I’m here at the CIPD conference listening to Rita Gunther McGrath from Columbia Business School, one of the top 10 business thinkers according to Thinkers50. Here’s my summary of what she had to say at her opening keynote ‘Are we all entrepreneurs now?’.
The challenge for organisations of the future is staying relevant. Because what works for you today might not work for you tomorrow. In fact it probably won’t. Nokia in 2007. Blackberry in 2008. They thought they owned it. The evidence backed em up. At the peak of their success and then…… you know the rest. There are plenty of examples, corporate corpses, of those who could not, would not change the model.
We live and work in a world that is changing fast, and the future is hard to predict. Who can easily foresee which competitors, currently unknown, are just around the corner and coming to challenge you. The next tech craze, the next culture shift. The need to respond is key. Critical.
The problem is that we traditionally view change as a process. A project. Something that is unusual. Difficult. Something with a curve more aligned to grief. We need to review how we see change. Because it’s not stability that is normal or to be expected or even desirable. It isn’t stability that is normal today, today or in the but change. And we have to get good at it. HR and leaders alike.
Work and jobs are changing. The notion of starting a job in your teens and saying until retirement is laughable. The past has been all about a stable career plan, often led by the organisation, with job hunting as an infrequent activity. The future will be more about the individual superstar. Work will be more like a series of gigs that we are constantly sourcing, with the career managed by the individual.
Leadership will require new skills. Leaders will need to be constantly alert for those weak signals indicating that change is coming. Curious. Able to face hard truths. Adapt, innovate and change.
It’s hard to deny Rita’s change message. Those that hang onto the past and think this new stuff hasn’t got anything to do with them do so at great risk. But the cry of ‘we have always done it this way’ still reverberates around many organisations. Corporate ostriches perhaps, putting their head into comforting sands. For some these messages are too new, too soon, too scary. And there is ease, in doing what we have always done.
At many places change towards the future of work, organisations, technology and so on and so on, is not only still weird, but the very need for it is simply not understood. Or the energy needed to run with it is just too great. Or maybe there is no one hearing the signals and seeing the signs and waving the flags.
Rita also talked about job titles. What they symbolise. Whether they are helpful. About how traditional role types are also changing. So maybe we could try a couple of new ones for HR. Change Normaliser. Future Scanner. New Stuff Flag Waver.
Because if HR don’t lead for it at our place, who will?