Monday, January 18, 2016

Exponential Organisations and Leadership Wisdom!

Never in human history have we seen so many technologies coming together at such a rapid pace. "Moore's Law" has seen the doubling of price/performance in computing continue uninterrupted for half a century. But the same is true of information. Once any domain, discipline, technology, or industry becomes information-enabled, its price/performance begins doubling every year or two.

Ray Kurzweil, co-founder of Singularity University, calls this the Law of Accelerating Returns (LOAR).

We are entering the age of the exponential organisation driven by a new breed of newly democratised, exponential technologies. But who will lead these organisations, and will they do so with wisdom?

According to Salim Ismail and co-authors of the book, Exponential Organizations, we are facing four historically unique levels of convergence:
  1. The continuous acceleration of specific computation technologies occurring in areas such as Infinite Computing, Networks/Sensors, Artificial Intelligence, Digital Manufacturing and Synthetic Biology.
  2. The convergence of these technologies - the intersection of Networks, AI and 3D printing - will soon allow anyone to describe their thoughts. Every one of us, with or without skills, becomes a master designer and manufacturer.
  3. The number of digitally connected people on Earth will grow from 2 billion in 2010 to at least 5 billion by 2020. What will that enable? what will they build?
  4. The rate of innovation on Earth increases as a direct effect of people concentrating in cities. The proportion of urban dwellers globally crossed the 50% threshold for the first time in human history  5 years ago. Soon, the global mind of 5 billion connected people will drive the most rapid iteration of technology ever seen.
Yet, while the authors breathlessly extoll the virtues of technology to solve the problems of humanity, they remain blindly optimistic about exactly how to engage, motivate or lead the people who will be living through these changes.

Disruption is the catch-cry of the digitised economy. Yet in reality, disruption deals with death and rebirth. "What's dying is an old civilization, predicated on the mindset of "me" - maximum material consumption, bigger is better, and special-interest-group-driven decision making that has led us into a state of organised irresponsibility, collectively creating results that nobody wants", writes the MIT Economist Otto Scharmer in his seminal book, Leading From The Emerging Future.

What we need is a social methodology of change that matches the sophistication of the new information paradigm. And more urgently, a methodology that does so with wisdom!

Preparing leaders for the exponential organisations of the emerging future involves 7 elements according to Scharmer and the faculty at MITs Presencing Institute:

1. Global classroom
A blended technology approach combining live-streamed classroom sessions and mini-lectures with highly interactive small-group practice.

2. Deep dives into inspiring local, regional, and global hot spots of innovation
Total immersion journeys (actual, not virtual) that allow learners to feel, empathise, and connect with multiple perspectives.

3. Awareness-based leadership technologies
Mindful leadership and awareness-based leadership technologies that link the intelligences of head, heart, and hand.

4. Presencing coaching circles
Peer circles of 5 to 7 members that use deep listening-based coaching practices to hold the space for individual and shared renewal.

5. Action learning
Taking part in challenges to co-create hands-on prototype solutions that are helpful to a specific community or stakeholder constellation.

6. Innovation hubs
Innovation happens in places. So, create a place conducive to integrating the intelligence of head, heart, and hand, not only for individuals but also for communities of innovators.

7. Individualized lifelong learning
From this deep place of awakening, activating, and strengthening the capacity to be an entrepreneur within (or without) an exponential organisation, who designs your curriculum? The answer is, you!

However, most companies and institutions are responding to the challenge by doing more of the same: Cutting costs and becoming more lean and mean, but not reinventing themselves. Scharmer says "in order to facilitate profound innovation, leaders need to shift their mindset from ego-system to eco-system awareness and practice".

Are you and your organisation making the shift?