In my previous post I talked about empathy —the ability to imagine what someone else is feeling— and the need to train this skill in order to manage businesses and organisations in the digital age.
To compete in the new environment, we need to innovate. And innovating isn’t possible if we can’t observe others to determine which small or significant changes to our products or services would improve their experience.
The truth is that observing others, drawing conclusions and changing our ways of doing things or our business model will not be feasible if we encounter resistance within our organisation from higher powers, who are ultimately responsible for making the final decisions.
This is the main obstacle being reported (off the record) by mid-level managers, who are generally young professionals who have already acquired some experience and are very keen to promote creativity for the purpose of innovation, but are seeing their initiatives prevented from beginning, for example, market research studies or having the results of said research taken into consideration from a self-critical standpoint. They come up against the powerful giants who oppose the review of the corporate culture, or are ignored when they suggest significant modifications to the business model.
It is said that “research turns money into knowledge and innovation turns knowledge into money.” That is, we need to find out where to go next and then create disruptive actions to change the direction that we’re heading in with the aim of making money and competing.
In the current economic climate, the strategic issues most commonly found within organisations are:
- A vision that is focused on the short term
- Focusing on the product and not the market (low marketing budget)
- Panic regarding the risk that innovation implies
- Lack of a culture of creative teamwork
- Continuing to ignore the global context (competitors will come from anywhere and everywhere)
The fear and short-sightedness of many leaders — in terms of first-line Directors and Managers, not CEOs — is the main cause of the rapid turnover of talent that is experienced by many companies. Nowadays, experienced young professionals prefer to leave rather than becoming frustrated. And this causes great losses for the company.
This is why CEOs are emphasising the importance of training for innovation. They need their first-line managers to develop new skills in order to break through the organisational blockage.
According to research, the 5 features that need to be developed —because they will make the difference between a Leader-Manager and the rest— lie in the following competencies:
- Association: the ability to see connections between questions, issues and ideas from fields that are not related to one another.
- Asking: posing questions that will challenge common knowledge instead of sticking with past experiences.
- Observing: monitoring the behaviours of customers, suppliers and competitors in order to identify new ways of doing things.
- Experimenting: building interactive experiences and triggering unorthodox responses to see what kind of experiences emerge from them.
- Networking: forming relationships with people whose ideas and perspectives are different to our own.
These are the characteristics of the individuals who are leading and managing Amazon, Apple, Google, Skype, Facebook, Virgin Group, Nespresso and Uber.
These companies have made it to their current position in this digital age due not only to the vision of their CEOs or creators, but also because of their consistent attention to their senior managers that allows them to develop the new skills that are required in this economy of knowledge, which is nothing more than an economy that invests in human and social capital and promotes innovation.