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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

    Shobhit Mathur

    (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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  • June 4, 2019 - No Comments!

    DESIGN THINKING SERIES || Part 1 of 4: Busting the myths on Design Thinking

    Design thinking

    George Panakal


    The buzzword of the third millennium so far has been ‘Design Thinking.’ So, what is it?


    The definition of design thinking will depend on whom you are asking the question. So, it is also one of the most debated topics today, with advocates of most methodologies trying to prove their superiority over the next. While some people swear by the Stanford D-School method, others will accept nothing but the Ideo design philosophy. As a discipline, design thinking is not a complicated practice. And like any simple practise, can help you solve complex challenges. Let’s understand design thinking by first understanding what it is NOT. We will look at the three most widespread (mis)conceptions on design thinking.

    1. Design thinking is NOT a silver bullet to solve all your problems. Immediately.

    I once worked with a VP of a banking major who wanted a program on design thinking to help his sales team meet their monthly targets. “Oh sure,” I said. “Give me a couple of weeks to speak with your team and draw up a program design.”

    “That’s too much time,” he said. “I need a four-hour workshop to help them come up with closure techniques they can use, to show me results by the end of this month!”

    Unfortunately, that seems to be the approach to design thinking as well. The popular sentiment being that you can call a group into a classroom, show them a few sides for an hour and miraculously transform their outlook to solving problems.

    I am confident that design thinking can be used to arrive at effective closure techniques. However, my experiences tell me that I cannot be as assured with the efficiency of the solution I design, given the time constraints, to see visible results. As a learning designer and practitioner of design thinking, I will need to follow a design philosophy (thinking) to even begin to understand if I am solving the right problem. This is followed by a series of steps that assure me of arriving at the appropriate and relevant solution. And while it can be applied to most situations, one must be sensitive of tight deadlines and defined boundaries. For example, I cannot create a rich media design thinking online multiplayer game in a month, programming only using Delphi.

    This is also a sneak peek into one of the important steps of design thinking which we shall cover in part three of this series – choosing the right problem to solve.

    2. Design thinking is NOT only for creative people.

    I can’t think of a statement that is farther from the truth than this one. Creativity helps when you have to come up with solutions. No debate there. However, that’s not the ONLY skill to help you come up with innovative solutions. There are multiple tools and techniques one may use if they find themselves creatively handicapped. As a design thinker, you can harness tools like empathy map to figure out what people want, you can use rapid prototyping tools or Lego blocks to create designs, and so forth. And if you are able to harness the power of a collective on top of that, there’s nothing that stops you from creating stellar solutions!

    In my experience, I have found that people with discipline have the most success with the design thinking process. I refer to discipline here are a practice of consciously following set guidelines. Like the Six Sigma process, which requires one to be guided by the DMAIC process and follow the principles laid therein.

    As Scott Barry Kaufman writes in this blog, anyone can cultivate creativity by exploring both inner and outer experience. And that, mind you, is a mindful process that needs discipline.

    So the next time someone tells you that they are not creative, tell them, “Good. You can be like Steve Jobs then, and cultivate your creativity!”.

    3. The best use of design thinking is for inventing new products. NOT!

    Design thinking is not a process limited to greenfield situations. Many successful design thinking outcomes have been a result of solving existing shortcomings. And not just for products. It can be successfully used to come up with solutions for a multitude of applications in services, processes, strategy, interactions, and such. You can be inspired by some wow stories like how “Keep the Change” initiative by Bank of America motivated people to open bank accounts, or how GE Healthcare used it to make their MR scanners more child friendly, or how Airbnb used it to turn their company around from the brink of bankruptcy to becoming a billion-dollar business.

    One of the most popular applications we have used design thinking for is in designing performance conversation guides for managers! We use this as a warm-up in our workshop that uses our design thinking simulation to help learners engage with the process of design thinking. Our learners are presented with a very common problem: Make the performance conversation more ‘enjoyable’ for your direct reports. They then get around to creating a process or a document or a video that explains their version of a performance conversation that meets development goals while keeping the appraisee at ease. The solutions often surprise the learners and our facilitators, both in terms of their creativity and simplicity.

    Now that we have busted the three most common myths around design thinking, here’s what up next in this series:

    Why design thinking?

    Is design the only effective way to solve my business problems? Isn’t it just a 20th-century fad? Why should I use design thinking? Does it fit within my business process re-engineering framework? Why am I asking so many questions? 😊

    The log looks at why design thinking is a great fit for problem-solving and why you should have this method in your toolkit as a professional at any level.

    And in the blogs that follow, we will also look at how you can effectively use design thinking as a method, followed by an introduction to our new design thinking simulation that has our clients and partners raving about it!

    Stay tuned!


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  • May 20, 2019 - Comments Off on Digital Culture Series || Characteristics of Digital Culture

    Digital Culture Series || Characteristics of Digital Culture


    In Part 1 of the Digital Culture Series, we explained what Digital Culture means, how it is different from Digital Mindset, and five key reasons it should matter to organizations and leaders alike.

    We have established that building a digital organization is not merely about adopting the technology. It is as much, if not more, about people’s capabilities to manage the technologies, and more importantly, about people’s mindsets and the cumulative organizational culture.

    A cultural shift to digital-first can only be accomplished when the workforce adopts certain characteristics. We now dive deeper into understanding the characteristics of a strong digital culture.

    Cultural digirati will all agree on the core characteristics of digital culture. They agree that the following characteristics are most important in establishing a truly digital-first culture:

    1. Customer-centric
    2. Data-driven
    3. Risk taking and innovative (Makers and doers)
    4. Collaborative
    5. Agile
    6. Transparent
    7. Lifelong learning

    To determine just how important these characteristics are, eConsultancy undertook research that surveyed 245 respondents from around the world. The illustration below represents the responses:

    digital culture characteristics

    “If your target audience speaks digital, shouldn’t your organization speak digital too?”

    Jerry Allocca, Founder & CEO, Connected Culture

    The most aspirational companies in the world today, all of which are part of the Fortune 500 list are also digital companies, with great work cultures. The culture that exists within them embodies most, if not all, the characteristics of a strong digital culture.

    Let’s understand what the characteristics of digital culture are:

    1.   Customer Centricity

    “Customer-centric companies live by a set of values that put the customer front and centre, and they reinforce those values through cultural elements, metrics and the right behavior.”

    Erik Vermeulen, Global Behavioral Economic Strategist

    Customer centricity is the single most important tool to winning in the Digital Age. Unfortunately, one of the biggest barriers to customer centricity is the lack of a customer-centric culture within the organization. The industrial age taught us to focus on creating a great product or service and the customers would come flocking. That is no longer the case.

    Customers are well informed. At the very least, they know what they DON’T want. Organizations need to be almost fanatical in their customer-focus when building their portfolio of products and/or services. To do so, Amazon’s customer centricity policies form the perfect guide.

    Amazon has always envisioned being “Earth’s most customer-centric company”. Many would agree that they have achieved this vision, as this is how the world sees Amazon. The company has always been obsessed with championing the customer, and they go to great lengths to make this happen:

    • Managers at Amazon would spend two days in the year at the Amazon Call Centre to truly understand the customer perspective
    • A ‘get out of the building’ policy is encouraged to understand the jobs of merchants as well as the experience of buying and selling online
    • Jeff Bezos infamously drags in an empty chair into meetings, claiming it represents the customer’s seat in the room.


    2.   Data-driven Design

    “What gets measured, gets managed.”

    Peter Drucker, Author and Management Consultant

    We cannot talk about a data-driven culture without mentioning Google. Analytics is at the core of Google’s operations. From Lazslo Bock’s ‘three-third hiring model’ for recruitment to Google Analytics for marketing and sales, Google has cracked the code for all things data.

    In an age where everything is digitized and data is readily available at real-time and large volumes, organizations that place data at the core of their strategy and execution are a cut above the rest. However, organizations trying to figure out their data strategy have one question in mind – how to cut out all the clutter?

    The answer is simple. Data does the job of answering questions. However, this is only possible if organizations ask the right questions, because without it, data is just a dump of uselessness. Organizations that have a strong data-driven culture know to ask the right questions.

    In formulating questions, it also becomes apparent to organizations where data is available and where intuition becomes important to use. In his book, ‘The Intelligent Company’, author Bernard Marr outlines five steps to success with Evidence-based Management. While the world is taking leaves out of Google’s playbook, Marr claims that Google’s success in evidence-based management is tied closely to the steps illustrated in his book.

    3.   Risk taking and Innovation

    “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything innovative.”

    Woody Allen, American Filmmaker

    If you were asked to name companies you think are highly innovative, the most common answers would be Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, Google and the like. There is no doubt that these companies are high on innovation. But there is one that has placed innovation at the core of their culture since it’s inception in 1902. Any guesses?

    It’s manufacturing giant 3M. Creators of over 55,000 products, the organization releases over 25 new products every week, and the organization only employs 90,00 people across 200 manufacturing plants and 86 labs who single-mindedly focus on the organization’s innovation agenda.

    The key to 3M’s success is an innovation culture that encourages employees to take risks, experiment and fail. The organization believes that eliminating the feature of failure is key to encouraging innovative thinking.

    Therefore, it is an organizational tradition to pass on stories of famous failures to new employees – the story of the Post-It being the most popular of them all:

    “The post-it was an accidental creation. When he created it, 3M scientist Spencer Silver was working on creating an adhesive for plane manufacturing. But Silver found his creation too weak for his goal. Silver called his creation a “solution without a problem”. However, his colleague Art Fry realized that Silver’s invention was the solution to his trivial problem of losing his bookmark in his hymnbook at church. The post-it note was born, and in 2009, generated revenues of $3.47billion for one 3M division.”

    4.   Collaboration

    “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is a success.”

    Henry Ford, Car Manufacturer

    The advent of the assembly line process initially sowed the seeds of collaboration. With time, however, with people performing high specialized roles, this effort diminished into teams for highly specific roles. This resulted in the silo effect – teams working within the scope of their own job descriptions.

    We know now that this is a flawed system which curtails learning, limits the development of skill sets and results in a lot of duplication of effort. Over the years, organizations have found that this way of working has also restrained employees from voicing out doubts and accepting that they do not know something. As a result, employees are set up for failure when additional responsibilities are thrown their way.

    Organizations with mature digital cultures have taken up interesting initiatives to combat these fears and liberate their workforce to collaborate with each other:

    • To empower people and create an atmosphere of comfort to collaborate, payroll startup Gusto believes in not having any employee titles. This allowed them a safe environment for people to work together without fear.
    • Several IT organizations such as Cisco leverage a collaboration environment to crowdsource issues and requests; these enables them to find the best and fastest solution which makes for better customer experience.


    5.   Agility

    “I concluded long ago that limits to innovation have less to do with technology or creativity than organizational agility. Inspired individuals can only do so much.”

    Ray Stata, American Engineer

    In the simplest sense, agile organizations are those that are quick to solve problems and problems are opportunities to learn. A methodology that was developed for continuous iteration in software development has made its way to an organizational level. This is perceived to be more complicated to execute, and it maybe so.

    However, in the digital age, agility is non-negotiable for survival. It requires the entire workforce to:

    • Be adaptable
    • Accept failure as a part of the process and a learning opportunity
    • Seek constant improvements even when successful
    • Be accountable all around

    The need for agility is so high, that the world is watching and awarding organization that effectively execute agile principles in their work; and we cannot talk about agility without mentioning Samsung Electronics. Since usurping Nokia as the world’s leading cellphone maker in 2012, Samsung has cemented its place through its agile innovations, despite heavier competition in recent years from newer cellphone makers like Oppo, Vivo and the like, due to its expansion into other hardware and software, making Samsung one of the largest producers of consumer goods.

    While one can guess most of the other companies on the list of the most agile companies in the world, another organization that has truly made its mark through its differentiation is Disney. Despite their unparalleled creativity, innovative technology and global expansion, this mass media company continues to stand for imagination. With enchanting movies and its many theme parks, Disney continues to deliver its brand promise of creating magical family experience. Now, the organization is creating the ultimate “Disney Experience” through new technology and apps such as the wearable MagicBand and the MyMagic+ App.

    6.   Transparency

    “Today, power is gained by sharing information, not hoarding it.”

    Dharmesh Shah, Founder & CTO, HubSpot Inc.

    People are the most important assets to a company’s success. If every employee is not viewed as integral to the organization’s success, then the organization has no business retaining such employees. If, however, an organization views every employee as important and valuable, it is the responsibility of the organization to be transparent with its employees.

    Unfortunately, this is an ideal state. Research shows that 42% of employees don’t even know the organization’s vision, mission and values, let alone deeper information valuable to business. To succeed in the digital age, an organization default setting must be transparency.


    Transparency boosts trust, enhances employee engagement, builds relationships, increases productivity and improves innovation, to name only a few benefits.

    The degree of transparency that an organization chooses to operate at is their prerogative to decide. There are scores of companies that have won through a culture of transparency, and they each have their own, unique transparency policy:

    • Social Media Management Platform Buffer believes in salary transparency. A publicly available spreadsheet lists the salaries of every employee, right from the CEO.
    • Online Retail company Zappos believes in building open and honest relationship with communication. To that effect, the company facilitates tours of their corporate headquarters, live training events and Q&A sessions with various departments within the organization.
    • Clothing company Patagonia believes in supply chain transparency. Through a project called “Footprint Chronicles”, the organization gives access to information about every step of the supply chain to the customers. Customers have the option of providing feedback at every step.


    7.   Lifelong Learning

    “An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.”

    Jack Welch, Former CEO of General Electric

    For decades, we have been talking about the need for learning and development to engage and retain high potential, high performing talent. Organizations have done their part in creating calendarized schedules to allow employees to learn as well. However, digital is disrupting every part of business, including learning and development.

    Today, learning is not just about doing a few courses throughout the year that are relevant to your immediate role. The level of awareness that employees must have has grown multi-fold. As boundaries between roles, teams, organizations and industries blur away, employees must be extremely versatile in their knowledge and skill sets, to be productive and make a difference.

    Once again Google takes the cake when it comes to building a strong learning culture. In his book ‘Work Rules’, former Senior Vice President – People at Google, Lazslo Bock shares three pieces of advice for organizations to cultivate a culture that emphasizes learning:

    • Engage in Deliberate practice
    • Have your best people teach
    • Invest in courses only when it’s absolutely necessary and if it changes behavior

    In other words, Google places a lot of merit on informal, continuous learning through experiences, failures and peers. Very little priority (<25%) is given to formal, structured learning.

    In short, a digital culture is one which propounds that we wear our badge of failure with honor, learn form it and use the learning to create something bigger and better.

    How strongly does your workforce exhibit these characteristics? How do you ensure that you workforce embodies them confidently? In Part 3 of the Digital Culture series, we will explore how to cultivate a thriving digital culture.




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  • May 7, 2019 - Comments Off on Digital Culture Series || What Is Digital Culture And Why It Should Matter To You

    Digital Culture Series || What Is Digital Culture And Why It Should Matter To You

    Digital Culture


    Adam is a manager in a multinational corporation. His exact role is not important to this story. For 20 years, he has come into the office at 8.00 a.m. on the dot, sent his manager a note on the tasks he is going to accomplish during the day, then called his team into a meeting each morning for a quick update. In the years he has been doing this, the people working with him have changed, but his process hasn’t. For years, he was constantly appreciated for this system.

    In the last two years, however, he has been getting pulled up by his manager due to complains from his peers, reportees and partners. These complaints ranged from Adam’s speed of working, productivity, response times, etc. They perplexed Adam because nothing had changed in the way he was working. The team’s performance was also at an all-time high.

    In observing the way that the people around him worked, Adam realized that it starkly differed from his own working style. After months of trying to mimic their style of working, Adam’s productivity and engagement levels started to drop. He couldn’t keep up. In less than a year, he had taken the difficult decision to quit his job at an organization that he had committed to for two decades.

    This is, unfortunately, a common scenario in the workplace today. Some of the most experienced and talented employees leave the organization because they don’t feel connected to it anymore. While Adam’s situation is unfortunate, employees also choose to leave the organization even if their performance and productivity levels are high. A crucial factor in this decision is “fitment”.

    For many organizations, a crucial factor in placing a candidate is “fitment” - will the individual work well with the team? Do the individual’s values, beliefs and goals align with that of the organization? In other words, will the individual feel a sense of belonging and ownership within the organization?

    A well-functioning organization, like any tight-knit group, is one where employees share core elements such as values, beliefs, and goals, even if the way they manifest these attributes is different. As a result, many organizations let go of prime candidates despite them having the capabilities the organization seeks.

    But what do you do about those employees who are already employed with the organization, and no longer feel that they fit within the organization?

    Cultural fitment is a core evaluation criterion within organizations because culture is difficult to change. It is embedded in one’s DNA. The downside of it is when an organization’s culture needs a shift, there end up being many casualties - highly experienced and talented people leaving the organization because they do not relate to or are unable to adapt to the changing culture.

    Therefore, while organizations continue to focus on “young blood” to take the organization into the future, they are losing those with experience to guide these youngsters.

    This is the impasse that organizations are at today, in the Digital Age. Many senior executives are finding themselves becoming obsolete because they are unable to adapt to the new culture of the organization, stemming from the disruptions of digital. In short, organizations are undergoing digital transformation, and a shift in culture to “digital culture” is key to the success of the organization’s digital transformation.

    As a result, organizations and leaders are increasingly asking what digital culture is and why there is so much hype around it. This blog attempts to demystify the concept and construct of digital culture and explain why it should matter to everyone.

    Digital culture and why it should matter to you

    Part - 1: Defining Digital Culture

    For generations, our understanding of the term ‘culture’ has been ‘the synergy of underlying beliefs, assumptions, values, norms, habits, symbols and language which defines and characterizes a group’. This definition has shifted significantly because of the advent of digital. Digital, in the simplest words, is the marriage of people and technology. Digital technology is changing the environment around us, and we further use technology to accommodate the demands of this changing environment.

    In other words, disruption from the immersion of digital technologies is accelerating our pace of life and work. To adapt, we need to innovate and evolve. This means, changing what, why and how we think, act and feel. In short, to keep up with the speed and pace of digital disruption, organizations need to focus on evolving culture as needed.

    Digital culture may mean many things to many people. However, it eventually boils down to how people interact with technology in their work and lives.

    The need for organizational culture to evolve to a digital culture is because there is a shift from ‘what to do’ to ‘how to do it’. In a large sense, the world has reached a plateau in terms of new inventions. In its place, we are faced with unbounded innovation and relentless iteration, two core tenets of the Digital Age (Read more: Digital BLUR framework). The agenda here is to improve on existing models, processes, structures and systems. This clearly needs a mindset shift.

    Digital Culture vs. Digital Mindset

    It is often misconstrued that digital culture and digital mindset are the same thing. While the two concepts share many characteristics, the fundamental difference is the scope and scale of each one. Where mindset is a construct at an individual level (Read more: What is digital mindset and why is it important?), digital culture is a construct of the collective.

    For an organization to thrive, it is important that at least most of the workforce shares the same or a similar mindset. Collectively, a predominantly digital-first mindset amongst the workforce is instrumental in forming the organization’s digital culture.

    However, digital culture is so much more than just a digital-first mindset. While digital mindset refers to how one thinks and processes information obtained from digital technologies, digital culture also incorporates how the collective workforce responds to this information, behaves and influences one another.

    The crucial elements of a strong digital culture include:

    These are tenets of digital culture, rather than a digital mindset because they manifest in outlook as well as behavior.

    In the past, risk aversion, a lack of customer focus and silos have harrowed organizations. These are cultural challenges and solving them is pertinent to successful digital transformation.

    Part – 2: Uncovering the Importance of Digital Culture

    “We can have all the bold ambitions. We can have all the bold goals. We can aspire to our new mission. But it’s only going to happen if we live our culture, if we teach our culture” – Satya Nadella, CEO – Microsoft.

    Now that we have broken down what a digital culture is, let’s get into why it should matter to every organization and leader. We explore five core reasons why Digital Culture should be a key concern for your organization:

    1. No digital transformation is complete without cultivating a thriving digital culture

    Research conducted by Couchbase indicated that over 90% of digital transformation initiatives fail. Why? It’s because many organizations believe that investing in digital technologies is enough to propel them into the digital age.

    The reality, however, is that successful digital transformation is a result of three elements: digital technologies, digital leadership, and most importantly, digital culture. Two of these elements are people-centric. Where organizations fail is in realizing that unless their people transform, business won’t either.

    A key theme in the analysis of digital transformation failure is the inability of leadership to foster a unilateral culture that supports the organization’s digital strategy. Building and sustaining culture is continuous work. It takes time to break down an existing value system in favor of a new or improved one, especially when you intend to do this with an existing and long-serving workforce.

    Factor in attrition and new hires, and the need for constantly reinforcing the tenets of culture is high. Most importantly, when an organization’s culture evolves, it must be recognized and managed appropriately – a multigenerational, heterogenous workforce means a diverse set of values and behaviors characterizing how things get done.

    2. Shortcomings in organizational culture are one for success in the Digital Age

    Within a single organization exists a disparate level of comfort with technology – digital rookies working alongside digital masters and natives. As a result, how employees interact with technology and the value they derive from it is disproportionate.

    So long as this disparity exists, organizations will continue to fail in cultivating and sustaining a digital culture. But the challenges of a disparate mindset among the workforce goes beyond just a unified culture – Agility within the organization cannot be achieved.

    Imagine half of your company leveraging technology to produce results in a fraction of the time the other half does, simply because they aren’t as comfortable with even the basic nuances of technology. What happens?

    The collective speed at which the organization delivers output, and more importantly, value significantly decreases, leaving the organization at a competitive DISadvantage.

    In a time where the business landscape is rapidly changing, and customers seek immediate results, a gap such as this will almost definitely result in the organization’s demise.

    3. A strong digital culture is an organization’s competitive edge

    If digital disruption has taught us anything, it is that the future belongs to the fast. But technology alone cannot propel an organization into the future. By placing people at the foreground, focusing on their performance and ensuring that their purpose aligns with the organization’s vision, an organization can almost certainly propel itself into the future.

    Why digital culture plays a significant role here is because of the very tenets of digital culture revolve around people, performance and purpose. In cultivating a strong digital culture, organizations can successfully nurture an environment where people and technology are able to coexist and thrive together.

    In doing so, organizations open up opportunities for harmonious collaboration between various points of view and approaches to doing things. This is the basis of a highly innovative organization, one that can:

    • Unlock unforeseen value
    • Deliver to customers things beyond their expectations
    • Pave the way for future innovations

    4. A strong Digital Culture is key to business longevity

    Many organizations are at a stand-still today, either because they aren’t able to make sense of the disruptions around them and how it relates to them, or because they don’t know how to leverage the full potential of digital technology and the impact it can create for the organization.

    In his book, ‘Building Digital Culture’, author Daniel Rowles, CEO of Target Internet warns organizations about treating digital disruptions like anything they have responded to in the past. Technology is evolving faster than predicted and it is not happening in a linear manner. Therefore, organizations have no option but to take a risk and experiment with.

    Supporting Rowles argument is the evolution of disruptive businesses such as Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, etc., who have reinvented business models and show no signs of slowing down. They’ve been able to do so because they not just admire innovation; rather, they have created the hotbed for it.

    Being able to do this requires a culture that leverages technology, propounds taking risks and is focused on delivering value to the customer. In other words, it requires a strong digital culture.

    5. Embracing Digital Culture can improve employee engagement

    A study by Microsoft EMEA found that organizations with a strong digital culture have:

    • 5x more employees who feel empowered
    • 4x more employees who feel engaged
    • 3x more employees who feel innovative
    • 2x more employees who feel productive

    How is this possible?

    Here are some facts about the modern workplace employees:

    1. They want to feel a sense of ownership and responsibility over what they do
    2. They are most motivated when they see a sense of purpose, value and meaning in what they do
    3. They seek openness, equality and a sense of community
    4. They expect open and honest feedback

    We know that an organization’s biggest asset is their workforce. By meeting the expectations of their employees, organizations are able to generate 26% higher profits. This is because highly engaged employees:

    • take fewer sick leaves,
    • stay with the organization longer,
    • find ways to reduce costs while maximizing value,
    • are ardent promoters of the organization,
    • are able to constantly surprise and delight the customer, and
    • retain the loyalty of their customers irrevocably

    Watch this video on how does an organization build a digital-first culture.

    The benefits of investing in cultivating a digital culture are amply evident. The question remains – how far is your organization in its journey? To truly be able to boast about a successful digital transformation, cultivating a digital culture is non-negotiable. The effort put into the transformation process can only be fruitful if organizations start with transforming their people’s mindsets and the organization’s culture to digital-first.

    In subsequent parts of this series, we will also address ‘the characteristics of digital culture’, ‘helping your aging workforce to embrace digital transformation’ and ‘how to cultivate a thriving digital culture’.

    Good luck on your journey, and we hope to see you on the other side!

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  • May 2, 2019 - No Comments!

    Five strategic reasons to outsource L&D for exponential business growth


    Throughout history, we have seen that those who survive are the ones that appropriately respond to the changing variables in the external environment:


    • When Henry Ford invented the Model T car in 1908, he intended for it to make transportation affordable for the common man. To lower the price of the car, Ford realized that he would have to find a way to build them more efficiently. This resulted in the first moving assembly line for the mass production of the automobile in 1913. As a result of his innovation, the time taken to build a car drastically reduced from 12 hours to 150 minutes. From here, spun the assembly line revolution, essentially increasing productivity in factories across the globe.
    • Research conducted at Hawthorne Works by Henry A. Lansberger in 1958 gave birth to the Hawthorne effect, a conclusion that individuals modify an aspect of their behavior in response to the awareness of being observed. The study propounded that increased attention could lead to temporary increase in employee productivity. Since then, organizations have spent significant effort in finding various means of increasing employee engagement, from changes in infrastructure to rewards and everything in between.
    • The Global Financial Crisis of 2008 propelled organizations to cut down their costs and do more with less. As a result, this trend of in-house learning teams and initiatives became popular. Riding the coat tail of this disruption, most organizations today have full-fledged L&D teams who provide end-to-end learning services to the organization.

    These three examples played a significant role in the constructs of modern HR and L&D teams. They also show that change is constant. The moment things stop changing is when we’re headed for extinction. To keep business thriving, this is especially true for the L&D teams within the organization. After all, they play a crucial role in the development and empowerment of people.

    Unfortunately, historical data also indicates that the L&D function has been the slowest to respond to change. In a day and age that is strife with rapid change, there are 2 crucial roles that L&D teams play:

    1. To develop the workforce to meet and manage the demands of business in the digital age
    2. Shift their own mindsets and capabilities to better empower their people

    Speed is of great importance today. Therefore, achieving both objectives simultaneously and at an accelerated pace is nearly impossible for L&D teams.


    The business has certain expectations and learners have specific needs. Add to that the changes required in L&D team structures, processes, roles, systems, expectations and responsibilities, and you’re left with nothing more than a recipe for disaster. There are simply too many variables for L&S to manage and overcome.

    Therefore, in the new scheme of things, it is in the best interest of L&D teams, learners and business alike to outsource L&D, either in parts or in entirety. We list out here five strategic reasons why outsourcing L&D could be the key to advancing organizational growth.

     Five Strategic reasons for outsourcing L&D

    1. A fresh perspective

    It is often difficult to objectively analyze the gaps and changes required for something when you are knee deep in it. Knowing that something needs to change, but not knowing what or how to go about implementing the change or bridging the gap often reduces productivity – you’re straggling the line between what is and what could be, like a tortured soul.

    Allowing a consultant to come in, analyze your business and tell you how to fix it is a step in the right direction. Many are apprehensive or even defensive about taking this step. But don’t forget – a consultant can only list observations and make suggestions. Whether you implement these suggestions, or how much of it you implement is still entirely under your control.

    2. Meeting global standards

    Every organization dreams of becoming a Google, an Amazon, an Apple, an Uber, an Airbnb or another such organization that is revered as aspirational. Employees want to work for these organizations, and the cream of the crop often do. Why should you lose out on a world-class organization with a coveted workforce?

    The truth is that organizations, leaders, and employees are competing in a global market today, one that transcends industries, domains, geographies, and other demographics. Therefore, skill development, capability building, behavioral changes, and mindset shifts must be held to a higher standard. In other words, your L&D practices must allow your organization, your leaders and your employees to efficiently and successfully compete at the global level.

    Learning partners are best equipped to help you because of the world with organizations across industries and/or geographies. As such, they are not just aware of market standards, they also have the market intelligence to guide you on your journey to superseding these standards.

    3. Leveraging experts to create your perfect solution

    For over a decade, in-house L&D teams have worked towards creating a complex infrastructure of learning programs. While this infrastructure has catered to the development of every fathomable technical, domain-related, behavioral and leadership skill, it has taken a decade in the making to reach this stage.

    The skills developed have focused primarily on what business has required from employees. Furthermore, the L&D initiatives have been relatively homogenous in their approach – predominantly in-classroom and face-to-face.

    The reality of the digital age is that:

    1. Learner needs have become diverse
    2. In-house L&D teams lack technological expertise
    3. Current L&D practices do not cater to large scale rollouts
    4. Budget and time constraints continue to exist, possibly greater now than ever before

    Any expert will tell you that building systems to combat these challenges are expensive and time-consuming, the luxury of neither which is currently affordable. So, why not leave it to the experts? They have already spent the time and money to build these systems, developed the expertise and deliver positive value, which their customers can vouch for and swear by.

    4. Building Integrated assessment and learning systems

    In the last few years, organizations have invested in learning management systems (LMS) to leverage eLearning modules and provide employees with an extensive directory of courses for self-learning.  Unfortunately, although done with good intent, the execution of this goal has been fragmented.

    What does this mean?

    While LMSes are used for eLearning, organizations still focus on classroom-based learning for a significant part of their interventions. This mode of learning is often online and untraceable – no data on:

    1. Participation
    2. Performance
    3. Impact
    4. Engagement

    Often, these two modes of learning are also managed by different teams.

    Then, there is the question of assessments. Assessments are important to the learning and development process. A study by the KNOLSKAPE Insights Centre highlighted that a significant number of organizations deploy talent assessment solutions only at the middle to senior levels. The intent has almost always been for recruitment and succession planning.

    They do not account for:

    1. Identifying top talent across all levels of the organization,
    2. Identifying training needs, and
    3. Judging the efficacy of the tools used for assessment

    As a result, the assessment goals and learning objectives rarely converge. However, learning efforts are most impactful when they are supported by assessments for learning.


    Assessments for learning are pertinent for the identification of strengths and gap analysis, from which employee development plans can be created. This analysis becomes the basis of developing employees. This systematic approach poses greater achievement of business as well as learner goals.

    Learn more about the strengths of integrated talent development initiatives. Read the full report.

    5. Self-development for L&D

    As stated earlier, the digital age demands significant changes in mindset and capabilities of the L&D team itself. In outsourcing learning and development initiatives, learning professionals within the organization are responsible for liaising with partners. Through this interaction with the experts, L&D teams are presented with ample opportunities to:

    1. Develop their own skills and mindset
    2. Learn about the latest trends, inventions, and benchmarks
    3. Uncover the shifts needed to empower employees to meet business objectives and deliver valuable business outcomes

    It is no longer going to be enough to get a seat at the table. The CHROs of tomorrow need to lead the business change. This is a tall order when HR and L&D teams are not yet part of the decision-making process. There is a sense of urgency with which L&D teams must shift the way they work.

    Business models and strategies are undergoing changes to meet the demands of the larger environment. People are crucial to execute these strategies and fulfill the organization’s goal, and the L&D teams are responsible for the talent development strategies of the organization.

    Therefore, to effectively support the organization without compromising on learner needs or vice versa, L&D professionals need to first help themselves. Then, take a step back from their traditional ways of functioning to find ways that will complement the demands of the current business landscape. Most often, the new way of working would include a partner who can help fill the gaps and strengthen your learning and development systems.


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