Shifting the Human Corporate Condition in the Time of Massive Innovation
“It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one most adaptable to change.” Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
“To boldly go where no man has gone before,”
is the hero’s call of Star Trek and its promise of a better future and the technology to get us there. Star Trek was my favorite show when I was a little girl and I loved watching the show with my father. No matter how many green alien women Kirk beguiled with his manly charms and iconic 1960’s American swagger, I still believed in the mission and that the future of humanity would be tempered by reason, logic, science, and conscientious engagement about our humanity though the use of thought-provoking technologies.
Star Trek shaped the way I think about the future—I still believe that it’s our global society’s mission to boldly go where humanity hasn’t gone before while being led by our capacity to imagine our future as one that elevates our ability to invent and learn—the hallmarks of using technology and science wisely that would lead us all to live together peacefully and productively.
In Michael Porter’s 2011 “Creating Shared Value” article, Porter recognizes businesses essential nature to help deliver social and economic change “which involves creating economic value in a way that also creates value for society by addressing its needs and challenges. Businesses must reconnect company success with social progress.”
The “Shared Value” concept appears to be a likely next step in a line of economic hallmarks that have impacted the manner in which businesses, both large and small, approach the act of commerce. Business activations such as “The Creative Economy,” “The Sustainable Economy,” web 1.0, web 2.0 and the socially responsible business movement heralded by B Corporation—a certification for businesses that ties together a company’s social mission with a third party verification body that ensures a company’s adherence to its principles and promises all signify steps along the pathway to our next era.
I’d like to suggest that these business and social signatures might not have happened so quickly and so close together had it not been for the rise of the technology company as an economic driver. Many technology companies lead with the premise of being customer centric—inherently, the leading success factors in the adaption of software includes being intuitive to the manner in which the user works, designing processes that reduce barriers of learning and acceptance and the industry’s early break with traditionally designed functional company models that ingrained hierarchy into its organization. Industrial era company models did not align with software’s basic building operations such as iterative development models that shorten time to market rather than a long R&D cycle. Also inconsistent with industrial era company hierarchical structures is the required equanimity in the software development process—this process is one of cooperation and collaboration--one that doesn’t require ranks or roles, just skill sets that allow for building great software. The rise of the technology company has created vast changes that have resonated throughout the business landscape altering expectations of what work should look like, what kind of access and transparency we should have as employees, shareholders, stakeholders and finally, society at large. New technologies and the companies that have created them has caused a global shift that has outgrown the organizational formulas of the industrial age and has set business and society on a new tack.
Few times in our history has business and society been on a course for such massive change. As with disruptions that are ushered in by societal changes, new technological breakthroughs, and political upheaval, the opportunities replete with positive motion that propels humanity forward also poses risks fraught with loss with the disintegration of established and old styled economic and societal models and their social foundations that were once substantial and now have become uncertain.
Business and societal transformation has been led by unique thinkers of their day who were inspired by thinking outside of the social norms dictated by their times. Think about Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm “Technology Adopters Lifecycle” as a reference point. Innovators make up a very small portion of the population and these people often are outsiders or “cranks” until their innovative approach moves them or their idea from outsider to establishment all the while upending traditional thinking. Here’s where today’s big transformation is more impactful than the eras preceding it and splits with this model—as customer-centric models and shared value concepts replace industrial age business models, it requires the change to come innately from our thinking about how we work together, what our place is inside the organization, how much power does the individual have to spark change or participate in the local and networked approach to these new value-creation networks.
It requires us to imagine ourselves as the agent of change, a node in the network, that is complete in its own and to elevate our humanity so that we too can own our part in the new digital organization.Although Donald Tapscott coined the phrase “The Digital Economy” in his book in “The Digital Economy: The Promise and Perils of a Networked Intelligence” in 1995, it's only now that in this post web 2.0 world that we’re able to start engaging on a full-scale global effort to bring digital access to all. As Thomas Friedman once said so well—“the world is flat” and your competition is now not only the person down the street but somewhere in their apartment working on a program half way around the world. On the flipside of that approach is that a networked world brings opportunity to you by using technology and a spirit of collaborative work and equanimity.
Gandhi is often misquoted as saying “be the change you want to see in the world.” What he really said was more profound “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. ” Applying this philosophy to the requirements of the New Digital Organization which include the requirement of elevating how we operate individually with our own and company technology, how we operate together as a work team, how we see and participate in our own communities and the role of business in relationship to society at large. Organizational change management doesn’t offer us the appropriate response to the Digital Organization. The Digital Organization is a transformative burst of disruption from the legacy organizations of the industrial era. The organizational transformation is nothing short of an unleashing of next era living and working where the lines between the two are not only blurred but erased. We evaporate ideas like “work life balance” because it all becomes life and what you’re doing in the moment, rather than a place that you go to do one specific thing that you could not do outside of the unique production environment which, all of a sudden isn’t even a consideration to productivity for many.
Distributed manufacturing, working in the cloud, programmed automation, machine learning and big data help us move away from large scale work spaces and allows for productivity to be created from anywhere where we have an internet connection and computing capacity through a connected device.
This unshackling of energy and productivity allow the true promise of technology to come to the forefront. But with this technological innovation comes the conundrum of elevating the human consciousness that directs us to managing the human paradox of change—we love change as long as someone else is doing it. We’re still working out our issues with our brain’s operating system—mostly at issue: our limbic system aka our lizard brain—we experience it as an indicator of our fight or flight response yet bringing that prehistoric relic into the work environment causes all sorts of underlying issues. In industrial era companies, change management and organizational psychologists worked to resolve human issues in the workplace that often threatened or derided the effectiveness of otherwise successful improvements. The disintermediation of the organization that has occurred in the past fifteen years has reformulated the requirements of successful organizations and thus somewhat muted the impact of dysfunction that has dogged companies since industrialization—not because of coming up with some solution remedying the human condition, rather, it’s apparent that changing the work and how many people need to work closely together, what constitutes a team and the loss of hierarchy as a means to accomplishing the goals, what it means to be a good team member, and the lessening of the importance of where that work takes place, is responsible for this shift.
By 2020, it’s predicted that between 40% - 50% of workers will be freelancers or small businesses as corporations move from work shifts to free agents to get things done. This disruption in the labor force (along with labor laws) disallows companies from having direct management over the labor that is producing its products or delivering its services causing issues in quality control, brand management, production workflow and more.
Here's the rub about the Digital Organization—it challenges and then causes the individual and the company to change the manner in which they operate which leads to the biggest question of them all “how?” How do both organizations and individuals make requisite changes that are required to make the leap to The Digital Organization?
We still live in a dualistic world that often pits one side against another—company versus employee, union versus management, little guy against the big guy. These artificial dualities and their barriers are antithetical to the Digital Organization where a matrixed organization or flat organization fosters collaboration and cooperation. In this book, we explore an approach that is designed to bring together the elements of a dualistic approach and transforming them into an aligned workforce that’s centered around mission and purpose. We’ll find a means to revealing our own world view and find the spaces where the limits of our current thinking don’t allow for the next level organizational requirements to thrive. We’ll engage with strategic thinking that aligns business outcomes with personal ones and use a collection of industry proven tools to plan and measure organizational transformation.
I’ve called this methodology The Sh*FT MethodTM because its designed to help people and companies do just that—shift from one approach to another. The Sh*FT MethodTM is a systematic approach that uses concepts, tools, and structures that act as agents of transformative thinking and guideposts that help illuminate the way all while identifying and challenging the thinking and behavior patterns that stand in the way of requisite outcomes.
The Sh*FT MethodTM is a personal means to participating in the larger transformation by using a methodology that takes global change and personalizes it with a strategy and implementation method that companies, employees and freelancers can deploy to help them identify and engage with their unique perspective around the wholesale transformation to the Digital Organization.
Great leaps of progress are made by disrupting the status quo and adapting the disruption until its normalization. Having a systematic approach to transforming the organization by starting with the people disrupting themselves is the way to include grassroots change, personal change into the corporation so that its changed from the inside out. The Sh*FT MethodTM empowers people and companies to do just that.
 Michael Porter, Mark R. Kramer, Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2011, https://hbr.org/2011/01/the-big-idea-creating-shared-value
 Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class, 2002.
 “Falser Words Were Never Spoken” New York Times, Brian Morton, August 30, 2011, A23.
 Intuit 2020 Report, October 2010