“Thanks to digital technologies developing at exponential rates of change, the landscape of 21st-century business has taken on a dramatically different look and feel.”
— Peter Diamandis, Executive Founder and Director, Singularity University
Leading organizations and teams to success in times of exponentially accelerating change is an incredible challenge.
Most CEOs today feel a profound sense of urgency to transform everything about their organizations—strategy, culture, leadership, innovation—to ensure they’re able to avoid disruption and harness technology in order to thrive in the future.
Every company on the planet seems to have a “digital transformation” initiative underway. Based on hundreds of conversations we’ve had with executives, it seems many of these initiatives are not progressing as fast as expected, not achieving the anticipated impact, or simply failing.
There are many reasons why transformation initiatives fail, and the challenge to succeed is often more difficult and complex in larger organizations. While no one has a crystal ball, we have gleaned some specific insights from hundreds of engagements with some of the world’s largest and most innovative organizations. With that in mind, what follows are some ways to drive successful transformation initiatives in large organizations.
Start by shifting your mindset
We often say, “Nothing changes without people.” While our enterprise solutions largely focus on evolving and fortifying strategy, leadership, and innovation functions, the foundation for sustained success begins and ends with people.
In redesigning their organizations for the future, most leaders tend to focus on what they should do. Should we teach design thinking? Run ideation challenges? Launch an accelerator? Experiment with AI?
However, the first step must be to learn how to think, not what to do. Albert Einstein famously said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
Today’s leaders must learn how to shift their mindsets from linear to exponential. That means learning new mental models, a new common language, and metrics that better measure and incentivize exponential results.
Create a strategy for 10x growth
To many executives, “strategy” calls to mind traditional management consulting frameworks such as Porter’s Five Forces. But the way we strategize now has changed drastically and continues to evolve. Traditional models and approaches are no longer sufficient.
Given the increasing pace of change, companies now need to toggle their focus frequently between the next six to 12 months and the next 10-20 years to ensure they are investing at the right time and iterating quickly and incrementally as new information emerges. Deloitte’s Center for the Edge calls this process “Zoom Out, Zoom In.”
Our team works with CEOs, executive teams, boards, and business leaders to help them contemplate the potential impact of—and opportunities created by—exponential technologies, digital tools, and new business models. Our goal is to help organizations define what business they want to be in within the next five, 10, and 30 years, and bring that vision to life through narratives and experimentation roadmaps.
Develop leaders who can navigate uncertainty and lead change
To transition their business in ways that today’s business climate requires, leaders must first unlearn outdated approaches and legacy behaviors that impede progress. They must become what we call exponential leaders—people who can adapt to any situation and drive 10x results for themselves and their organizations. Exponential leaders are futurists, innovators, technologists, and humanitarians…not necessarily by title or official function, but by the skills and behaviors they value and promote in their organizations.
Many organizations are realizing that their existing leadership development programs are ill-equipped to prepare current and future leaders to meet rapidly evolving business needs.
Traditional programs often use outdated methods, set an inadequate context, offer insufficient coaching, and are too slow to keep up with the rapid pace of change.
It’s critical for today’s leaders to:
- Learn about exponential technologies and thinking, and create 10x projects to allow on-the-job experimentation and learning.
- Conduct ongoing coaching to lock in new concepts and methods.
- Leverage diverse peer and expert networks for on-demand support.
With the right mindset, tools, and training, these exponential leaders are better prepared to champion and lead the organization’s transformation agenda through uncertain times.
Create an aligned innovation strategy and resource it appropriately
Building the future of your organization requires the ability to innovate incredibly fast, and to ideate far beyond business-as-usual. You must:
- Dedicate funding to early-stage “crazy” ideas and learn through rapid experimentation and failure. In this article, you can learn more about how to use exponential thinking and unreasonable ideas to manifest the next big thing.
- Move projects through development stage gates, using the right metrics at the right time.
- Determine the best structure for new ventures, and design optimal relationships for them within the core business or spin them out.
- Mobilize your internal organization and external ecosystem to support these new future businesses, which often reflect a new vision and narrative.
Our future-focused methodologies are designed to help innovation, technology, and new product development teams ideate, prototype, and validate potentially breakthrough ideas, then prepare to bring them to market.
Make the leap from 10% to 10x
For teams that are recognized and rewarded for quarterly results, a 10% improvement seems like solid performance. But just as traditional business models are insufficient in exponential times, so are incremental outcomes.
That’s why we challenge organizations to aim for 10x impact and outcomes by leveraging exponential technologies and tools. We engage our faculty and portfolio companies to support these initiatives in enterprise organizations. We also tap experts and practitioners from our network as ideators, collaborators, and builders…and rely on them to bring both industry expertise and diverse perspectives that will inspire and expand your thinking, and challenge your current assumptions.
If you’re leading change in a large organization, there’s no option other than to be bold and think big—to shift your mindset from incremental to exponential. We believe every organization has the capacity to achieve what it now considers improbable or impossible—or has yet to imagine.
Let us be your guide to the future. Learn more about the roles of strategy, leadership, and innovation in building exponential enterprises and see how we can help you take bold leaps forward.