Innovation in people

Time to find the balance and reignite old skills.

The Digital Revolution should have led to greater knowledge but arguably has led to less reflection and thought.
There is no doubt that the digital revolution has changed the way the world behaves. Everyone is interconnected, with knowledge at their fingertips, constantly accessible. It has opened the doors to a greater transparency, openness and sense of globalization.

However, it has also created changes in behaviours – especially in work – that need to be redressed and balanced. In 1997, the average executive received 25 letters per day. Today, the average executive receives over 150 emails. The human mind is only “created” to take on the detail of around 35 per day which means that every day, executives are pushing their limits. Hardly any lunch or meeting is not disturbed by the mobile phone – whether to check an email or text.

Almost everyone today is fully accessible via the digital – whether email, text, LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. Communication is free and easy and yet it is arguably harder than ever for leaders and business to communicate their message as there is so much noise. It is estimated that the average middle manager is 25% less knowledgeable today about political leaders and issues. Ask a random group at work who the Home Secretary is and see if they know the answer? In the 70s and 80s, most of the cabinet were household names.

It is true that there is more knowledge shared today but not always relevant knowledge. Knowledge today is diluted through the waves of “random” data through Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Is this important?

It is also estimated that average middle manager knows 20% less today about their competition and the market. In 1997, the average middle executive could name an average of 10 Industry leaders from their sector. Today it is less than 4. Again why not ask a random group if they can name the CEOs of their competitor set. It is also argued that there is less problem solving taking place within the business environment and that informal communication has fallen.

Maybe more importantly:

It is estimated that 1:4 Executives suffer from mental illness – whether that’s stress, fatigue or worse. Executives are understandably tired of reading the written word – hence there is a dramatic fall in newspaper circulation – and a desire for visual content.

70% of emails are often dealing with internal rather than external issues. Is it therefore logical that many do not have a greater understanding of the external markets and competition? Many boards ask why new talent is not breaking through. Is it all interconnected? 

A key question to ask at this point is what do people want? We have spent a considerable amount of time asking this question to executives and the answers are aligned to a world from a previous time:

  • More personal interaction and trust within business
  • More time to just reflect
  • A desire for more social informality and communications
  • To see greater accessibility to leaders and to understand the business vision
  • To enjoy sessions where the mobile is banned from use.
  • To see people’s behaviours be more focused on individuals
  • To see increased investment in individuals and knowledge share. It is believed that investment in training has fallen quite considerably.
  • To show leadership in the community. Many believe that leaders are too focused on shareholder value and not enough on other core issues such as people, the teams and the community in which the companies operate.

There is a greater social consciousness beginning to arise but people do understand there needs to be a balance. It is all about balance and businesses are beginning to work on frameworks that:

  • Create social hubs for informal discussion Q Ensure that leaders are once again accessible and developing an emotional connection with their teams. (The British are tribal and do desire personal leadership not brand leadership)
  • Develop a framework for greater reflection
  • Look at techniques to manage the flow of emails and communication
  • Create a greater framework for knowledge share and connecting
  • Develop strong communications
  • Invest in training – often on individual development plans.

The change is less about any dramatic investment in cost and more about behaviours, values, communications and knowledge share. This is where the work does need to take place. Companies will need to re-think HR. There is genuine change happening – whether that is coming from the exit from Europe, the rise of the gig economy, changes in models or just with the need to retain talent. Strategies do need to think about their team’s development, their welfare but also how they engage both internally and externally.

It is a challenge but one with solutions that do exist and have been proven in the past. It is renewing many old methods combined with the new.