In a highly competitive environment where innovation and agility are vital, how do companies survive? The potential of blended technological and human capabilities - the collective intelligence - provides some answers.
The high innovation rate in many industries today pushes a steady stream of new products and solutions to the market. Since 2011, the global growth rate in R&D spending has exceeded the GDP growth rate, increasing innovation's share of economic activity substantially (Cornell University, INSEAD, and WIPO, 2020). Four industrial sectors make up around 70% of R&D spending, including ICT hardware and electronic equipment (23.5%), pharmaceuticals & biotechnology (18.8%), automobiles (15.6%), and software & ICT services (14.4%). For leadership, the level of innovation these sectors represent, combined with a highly competitive environment, makes running an organization today similar to competing in an Olympic sport.
To thrive in this shifting environment, organizational fitness is increasingly measured by the ability to handle change and, not least, to retain and motivate key personnel. The two goals are clearly intertwined. If changes are not managed well, employees become uncertain about their organization’s prospects and their role within it.
To deal with shifts and disruption, many organizations set their crosshair on becoming agile (Brosseau et al., 2019). Pursuing agile capabilities normally involves some level of organizational change, which by the way, is not easy. Today, a still growing number of organizations continue to deploy agile methodology to grow and support their business. According to a McKinsey report, 77% of change initiatives fail. However, other studies such as Candido and Santos (2015) question this and similar dismal figures. They claim that organizations are getting better at change.
At Mindpool, we have an optimistic outlook on change. To understand our stance, it is helpful to take a detour into how people struggle to form new habits.
Just like organizational change is difficult, so is forming new habits. People often try, and they often fail. Many books, apps, and other resources have emerged to help us with what, at times, seems like an insurmountable task of changing our bad habits into good ones. A piece of common advice advocated by these resources is the 1-minute rule: doing the desired activity frequently for one minute is superior to performing the activity less frequently but for longer sessions.
The key insight contained in the rule is that when forming new habits, repetition trumps volume. To underline its importance, the 1-minute rule is reflected in bestselling book titles like “Atomic Habits” and “Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything” (Clear, 2018; Fogg, 2019).
How is the 1-minute rule relevant for organizational change? Well, organizational change is all about getting people to do new things in new ways. For much of the same reasons that people resist forming new habits (and some additional ones), they resist organizational change. Doing new things in new ways is uncomfortable. It brings uncertainty.
By the analogy of habit change, Mindpool makes organizations more agile through repetition. Mindpool asks employees to predict organizational performance in the upcoming months during short individual query sessions. During these rounds, Mindpool encourages them to reflect individually on the workings of their organization and share their opinions about performance and actionable suggestions. If only for a few minutes, peoples’ attention shifts to include functional units beyond their own unit and even outside of the organization.
This process also taps into the repository of peoples’ tacit knowledge who collectively have accumulated a wealth of insights about the workings of the organization. When employees later read what insights colleagues in other units give through Mindpool, new organizational perspectives start to form. Knowledge seeps across functional units, hierarchies, and silos. Knowledge is decentralized.
We can say that Mindpool takes the role of the organization's bridge builders; those key persons whose informal networks span different functional units and who connect people and ideas across the structural holes and silos. This is important because agility depends on people making those cross-functional connections, helping knowledge flow.
Of equal importance to bridge-building is that the exercise is repeated in regular intervals, creating frequency - the foundation for real change. This has two important implications. First, the Mindpool sessions are a call to take a step up and contribute to collective leadership. Even if everybody in the organization has different roles and different spheres of interest, leadership is there for everyone. It is the distribution of influence across the organization. This is even more evident if your organization has a clear purpose to deliver on (By, 2020). Or as McKinsey calls it, agile needs its North star, and unless you got it, don’t pursue becoming agile (Aghina et al., 2018).
Secondly, the mental energy expended during these sessions not only starts changing peoples' organizational mindset but for the organization as a whole, so the process results in highly actionable insights. During Mindpool sessions, the employees’ mental efforts add up to a greater joint effort, creating a collective intelligence. This is what we call mindpooling. Mindpooling builds a stronger collective IQ, which cannot be achieved by leadership alone. The collective intelligence picks up on early warning signals as well as opportunities facing the organization.
Are you ready to tap into your organization’s intelligence and start mindpooling?
For any organization that aspires to become agile, the mindset changes and actionable insights from the Mindpool sessions will give it a head start. Does your organization aim to become agile?
Support the journey. Let Mindpool be the tiny change that changes everything, just like the 1-minute rule.
Aghina, W., De Smet, A., Lackey, G., Lurie, M., & Murarka, M. (2018). The five trademarks of agile organizations. McKinsey Report.
Aronowitz, Steven, Aaron De Smet, and Deirdre McGinty. "Getting organizational redesign right." McKinsey Quarterly June (2015): 1-11.
Brosseau, D., Ebrahim, S., Handscomb, C., & Thaker, S. (2019). The journey to an agile organization. McKinsey & Company, May, 10.
By, R. T. (2020). Leadership: In Pursuit of Purpose. Journal of Change Management, 1-15.
Candido, C., & Santos, S. P. D. (2015). Strategy implementation: What is the failure rate?. Journal of Management & Organization, 21(02), 237-262.
Clear, J. (2018). Atomic habits: An easy & proven way to build good habits & break bad ones. Penguin.
Cornell University, INSEAD, and WIPO (2020). The Global Innovation Index 2020: Who Will Finance Innovation? Ithaca, Fontainebleau, and Geneva.
Fogg, B. J. (2019). Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
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