Up till 1968, the Olympic record of high jump was 5 feet and 8 inches. In 1968, a relatively unknown athlete approached the bar to jump and instead of turning his body towards the bar, he turned his back towards it. His name was Dick Fosbury, who set a world record of high-jump of 7 feet and 4.5 inches — higher than any man had ever jumped before. And the only thing he did was that he thought differently about the jump. By thinking differently, Fosbury jumped differently and raised the bar for everybody in the sport. Today, this jump style is known as the Fosbury flop jump.
For businesses, the need of the hour is to think differently because the rules of the game are changing rapidly. Only by thinking differently and acting differently, organizations will able to compete and sustain. We live in the times of “Digital Darwinism” where the divide is getting wider between organizations that are adapting to the new ecosystem of digital and the ones that are not, with steeper price to pay for not changing. Here is some data to substantiate this point — 55% of Fortune 500 companies have failed to make profits in 2015 and post 2000, 52% of companies in the Fortune 500 list don’t exist anymore (they have either merged, acquired or have gone bankrupt).
At People Matters, we believe that we are witnessing a fundamental shift in the way organizations work. Here lies the big opportunity for HR leaders and the HR community as a whole. Talent, skills and the right DNA of the organization will be critical for organizational transformation and this is where the opportunity lies.
But HR needs to think differently if the function wants to play this crucial role. And HR needs to think different at two levels — at the organizational level and the individual level.
At the Organizational Level, businesses need to change the way they operate and the way they work. This means two paradigm shifts. On the one hand, organizations need to leverage the power of digitization more intensively. While consumers have gone digital in the way they consume products and services, the tasks and activities to service those consumers have not yet been digitized to their potential. The stage is set for a change with AI, Machine learning and Automation changing the landscape of work – and with more and more activities getting automated, jobs will change, org structures will change and the organizational systems will change too. The opportunity is huge to digitize jobs. Even companies and industries at the forefront of digital spending are yet to digitize the workforce fully as per the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI). On the other hand, we need to build “ambidextrous” organizations, organizations that can manage current business and discover new opportunities at the same time. The urgency to think differently and disrupt our business models is authentic and this needs to translate in the fabric of the organization.
At the Individual Level, HR as a function and HR leaders need to alter the way they think and the way they impact business. Data speaks for itself —A Russell Reynolds Study reveals that only 20% of CEOs consider HR as an enabler of business transformation. This is corroborated by the People Matters & SAP HR Technology Study 2016 which reveals that 9 out of 10 investments that are happening in technology today are focusing on operations and increasing HR efficiency and not on strategic talent effectiveness.
The change starts at the individual level. Each one of us needs a Fosbury moment to create a much larger impact on our businesses —mindset change and a focus on thinking different and acting different. Here is how:
- Have a clear goal: There is only one goal — Business success. And digital is the way. A young man working in an advertisement agency went to his manager one day and told him “I am quitting, I want to become a drummer” to which the manager replied, “I did not know you could play drums.” “I don’t BUT I am going to” the young man answered. This young man was to become a part of Eric Clapton’s band – his name was Ginger Baker. HE BECAME WHAT HE WANTED TO BEFORE HE KNEW HE COULD DO IT.
- Think like an entrepreneur: Do it and fix it as you go along. Remember that creating an ambidextrous organization starts at home. It's hard for HR to have an entrepreneurial mindset (I know this well because I have been both in HR and an entrepreneur) – HR is designed to reduce risks, to avoid failures. After all anybody in this room cannot imagine an HR leader saying “Oops! Sorry you will not get your salary this month, we were just running some experiments.” Lean start-up, design thinking, sprints, are needed for innovation and to run an ambidextrous organization. My advice — do it and fix it as you go along. Don’t spend too much time trying to perfect something. Run with what you got and fix it as you go.
Rapidly evolving business changes necessitate a shift in the way we work. But this shift starts with a shift in our outlook.. Time to Think Differently – Like Fosbury did; when you think differently, you act differently.
Whatever you think, think the opposite. Paul Arden