Let me start with the story of two companies that occupied the same business space during the same time. Netflix and Blockbuster were both in the DVD rental business until 2007, when Netflix stepped audaciously into the digital video streaming space. They foresaw the evolving digital habits of the customers and scaled up their agility as a culture to move into overdrive. Today, their divergent fortunes reflect the make-or-break mindset difference that is imperative in today’s digital age.
Digital technologies have taken the center stage in global businesses over the last decade. Unprecedented connectedness, automated and cognitive interactions, and advanced analytics that extract incisive insights from huge volumes of data significantly influence customer behavior and loyalty. Additionally, they have accelerated change and disrupted models to create brand new markets.
However, all organizations today grapple with this multi-million-dollar question. How can they embed the right culture to be a frontrunner in today’s digital arena? What are the characteristics they should inculcate?
A Holistic Growth Mindset
We are nowhere near the end of the tunnel in the process of digital transformation. It promises to further disrupt, reinvent, and create newer vistas in business at a hurtling pace. Chasing the technology rainbow is only a small part of the pursuit of success in the digital age. Creating the right mindset to acknowledge and understand the characteristics of digital value, and the right culture to embrace and implement opportunities for change are absolute imperatives.
Enabling idea meritocracy is important in creating a growth mindset culture. This calls for an environment that encourages challenging the status quo, openness, data-driven decision-making, rapid experimentation, permission to fail within limits and hyper-learning.
Only then can organizations foresee market shifts, react with alacrity to emerging trends, and step up with speed to innovative and ahead-of-the-curve products and services. Only then can they design newer and more effective workforce strategies to become more growth-oriented and profitable, and outpace the competition.
Starbucks, for instance went back to the start-up mode to achieve this end. Leveraging their acknowledged reputation for excellent and personalized service, Starbucks took to social media and other digital technologies in a big way to engage their customers in the ‘Starbucks Experience’. Today, more than 95 percent of Facebook users are their ‘friends’, and they have more than 13 million mobile payment system users. And they hit the sweet spot too — their revenue increased from $10.7 billion in 2010 to $16.4 billion in 2014.
An Agile Culture infused with Empathy and Curiosity
As organizations aim to raise customer experience to new highs, deliver operational optimization, and unleash innovation in their products and services with digital technologies, they must look at digitally empowering their people to contribute in new and exciting ways. Great products and services are vital for growth, and organizations need to serve and delight customers to achieve sustained growth. So, imagine an employee who is supposed to create this environment of customer delight. Is the employee getting the positive reinforcement to enable such an outcome? Unless organizations enable internal employee experiences to be at par with what they expect them to deliver to their customers, we will keep hearing stories of how it takes two days instead of the promised 30 minutes to respond to customers.
What we need is more of an entrepreneurial DNA woven with empathy. Lack of empathy negatively impacts collaboration, and gives rise to a ‘success-at-any-cost’ syndrome. Empathy is the most original human response to a situation of stress, and creates a highly positive work culture. Organizations, till now, have emphasized more on performance benchmarks. Most of the leadership development is based on improving managerial or functional effectiveness. Leadership, in the true sense, however, is the art of creating possibilities from impossible situations.
Digital transformation enables this advantage for the workforce. What we perceive as a looming threat of disruption actually comes with possibilities of connected ecosystems in a global market, even for local players. This needs to be leveraged as an opportunity and not looked upon as a threat. I believe that there are no structural solutions or niche intellect needed to drive this change. What we need is a mindset transformation — from elaborate learning to nimble learning. This will encourage inquisition and organization networks to prevail over hierarchies.
Studies reveal that most of a child’s learning occurs between the ages of three and seven – and this is predominantly dependent on the answers the child seeks from the world. This is, in fact, is the most disrupting part of growing up. I would draw a parallel to organizations too. When faced with disruption, we need to awaken the thoughts of many minds to resolve situations rather than depend on a smaller think tank group, thus, going from ‘think tank’ to ‘think ocean’ should be the approach. It is an approach that celebrates diversity and creates organizational success through collective strength.
At WNS, we harness this energy to define our way of work and life. E^Q is what we practice, with E (entrepreneurial and empathy), and Q (qurious and InQuisition) acting as key drivers of culture. Life and work thus strike a balance which becomes the foundation of growth. It needs to be both top-down and knowledge-up. I purposefully say knowledge-up as I believe that knowledge of business is a frontline essential, and it needs to permeate in the cultural fabric in place.
A growth mindset brings a totally different attitude to work. Failure becomes learning, feedback becomes opportunity and problem-solving drives development and growth. There will be a marked and refreshing difference in how people talk and listen to, and connect with each other. Diversity will drive how products and solutions are built through people who truly understand how different groups of customers think and make decisions.
Technology in a culture driven by Growth Mindset
Shifting the focus from ‘technology-first’ to ‘people-first’ involves a holistic business approach. It does not relegate technology to a position of inconsequence; in fact, technology will remain a pivotal strategy and a competitive advantage.
What a growth mindset does is weave the important questions of how technology fits into an organization and how employees can relate to technology with the right organizational behaviors.
More importantly, it trains employees to have qualitative conversations with customers in solving for the business, and not merely to push the technology.
Creating an organization that enables the Es and Qs sets the foundation for a digital-led growth with agility at the core. Organizations with such cultures leverage technology intelligently to eliminate pigeon-holed job roles and responsibilities. They create tremendous energy in building new capabilities and mental frameworks, and business-savvy employees who can stimulate newer thinking and perspectives to add huge value.
Unless organizations enable internal employee experiences to be at par with what they expect them to deliver to their customers, we will keep hearing stories of how it takes two days instead of the promised 30 minutes to respond to customers