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In the course of transitioning from startup to large corporation, cultures, behaviors, processes, and other things that define the company become codified into playbooks. These playbooks describe how things are done and help the company replicate its success predictably and sustainably. However, over time, these playbooks become orthodoxies or mindsets that never get challenged. Company employees adhere to these playbooks with the notion that “this is how things have always been done.” Over time, aspects within these playbooks switch from being enablers to being hindrances to innovation and growth.

Geoff Tuff and Steve Goldbach, consultants at Deloitte and authors of the book ‘Detonate’ believe challenging orthodoxies within these playbooks and blowing up some of them may hold the key to accelerated growth and innovation. “The reason it’s so critical now that companies start to challenge the playbooks and to look into why they do the things they do is we’re going through a period of change and disruption unlike anything that we’ve seen before,” says Geoff.

This change and disruption, occasioned by the rapid advancements in digital technologies, is already disrupting multiple industries. Companies keen on surviving the current shift and becoming the industry leaders of tomorrow must reconsider their orthodoxies. In a one-hour SVIC webinar, Steve and Geoff offer four core areas company executives should focus on, identifying them as areas that hold the greatest promise to ignite change and drive innovation.

Change Human Behavior

“Any change that results in creating value in the world stems from either changing a customer’s behavior or changing the behavior of someone from within your organization,” says Steve. This statement underpins the reality most organizations face when attempting to ignite change. Faced with impending threats from competitors and disruptive startups, most organizations react by investing in new products. This is not an effective approach, say Steve and Geoff. To avert disruption, they argue, organizations must invest in changing human behavior first.

“Start by thinking about what behavior you want to change and then, as leaders in your organizations, change the nature of the questions that you’re asking,” says Steve. One example of a question that sabotages innovation is “How does this idea impact our quarterly earnings?” Any employee anticipating such questions will not be willing to come forward with any bold ideas. An alternative question to ask would be, “How can we test this hypothesis and what can we learn from it?” By showing employees that a change in their behavior will not result in adverse effects to their performance, it is possible to influence more innovative thinking within an organization.

If you can identify the behavior change that has the most economic impact and that aligns all your resources to most efficiently go and drive that behavior, you will end up winning.

Bring a Beginner’s Mind

Playbooks are designed for repetitive implementation of an established set of rules. When in use, each problem is approached from the same direction and with the same set of tools. While this works most of the time, it is clear, especially with a rapidly shifting marketplace, that this response will become less effective. “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few,” quotes Steve from Shunryu Suzuki’s book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. This quote offers perspective into how organizations must approach the emerging challenges of the new digital economy.

While it’s clear that it would be difficult and time-intensive to change an entire organization’s mindset, Geoff and Steve believe taking small incremental steps to introduce a beginner’s mind can be effective. Starting with top management, reframing questions around challenges to focus more on outside-in thinking is essential. This thinking asks questions like, “Help me understand the logic of what it is that you see that would cause you to believe that that will continue to happen in the future?” By phrasing questions in an open-ended learning-oriented format, organization leaders can help their employees think of unorthodox ways of meeting challenges the business may currently be facing.

Always phrase your questions in a way that elicits creativity and openness to doing something different rather than proof and reliability.

Embrace Impermanence

While in the past establishing structures that were durable and could last a hundred years was the preferred approach to building a business, today, embracing impermanence is what is crucial for survival.  “The impact of exponential change on markets all around us and what happens when all the different technologies that themselves sit on the exponential curve of computing power start to double every single year is that everything changes,” says Geoff. Customer expectations and behaviors change, business models change, competitive landscapes change, entire industries change.

Organizations must, therefore, build flexibility and adaptability into their core operations to survive in an era of accelerated change. This flexibility involves not only changing how things are done internally but also looking for opportunities to infuse this flexibility through partnerships. By partnering with Silicon Valley startups, organizations can assimilate some of the dynamism and flexibility startups have. Senior executives are urged to visit Silicon Valley to interact with startups and get a front-row experience of how through embracing impermanence, these startups are disrupting established industries to become breakout successes.

The world is moving at such an exponential pace that those systems and processes that we put in today are unlikely to last for very long. We shouldn’t get wedded to anything in too much of a permanent way. Instead, we should always be willing to walk away from choices that we’ve made when we’re faced with compelling evidence that they may not be viable anymore.

Make Minimally Viable Moves

Although many organizations have innovation agendas in place, these agendas are still subject to the old way of doing things. Every project must go through the traditional budgeting, approval and implementation channels and must meet very high thresholds to get passed. This is a huge impediment to innovation, say Steve and Geoff. To avoid this bottleneck, they suggest using Minimally Viable Moves (MVMs) to test concepts and get quick answers to inform management on whether going in a certain direct makes commercial sense.

For instance, Steve explains, if you want to test out a new feature, don’t send the update to all one million of your customers. Instead, send the update to one thousand customers and then collect feedback. This type of experiment would be cheap and fast to implement. Lessons learned could then easily tell whether releasing a global update would be profitable or whether to kill the experiment. As experiments often involve some level of organizational and personal (career) risk, Steve and Geoff suggest employees break down what they are trying to do differently into MVMs which can be implemented without extensive permissions and then presented to management as proofs of concept.

Go and prove that you can operate differently in a part of the business where what you’re bringing forward is not a request for permission to go and try something different, but a very small signal that something done differently might lead to real value.

Shift Norms to Better Compete in the Future

Digital technologies and disruptive Silicon Valley startups are rapidly altering the market landscape and organizations that do not adapt will become the laggards of tomorrow. By focusing on the four areas highlighted above, company executives can begin the process of future-proofing their businesses. As a starting point, Geoff suggests organizations begin looking for orthodoxies immediately and ask, “what would it look like if we didn’t follow that orthodoxy?” Geoff concludes that unless organizations start trying different things, nothing is going to change.

Watch an In-depth Webinar on Blowing up Best Practices and Bringing a Beginner’s Mind by Geoff Tuff and Steve Goldbach

In this in-depth webinar, Geoff Tuff and Steve Goldbach, authors of the book ‘Detonate’, discuss how organizations need to strategically detonate long-standing cultures and best practice in a bid to survive disruptive competitors.


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