“Every single job function we can identify is being fundamentally transformed. Even “old” industries such as construction are in the throes of disruption.” –David Rose via Exponential Organizations
In the midst of the chaos and disruption brought on by this new velocity and turbulence of change, the organizations that often fail to remain relevant going forward, are often those that choose to batten down the hatches and look to ride out the rough patches. They look to insulate and protect themselves and the organization from these disruptive forces that are knocking at the gates.
Whereas the organizations that tend to remain relevant and even flourish, are those that are able to find the opportunity in the midst this same chaos and disruption. They see possibilities where others see obstacles. They approach these VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) times with a renewed sense of creativity and inventiveness.
Unfortunately, what many organizations have failed to realize in the midst of the upheaval brought on by this heightened pace of change, especially in today’s VUCA world, is that every organization, in every sector, be that education, government, or business, is ripe for creative disruption. The question very often is not whether you will be disrupted, but how? And in the face of this challenge, what we need to fully realize, is that we have a choice on that how.
So, if history has taught us anything, it has taught us that no one and no organization is immune or safe.
Or as Peter Drucker has shared, this is the Age of Discontinuity.
When we continue to pace everything we do in linear, incremental, and sequential ways of thinking and create our processes and build our structures to operate in this manner, while the world around us shifts to a much more non-linear, exponential manner of thinking and doing, something has to give.
Somewhere along the way the incoherence and misalignments become so incongruent that recovery is often no longer possible, irrelevance has already set in or has completely taken over and the only question left to answer is how long the organization can or will hang on.
Or as the Ismail, Malone and van Geest share in Exponential Organizations,
“One of the key issues in an exponential world…whatever understanding you have today is going to rapidly become obsolete, and so you have to continue to refresh your education about the technologies and about the organizational capabilities. That’s going to be very challenging. Rapid or disruptive change is something that large, matrixed organizations find extremely difficult. Indeed, those who have attempted it have found that the organization’s “immune system” is liable to respond to the perceived threat with an attack.”
The problem is that the biggest threat to most organizations, is not the external forces at the gate, but our own inability to disrupt ourselves internally. To build the internal ability and capacity to learn new, learn faster, become more agile and adaptive, to know when to continue the journey and when a pivot and shift is in order, or in other words, to be able to disrupt ourselves before the disruption is done to us.
Remember, the status quo will fight and push back every step of the way.
The one thing that we cannot do anymore is to allow ourselves to be caught unaware or choose to further insulate ourselves from these tremendous and overwhelming shifts that are now changing the very face of our societal systems, especially in light of how Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns and the digital transformation has shown us that, if anything, this new pace of change is doing more to accelerate and speed up than to slow down anytime in the near future.
So as you consider your organizational response, because a response is and will be necessary if you are to avoid irrelevance, I will leave you with these words from Ismail, Malone, and van Geest from their work Exponential Organizations…
“History and common sense make clear that you cannot radically transform every part of an organization—and accelerate the underlying clock of that enterprise to hyper-speed—without fundamentally changing the nature of that organization.”