COVID-19 has been a catalyst for disruption and businesses that are able to embrace change will thrive in the years to come. Those that moved quickly to adopt new technologies, mobilize their teams to work remotely, and develop creative ways to serve their customers can build on this positive momentum moving forward. Others that may be falling behind have opportunity to rethink traditional ways of working. What has become clear through the pandemic is that companies must be prepared for ongoing change, and a key part of accomplishing this is organizational resilience.
Famed American psychologist and Stanford professor Carol Dweck identified key differentiators of successful people through her extensive research on growth and fixed mindsets. Decades ago, Dweck began studying how children cope with failure, only to realize that “cope” was the wrong word. For some, failure was demotivating, while for others, it was an exciting new opportunity.
Her research centers around the concept that some people believe their success is based on innate ability, or having a “fixed” mindset,” while others believe their success is based on hard work, learning, and training as part of adopting a “growth mindset.” The notion of the “growth mindset” has become wildly adopted by forward-thinking companies today. People and organizations that embrace challenges, welcome feedback, and understand that mistakes and setbacks are a key part of learning are well positioned to continuously grow and evolve. Adopting a growth mindset can help companies manage their current performance while maximizing future opportunities for success.
To adopt a growth mindset, organizations need to evolve traditional ways of working and focus on setting their business up for success in the future. At NoW of Work, we help companies build greater resilience and agility and over the years we’ve seen many companies evolve rapidly to keep up with the changing times. Here, I share five common mindset shifts that have helped our clients make the most profound impact on their innovation and modernization journey. While each organization has its own unique needs, these mindset shifts have played a significant role in building our clients’ organizational resilience and ability to embrace and overcome disruptive events.
The first mindset shift we see growth-oriented companies adopting is gaining a global perspective. According to McKinsey, prioritizing innovation today is the key to unlocking post-crisis growth. How do leading organizations outside of your operating region improve their pace of work, generate new ideas, and build a company culture that supports the modern workforce?
I live in Vancouver, Canada, for example, and in this city pace of work and innovation is vastly different from other Canadian cities. Companies should look to other regions for inspiration rather than benchmarking themselves against similar companies nearby. Start looking at what leading organizations are doing outside of Canada and get inspiration from innovation hotspots like New York, Seattle, and Silicon Valley, and even on a global scale such as Tel Aviv, Singapore, and London. Too often companies will compare themselves to their past behaviours, or to businesses closest to them. When you open your mind to a broader set of inspiring companies and regions, your understanding of what’s possible will change.
Companies need to continuously evolve their offerings to align with changing customer behaviours and demand. We coach all our clients to consider the three horizons of innovation – inspired by McKinsey’s work over a decade ago – to ensure they are concurrently investing time and resources in each area. To support continued growth, successful companies innovate in multiple areas of focus – or as we call them, horizons. They often invest 70% of their time and resources in their current product and service offerings, 20% in emerging technologies, and 10% in moonshots or bigger ideas that help their business remain relevant today and build a solid foundation for growth and expansion tomorrow.
COVID-19 has forced companies to experiment more and invest in horizon 3 – emerging technologies. There is no guarantee that your current products, services, or business model will survive the next year, which is why a wait-and-see approach won’t work today. Instead, companies can look at opportunities outside of their current offerings, socialize them throughout their organization, and take greater control of the future.
Value creation and decision-making shouldn’t be centralized within the business. Ideas should be sourced from a variety of areas – from start-ups and large enterprises, to other business owners that are moving the needle. Thriving businesses understand and engage in innovation ecosystems to explore different concepts and develop new capabilities. Internally, companies must believe in team collaboration to develop an innovation ecosystem. Creativity lives in all areas of your business and the more you embrace diversity of thought and bring teams together, the more powerful ideas become.
The same holds true for external ecosystems. The hoarding of intellectual property is a behaviour of the past. Companies in the most innovative cities around the world understand that collaborating with others to solve similar problems is more productive and impactful than trying to solve it on your own. If you invest in horizon 3 – big ideas or moonshots – for example, you can look for opportunities to collaborate with a start-up rather than trying to hire a team to build an entirely new solution. This might be an obvious example of ecosystem collaboration, but the reality is that most businesses haven’t even taken this step.
I’m a big fan of setting objectives and key results (OKRs), which are even more valuable now as the pace of change and uncertainty is increasing. For example, when you combine OKRs with a scrum methodology – working with greater agility to solve problems – teams elevate their levels of collaboration, focus, and transparency in their work. People become self-managed, get more high value work done, and develop a mindset that allows them to pivot quickly alongside the broader organization. An operating model like this values progress over the pursuit of a perfect plan.
What’s interesting is that the idea of progress over perfection is quite far-reaching. Overthinking business cases can require months of research and executive endorsement before starting. Making incremental progress by building products and services with core features – also known as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) – will help you test the features, collect customer feedback, and measure against KPIs. This provides the flexibility needed to experiment with new offerings that have just enough features to satisfy the customer needs. This way, you learn – and fail – faster, continually rely on customers' insights instead of your own assumptions, and over time, you’ll build what the market actually wants and needs.
Progress over perfection in almost any context reduces procrastination, elevates team confidence through micro-wins, and encourages risk-taking with truly creative ideas. We often see this in our non-technical hackathons where our clients rally behind a problem, rapidly ideate, and build concepts ready for testing in less than a day.
The final mindset shift is being customer obsessed. Human-centricity is not a new concept and it extends well beyond design. It’s important to remember that your customers aren’t just those paying for your product or services – they are your team members, shareholders, and community. Resilient organizations understand that they exist to address the needs of all these groups.
Understanding your customer’s journey with your company and the experience that they seek motivates you to constantly improve while staying close to those that matter. For example, what are all the key milestones and events in a typical employee journey? Do these milestones match your culture and provide value and a great customer experience? Are you involving people from every department at every level in co-developing the experience? Or is your HR team developing programs in a silo and upon rolling them out, asks for feedback? We see far too many teams operating within their own boundaries – not just in HR, but in marketing, sales, operations, and every other area of the business.
Business resiliency and mindset shifts may appear to be today’s buzzwords, but in my view, while the definitions may be watered down in some circles, both are vital to the success of any organization. The economy will dip, demand will fluctuate, and the way business is done will continue to change. Those that adopt a forward-thinking mindset centered around continuous growth will be able to work with change to thrive in the future. To accomplish this, companies will need to have the right technology and systems in place to better manage the business and their workforce – from hiring on onboarding the right talent to ensuring a positive employee experience – so you can focus on driving the business forward and capitalizing on new and exciting growth opportunities.
Learn how the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada uses Powerpay to ensure its people are taken care of, so they can focus on championing change.
Rocky Ozaki is the Founder and CEO of NoW of Work, a business transformation firm that focuses on inspiring executive leaders and helping them build truly resilient organizations. Rocky has a self-diagnosed obsession with creating frameworks that empower companies to master the art of innovation and agility.View Collection