Today, leaders in government, corporations and the third sector face a new landscape of disruption and uncertainty. It is a level of radical uncertainty that few have ever experienced and they are not prepared. Here Total Business hears from Nik Gowing and Chris Langdon of ‘Thinking the Unthinkable’ on what many top business leaders are deeply concerned about.
Most business leaders are not equipped to understand the enormity of the challenge to everything they have long been prepared for and assumed. After four years of study, we found that the conformity that gets you to the top, in many ways now disqualifies you from understanding and appreciating the enormity of disruption, its implications, and how to handle it.
What we have identified is something that every leader is deeply concerned about. We have had hundreds of conversations and interviews. Leaders tell us confidentially they are ‘scared’ and ‘overwhelmed’ by the acute pressures of the ‘short term’.
The key lesson is to accept the scale of unthinkables with a new courage and humility. It is about leaders opening their eyes to unthinkables. Leaders should accept the inevitability of unpalatables – the black elephants in the room – the issues that are, apparently, too difficult to handle.
There must be a new culture, behaviour and mindset. There are no easy solutions: how could there be in a world of unprecedented and unexpected disruption?
After years of working with the world’s top business leaders we have developed a five step process. We call them ‘the TTU progressions’. They are sequential stages through which leaders and their organisation can travel to find their own individual solutions:
- Status quo. This is the situation most business leaders find themselves in:; conformity, short-term thinking, a blame culture and other embedded traits of behaviour stop them from understanding and embracing the scale of the disruption, so they can’t begin to address it. The first step is to acknowledge this.
- Audit the external reality. Understand and embrace the new realities of the extraordinary, disrupted world we now live Consider the unthinkables and unpalatables that will impact, disrupt and possibly destroy your organisation.
- Audit the internal reality. Understand and define, frankly, the nature and impact of what confronts you as a What behaviour, cultures, mindsets and structures prevent you and your organisation from dealing successfully with the new, fast-evolving external and internal challenges you face?
- Address your With a new awareness of the scale of what you face, and the resources available to handle it, discover and scope your own unique ways to deal with disruption and change. Assess your abilities to embrace disruption and adapt to it. Be inspired by the details in the case studies we have found and others.
- Thrive on There is no one-size-fits-all solution. So through these progressions this process of adaptation must be iterative, loosely structured, flexible and inspiring. It must become a core way through which you and your organisation think and work. As our case studies highlight, the need to be super sensitive and flexible is paramount.
The final word to leaders is this. Disruption is changing very quickly all that leaders have assumed. You have to be courageous enough to recalibrate leadership skills smartly, and at high speed. Leadership needs to be brave and humble enough to realise this.