In part one of this series, we showed how an increase in data availability, greater connectivity, and the accelerated “speed-of-life” are coming together with advancements in data collection and analytics to usher in an entirely new era: The Emergent Era.
Now let’s discuss the nature of this change and how your industrial organization can prepare for what lies ahead.
Embrace the Shifting Nature of Change
Change often happens imperceptibly at first. Until, of course, that change suddenly becomes disruptive. This seems to happen with little-to-no warning, unless you understand the nature of emergent change and how to capitalize on it.
Emergent change seems impossible until it happens. Then, in hindsight, it seems inevitable. It happens much in the same way Earnest Hemingway’s iconic character, Mike Campbell from The Sun Also Rises, went bankrupt, “gradually and then suddenly.” But by building your organization around information flows, empowering your people, letting go of the idea of “absolute certainty,” and listening to feedback, you can better anticipate where the Emergent Era may lead you.
Organize Around Information Flows
Success in the Emergent Era means eliminating hierarchy and bureaucracy in favor of agility and adaptability. This also means embracing radically open communication systems, which may be a difficult cultural shift for some. It is only when people have access to real-time data—and when they feel empowered to act upon it—that you create a company culture with the speed and resiliency to capitalize on emergent structures. Much like the ant colonies we discussed in part one of this blog, when you build organizations around information flows and then empower individuals to act within their realm of expertise, micromotives will influence macrobehavior. Often for the greater good.
Empower People With a Good M.O.
An M.O. is traditionally considered to be one’s modus operandi — a characteristic way of doing things. While this is still applicable, we have expanded the definition to include “mission objective” and “mindset orientation.” In the Emergent Era, a good M.O. should connect the larger vision of an organization with the tactical objectives of a person or team. Leaders should provide direction without prescribing a path, which empowers teams to find their own way of achieving the goals set before them — with room for a lot of experimentation along the way.
Companies should loosen their grip and get past the illusion that by controlling others we can control outcomes. In the Emergent Era, we’re all evolving from being managers and employees to being collaborators. Those who lead with a good M.O. will position themselves more as coaches, and less as bosses.
Get Used to Living in the “In-Between”
Learning to live in the “in-between” — where things are constantly changing and disappearing as new things come to light — is perhaps the most important mindset shift of the Emergent Era.
Having access to more data at a faster pace is giving us more options, but it’s also taking away the idea of “absolute certainty.” Many legacy tools aren’t sufficient to address the magnitude of possibilities and problems that lie ahead. So we must be creative and strategic in how we confront this constant change to ensure forward momentum. Current tools alone won’t be enough to solve every problem or to capitalize on every opportunity that emerges. Organizations will need strategic, creative people capable of inventing tools as they go — and of solving problems that haven’t even been considered yet.
Feedback Is Critical
It can’t be stated any more clearly than that: feedback is a critical component of success in the Emergent Era. Seek it. Give it. And, most importantly, make good use of it.
Feedback gives people permission to fail early and small, when then stakes are lower. When employees feel comfortable sharing progress early, the resulting product is stronger and more relevant to emerging customer needs and expectations. The incorporation of feedback as part of your process increases the probability that the products and process you build are driven by actual customer needs rather than what you perceive them to be.
Welcome to the Emergent Era
In the Emergent Era, companies that combine transparent, reliable information flows; continuous feedback systems; and meaningful intelligence will see solutions to their challenges consistently and spontaneously emerge.
That’s why at GE Digital, we are excited about the possibilities the Emergent Era brings with it. Our unique combination of digital development capabilities and deep industrial expertise, together with the support of our customer/partner ecosystem, gives us unique advantages in the Emergent Era.