership - a worry or win?

Researchers reveal that women adopt a transformational leadership style displaying trustworthiness, collaboration, charisma, intellectual stimulation, and empathy that motivates their followers (Bass & Riggio, 2006, as cited in Matsa & Miller, 2013).

Women leaders are also held in high regard for their mentoring skills. Therefore, more women equate to more problem solving.

Gender disparity starts top down. A 2016 survey conducted in trade companies across 91 countries concluded that “the presence of more female leaders in top positions of corporate management correlates with increased profitability of these companies”.

The ideal scenario for women in leadership position would not only mean success in their positions but being liked for their achievements; as Geraldine Ferraro, an American attorney said, “Some leaders are born women.”

February 14, 2018 - No Comments!

Top 6 Digital Myths Busted

The concept of Digital is of great interest to academicians, leaders and organizations world over. In our conversations with clients, digital pioneers, and industry stalwarts, however, we have come to understand that there is a lot of confusion around the concept itself. Therefore, while the world tries to comprehend what Digital truly is, it is important to also understand what Digital isn’t. By the time you finish reading this piece, we hope to have busted 6 common myths and misconceptions about Digital.

Myth #1: Improving technology is Digital Transformation

Despite incorporating new technologies to their business, many organizations have still not been able to thrive in the Digital Age. As a result, since the year 2000 alone, over 52% of Fortune 500 companies have disappeared. The business models of these organizations were too outdated for them to survive in the Digital Age.

While Technology is the pivoting point into the Digital Age, it is the data that these technologies give us, the effective use of which dictates our preparedness in the Digital Age. The scale at which data is available to organizations has resulted in data being interactive - analyzing trends, developing patterns, and creating predictions. For organizations to truly claim themselves as ‘Digital Masters’, it is important for them to use this analysis to redefine business models, scale leaders at all levels within the organization, and become agile, to cope with demands of consumers, stakeholders, and partners.

Myth #2: Digital affects only IT or B2C companies

While most people believe that digital is here for IT or B2C companies, research proves otherwise. Digital is disrupting all industries. It is said that Digital is doing to Banking, Insurance, and Accountancy what social media did to telecommunication and the media.

Even major innovators, such as Netflix and Amazon are finding themselves competing with other industries to develop a large market base. Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings said, “Really we compete with everything you do to relax. We compete with video games. We compete with drinking a bottle of wine. That’s a particularly tough one! We compete with other video networks. Playing board games”, showcasing how digital is truly disrupting all industries, and challenging organizations to compete outside of their traditional industries, to win in the Digital Age.

Myth #3: Digital Transformation starts with customer experience

The core of any business is to cater to the needs of the customer. In the Digital Age, however, customer interaction with businesses is starkly different. Today, consumers also behave as co-creators for many innovations; Also, the ways in which consumers engage with products and services has the potential to disrupt businesses. For instance, AirBnB - a technology platform driven almost entirely by consumers (renters and landlords) has significantly disrupted travel, hospitality, and even employment models.

Therefore, organizations must be willing to radically alter their culture, operations and technological practices. In other words, effective customer experience in the Digital Age is a happy byproduct of Digital Transformation, not the starting point.

Myth #4: Digital is about reducing the workforce

It is true that digital platforms are eradicating the need for human beings to perform many of the mundane and routine tasks. However, the Digital Age is creating the need for several roles that have never existed before. For one, innovative organizations have begun to instate the role of a Chief Digital Officer, to help with Digital Transformation.

The Digital Age is also seeing full-time employment giving way to networks of project-based employment, allowing professionals and organizations to create stronger value from employing the best talent and resources for a project. This is a change that is slated to scale, as employees and leaders alike are investing in developing digital capabilities.

Myth #5: Digital Transformation is an IT function

With Digital Transformation being a key challenge for most organizations (who feel its disruption), the common question asked is ‘Who should lead Digital?’ For nearly a decade, Digital Transformation has been understood as adopting the latest in technology. As a result, it is seen as an IT function.

We know now that technology is only a part that facilitates Digital Transformation, and that changes need to be made on all fronts. Therefore, while new business units and roles are being instated to lead this transformation, as with all major decisions and changes, many business leaders and theorists agree that it is the senior leadership, starting with the Chief Executive Officer who should be leading this change. Having a Chief Digital Officer to champion this transformational change is a key idea that some have implemented, but many are still toying with.

Myth #6: Digital Transformation means different things for different industries and organizations

Once we have established that Digital Transformation needs a change in mindset and capabilities to obtain, and that it is a Leadership function, we must then look at what makes a Leader in the Digital Age. In doing so, it becomes evident that Leaders in the Digital Age have a common DNA, irrespective of the organization or industry they operate in.

With the changes that Digital Disruption is bringing in, if an organization must thrive, it is important that leaders:

  1. Have an exponential mindset to look within the industry, and outside, for disruptions, partnerships, and markets to operate in. This requires leaders in the Digital Age to be strongly networked leaders, or at least build the capabilities to do so
  2. Be able to make sense of the large volumes of data and the speed at which the data is obtained, and use intuition to develop insights based on the available data
  3. Be able to break through the limitations of the existing business model, processes, products, and markets and look at where to head next.
  4. Be comfortable with certainty as well as uncertainty, be agile, and open to an iterative process

In short, the lines between what we have known to be sacrosanct are blurring away, and businesses are being disrupted faster than leaders can comprehend what is happening. While the world has come to a consensus that Digital Transformation is necessary and inevitable, research from MIT Sloan and Capgemini states that “whole 90% of CEOs in the world believe that the Digital Economy will impact their industry, less than 15% are executing on a digital strategy”. Not getting on the bandwagon of Digital Transformation, in its truest sense, will present dire consequences for organizations.

Tell us your Digital Transformation story, if you have one. If not, let KNOLSKAPE help you with yours. Click here to know the work we’ve been doing with our clients on their Digital Transformation journey, and reach out to us at

February 13, 2018 - No Comments!

Stumbling from the Industrial Age to the Digital Age

Stumbling from the Industrial Age to the Digital Age

The Industrial Age was a period that focused on employing new manufacturing processes, resulting in some of the world’s greatest inventions -  flying shuttle, the spinning jenny, the water frame, the steam boat, the steam engine, steam powered train, and the factory system, many of which are still used to this day.

The system of development supported the need for professionals to know a trade, follow directions, get along with others, work hard, and be professional, efficient and honest. My mind begs to question, however, why we continue to have the same mindset and capabilities almost 180 years post the Industrial Age, when the business environment is not nearly the same.

The Industrial Age has long since given way to the Knowledge Age, where knowledge and ideas are the main source of economic growth. Professionals are required to think deeply about issues, solve problems, collaborate, communicate within various platforms, keep up with technologies, and handle large amounts of information. As we become more embedded into the Digital Age, it requires employees, leaders and organizations alike to develop a different mindset, and capabilities, to make sense of the VUCA environment.

At a conference I recently attended, the term ‘Digital’ was still being equated to social media platforms, and various digital technologies. In doing so, the understanding established is that by mastering the use of these digital platforms and technologies, one becomes a digital master. The Digital Age of the future, however, is about employing different approaches to creating and unlocking new business value, exceptional customer service, and agile internal processes.

The Future of Jobs Report by the World Economic Forum asked CHROs and Strategy Officers from leading global organizations about the current shift in business strategy, specifically for employment, skills and recruitment across industries and geographies. There is a marked difference in the skills necessary to thrive in the Digital Age between 2015 and 2020.

In a span of just 5 years, the order of importance for the top 10 skills will change significantly. With Robotics and Automation taking over much of the data related work, skills such as negotiations, and cognitive flexibility become secondary, as technology recognizes the patterns and trends, earlier analyzed manually by human beings. Given the crucial responsibilities of the workforce of the future, I feel the need to take a step back and assimilate everything I have learnt till date, and process how that can aid me in preparing for the workplace of the future.

In doing so, I realized that up until I graduated school 10 years ago, I was taught to work in the same manner as my parents had done, and their parents before them. In other words, I was taught to be a product of a ‘one size fits all’ model for career development – performing certain roles and progressing to a position depending on seniority. The reality, however, is that the Digital Age belongs to those who can imagine things through a different lens, create value, lead change and growth, and adapt to thrive in the Digital Age, the core mantra of which is ‘technology plus people’.

Becoming a digital master starts with developing the mindset needed for operating in the Digital Age – agility, measuring learning, employing design thinking, and motoring ahead at bullet speed, skills we are far from developing, and have a long way to go with. With the right tools, mindsets, and training, we find ourselves seamlessly transitioning from the Industrial Age to the Digital one.