Monthly Archives: November 2014

Why I Love Transformation (and Sailing Ships!)

Transformation is about profound change. Peter Drucker predicted that by 2020 a new world – completely different form our grandparents’ reality – would exist. Drucker, father of modern management, explained in a 1992 essay for Harvard Business Review, that “every few hundred years throughout Western history, a sharp transformation has occurred. In a matter of decades, society altogether rearranges itself – its worldview, its basic values, its social and political structures, its arts, its key institutions.”

It is a privilege to live through transformation; to be given the opportunity to see how society rearranges itself over the course of the years; to experience our grandparents’ reality along with our children’s triumphs and challenges. But no privilege comes without responsibility and I feel extremely responsible having been given the opportunity at a young age to take a step back and experience a bygone era; in my case, an era of sailing ships, leisure travel, unchartered waters and traditional navigational tools like compass and sextant.

Pacific Swift First Offshore

Last year I wrote about what I had learnt about leadership on a 111 foot topsail schooner. This year I am grappling with how to be leaders in an age of transformation. The 2014 Global Drucker Forum focused on Transformation: Managing Our Way to Prosperity and it got me thinking about how we are given gifts through our experience and upbringing and how these gifts – when aligned correctly – can help us be able to “see around corners” and build a future in a transforming world; a world, as Drucker says, completely different from the one our grandparents and even parents grew up in.

I grew up on sailing ships; traditional wooden sailing ships that had very few comforts beyond a bunk, a well-stocked galley kitchen, and solidly built hull and rigging. How did this prepare me for thinking about transformation? I think living simply helps us to see something right in front of all of us: humanity. I think that with a human focus and finding those things that connect us all – the shining Southern Cross constellation, dolphins playing at the bow, lava rolling into a frothy sea off the Hawaiian Islands or voices joined in chorus to accompany raising sails – we are more prepared to see how we can keep continuity, stay relevant and move towards bettering our organizational practices even in a completely transformed (and transforming) society.

Transformation is about profound change so we must dig deep to find the simple things that connect us all. We must align ourselves with human interest and a larger purpose in order to survive and be relevant as the world changes around us.

Aristotle said that society is something that precedes the individual. If society undergoes change we cannot look to further individual or even organizational goals but rather have those goals connected to something larger.

EMC

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Savvy Saturday November 22, 2014

“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

— William Gibson

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2014 Drucker Forum: Have we reached a turning point?

There was so much discussion at the 6th Annual Global Peter Drucker Forum last week that it is difficult to find a place to start. In fact, this could be said also about the theme of this year’s forum: The Great Transformation.

Where do we start in a world that is constantly changing, where markets are in flux and industries can be redefined in a matter of a couple of years? Are companies like Apple, Google, Uber, Zappos, Amazon, the new norm? What about the role of Government and Education?

The answers to these questions cannot be tightly organized into a bullet list or an action plan. The reason being is that leadership in times of transformation is dynamic and there is a need to balance the fact that challenges/competition/disruptions exist while embracing a sense of optimism and belief in what managers (who Drucker called “society’s leadership group”) can help create and deliver.

Who said leadership was easy?

Perhaps one place to start is with Clayton Christensen’s talk. He spoke about growth and the fact that we need to explore new ideas of growth – not the ideas that economists would have us believe or what investment bankers use to measure growth. No, Christensen talked about growth in terms of innovation. At the Forum he described three types of innovations:

  • Market Creating Innovations

These innovations make products or services more affordable or accessible. A computer, for example, has moved from mainframe, PC, to smartphone.

  • Sustaining Innovations

These innovations help margins improve and help make good products even better. They don’t necessarily create growth because they are replacing in nature.

  • Efficiency Innovations

These innovation “do more with less” – sometimes eliminating jobs in order to free up cash flow.

One takeaway from the Forum is that these innovations must be in balance in order for an economy to work well. One action is that free cash should be used in market creating innovations in order to truly create worthwhile value for the organization, stakeholders and communities. This is a challenge because, as Christensen pointed out, our current metrics that we use to base investment decisions (like Internal Rate of Return) will tell us to keep being more efficient.

If we are living in a time of great transformation, efficiencies alone will not help us. Efficiency must be balanced with market creating and sustaining innovations. We need more people to have access to innovations, more people employed to deliver on those innovations and for our economies to grow.

It comes back to the leadership question: how do we build an organization that can change as fast as change itself? How can we embrace change while knowing that we still can do better and that change is continuous? Perhaps it is in balance (economists and nutritionists will tell us this!) or perhaps it is simply shifting our focus towards building a self-renewing organization – one that is always renewing how it connects, engages, and provides purpose to people – rather than building organizations that only deliver value to shareholders.

EMC

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Savvy Saturday November 8, 2014

I will be participating in the 6th Global Drucker Forum in Vienna next week. Looking forward to meeting people from all over the world that share Drucker’s timeless ideas on management thinking. Today, I would like to encourage you to look at the winning Global Challenge entries (video and essay format).

Today’s quote is the inspiration behind this year’s Drucker Challenge theme: “Lost in Digital Wonderland – Finding a Path in the Global Knowledge Society”.

“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.
Alice: …So long as I get somewhere.
The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

– EMC

Savvy Saturday November 1st, 2014

November: the last month of autumn, but the beginning of a new adventure; time to take risks and do the unexpected.

– Author unknown.

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