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Building your foundation for the future

There’s no question that 2020 has been the year observing accelerated change. In fact, I’d go so far as to say there’s been more change this year than there was across the past 5 years combined. And I’m not the only one:

Regardless of what industry you’re in, the cause-and-effect of what’s happening here is pretty straightforward. What’s more unclear though is the longevity of the structural shifts underway, what this can tell us about the emerging winners and losers - and what we need to do to keep up with it all.

Which is why I wanted to put together this post - tying this all back to a concept you’ll already be familiar with: Exponential change & Moore’s law.

Conventional management theory would highlight two different paths towards dealing with this challenge. 

Profound Organisational Transformation - refactoring the organisational operating system, e.g. changing the way we work by moving to agile-at-scale.

Systematic Re-invention - taking onboard the s-curve principle and acknowledging the need to establish new businesses (or new business models) over time. 

Which brings me to the other point of reference myself and the team have been exploring. There is an alternative way of thinking about this, which we believe holds more pragmatism for CEOs today: Exponential Foundations

The business leaders we’re speaking to are seeking the foundational qualities needed for this kind of growth, resilience and agility. It’s not about “being exponential” - it’s about the capabilities underpin your organisation which enables adaptability to change. 

Let’s take a closer look:

Vendor independent.High growth, resilient and differentiated businesses do not succumb to vendor lock-in or risk innovating at the pace that their software providers allow them to. They recognise there is a vast eco-system out there of the right talent and technology that can be tapped into for different ventures, and they utilise different partners who can provide the specialised help they need, tailored to their requirements.

Many leaders today would refer to their organisation or services as “digital-first” (or at least, that’s what they’re working towards). What we see differentiating those most resilient today are the businesses taking an alternative “data-first” approach, as in, all decisions, strategies and operations are driven by data above all else.

Predictive and forward-learning.
Where traditional strategic planning has leaders looking at past events and using lagging measures like revenue to help determine future areas of growth, those with exponential potential are instead using leading metrics (such as their NPS scores, pipeline data and customer perception measures of their points of difference). Their focus is on using data that can be used to predict outcomes, not just measure what’s currently happening.

Open and accessible assets.
When approaching technology investments and new product development, we’re seeing the fastest-growing organisations keeping one eye fixated on future re-use of their assets. Their tech is often API-centric or will provide key infrastructure for future investments. Equally, they remove roadblocks for external providers to help with developing or acquiring these assets while looking ahead at how they will be able to scale across wider ventures. 

Insightful and intelligent.
Information is static. It ages quickly/represents what’s happened in the past - and it can only be as good as those with the capabilities to draw insights from it. This is a key differentiator we see as part of an exponential foundation. Leaders are using data not to form reports and store for future use. They’re ensuring this information is brought to life with technology that can tell you what the data means, in the moment. 

Empowered and augmented people.

This element has two facets. First, these organisations practice true agile - giving their people the ability to make decisions not bound by structure, and driven by their customers. Second, they automate the work that can be automated, and invest in the tools that can augment their people. They recognise that technology is there to make people great, not replace them.

Looking at these characteristics, it’s easy to understand why in the past many would have been seen as a “nice to have”. Today though, what’s become abundantly clear is that building this kind of foundation is not just imperative to grow. It’s what’s needed to even compete.

We’re confident that you could show us an organisation that’s winning today… and we’ll demonstrate to you the exponential foundation underpinning their success. Which begs the question: is your organisation developing the foundational qualities it needs in order to grow?