Have you ever wondered about the intricate web of influences that shape your business? Are your leaders equipped with the necessary discernment and systemic thinking to navigate today's complex landscape? In this blog, I uncover these interwoven and interconnected forces. Explore this critical topic and delve into the importance of preparedness in the face of these interconnected dynamics.
Tension endures because the nature of all things is cyclical, like the ocean tides or the seasons; we are all influenced by constant movement in our environment. That movement produces tension as we release what was to step into what’s emerging. Not always comfortable, the cycles demand that we strengthen our ability to pull back for perspective and perceive what’s occurring through a more holistic and systemic lens. Every person has their cycles of growth and development. However, these cycles don’t happen in a vacuum. Cycles interconnect and intertwine. Our recognition and understanding of those cycles change as our life context evolves. Societal shifts in education, economics, governance, and ecology add to the tension pressure. Then, we must also consider the role of technology in this complex network of systems.
I’ve been reflecting on the post-Davos conversations in podcasts and online journalism because these express what’s raising and lowering blood pressure for global business leaders, the people I serve as a generative professional coach. One of the toughest challenges for business leaders arises from the unintended consequences of pursuing what otherwise seems a strong strategy for growth and sustaining performance excellence. Perceiving interconnections and less obvious causes and effects has become an essential leadership capability to strengthen. Creating moments (hopefully many) for being reflective and prospective, together with peers, produces a more robust understanding of what’s occurring. Exploring the complete picture of what’s happening is one tactic to break the spell of unconscious autopilot created by our tendency to rely on preferences, biases, assumptions, and habits. While operating from experience when we recognize a familiar pattern appears to be a productivity hack, it also risks missing critical indicators of change emerging that require a fresh response.
One particular podcast hosted by the Financial Times during Davos entitled, How is Generative AI Driving Business Reinvention demonstrated this point. The four leaders on the panel shared their stories about implementing AI generally and, now specifically, the capabilities through generative AI. They highlighted both reasons for optimism and words of caution for all leaders to consider for their strategies. Each leader is worthy of following in the months to come.
- Jean-Marc Ollagnier, CEO, Europe Middle East Africa at Accenture
- Barbara Lavernos, Deputy Chief Executive Officer L’Oréal
- Barbara Karuth-Zelle, Group COO and Member of the Management Board Allianz
- Nikola Hagleitner CEO, Post and Parcel Germany, Deutsche Post DHL; Member the board of Management DHL Group
I can’t think of a sector of business unaffected by the speed of technological innovation, and that means that the workplace climate and employee experience have a multiplicity of impacts from that same phenomenon. I was looking at how these are intertwined, which shows why big decisions, such as “return to work,” become intractable to decide and stand by. The table below highlights several impacts, showing the interconnectedness.
The resilient US economy in 2023 empowered workers. Workers value flexibility – 68% of hybrid, 67% of remote only, and 49% of onsite workers prioritize workplace flexibility options.
Bottomline: Talent retention and attraction tactics require a mindset for flexibility (versus tradition or returning to the way it was). (The Corporate Learning Network JAN 2024)
Just 15% of survey respondents work entirely in-person—versus 53% hybrid and 32% remote-only.
Bottomline: Firms that don’t offer flexible options will face an increasingly limited hiring pool. (The Conference Board Survey JAN 2024)
CTO for ZOOM “XD” as he’s known (Xuedong Huang) shared that it took 16 years for iPhone usage to reach 100 million users; ChatGPT took three months.
Bottomline: The profoundly different adoption rate reveals the importance of removing barriers to interfacing with technology to win the productivity race.
Conservative estimates from the 2024 Davos event put up-skilling needs as essential for at least 40 and likely 60% of any company’s workforce. L’Oréal’s first course was entitled, The Art of the Prompt.”
Bottomline: Leaders must wholeheartedly believe and be courageous to engage all employees to benefit from the unique opportunity for innovation that Gen AI presents.
Accenture surveys their customer CEOs in advance of Davos. In just one year, technology disruption moved from ‘not on the list’ to the ‘top of the list.’ Leaders believe that technology impacts all parts of the value chain. CEOS shared these perspectives:
- 64% of consumers want companies to respond faster to their changing needs.
- 88% of companies know that customer is changing faster than their businesses can keep up.
- 62% of every workday is lost to repetitive, mundane tasks.
Bottomline: There is a gold mine for productivity improvement, profitability improvement, and redeployment of resources to grow; it may be the source of survival. This technology wave will drive another decade of societal and economic change.
All Davos panelists declared the importance of technology and generative AI expressly to be acknowledged as “augmented intelligence.” More opportunities for creativity open by replacing boring and repetitive tasks.
Bottomline: Leaders must replace fear of job loss with inspiration for new roles and include the workforce in the design from the start (e.g., DHL has their union personnel working on the “how” alongside engineers coding)
Alliance focuses on moving beyond productivity-based investments for cost reduction to strengthen curiosity and critical thinking for innovation and growth.
Two Bottomlines: Up-skilling must focus on human development for curiosity and discernment so workers can leverage the processing power of generative AI to produce business outcomes.
The novelty of reverse mentoring by digital natives for other generations of leaders likely becomes necessary to accelerate the application of learning and use of the new technology.
Any news story on AI generally and generative AI specifically highlights ethical and moral risks with the breadth and open-source design of large language models. Controlling the application of generative AI to internal data becomes the basis for customer interaction. A surprising downside to this is the cost of energy consumption. Bloomberg Businessweek reported that coal plants are sticking around to fill the power shortfall caused by generative AI usage.
Bottomline: Companies, states, nations, and the Planet must consider the problem of energy demand.
What are the intertwining, interconnected influences in your business? I hope I’ve offered one way to start placing the disparate pieces into a new holistic view with this one example that brings talent, technology, learning, energy, ethics, and economics into transparent interdependency. How prepared are your leaders today to exercise discernment and engage with a bias toward systemic thinking?
Experienced with individuals at the Board of Directors, “C” Chair, Executive and Senior Management levels, Janet assists executives in adopting effective habits of perception and behavior to lead and accelerate corporate strategies. Typical engagements address executive development in the following areas: articulate and inspire through clarity of vision, enable respectful challenge, debate and catalyze synergy for strategic business choices, risk/reward critical thinking about investments and shareholder value, plan leader succession and architect sustainable cultural/strategic change.
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