They used to say there were just two types of people in the Old West – the Quick and the Dead. The Quick knew that it came down to not only talent and ideas, but execution. The Dead thought only talent mattered — with predictable results.
Moore’s law predicted the raw processing and storage capacity that has made the World Wide Web possible and has taken us into an electronically connected world. Today people are connected not only to each other but also to each others knowledge. It is said that by the year 2010 the cumulative codified knowledge of the world will double every 11 hours (in 1975 it was every seven years). The insight you have at night will be outdated by daybreak. The shelf life of knowledge will be the same as that for a banana.
So the long-term value of knowledge has just taken a nosedive. Knowledge is still power. It’s just that the longevity of that power has been dramatically reduced. This means that we now work in a world in which the opportunities available to us and our organizations are growing exponentially — and because everyone is connected to the knowledge, everyone is connected to the opportunities. So, if your company is not pursuing the opportunities and the competitive advantage that is contained in this exponentially- growing knowledge base, rest assured one of your competitors is.
Competitive advantage today lies in an organization’s ability to exploit this explosion of knowledge and see the opportunities before anyone else does. Those companies that can consistently do this faster than their competitors will thrive and prosper while the others wither and die.
Back when the “machine” was the centre of a typical organization’s uni- verse, the role of management was to surround their machines with procedures and then to use their will to get people to follow the procedures to serve the machine. In a knowledge based society, it is human innovation which creates competitive advantage, “value” and wealth. One of the most effective ways of creating new knowledge is for two or more people to combine their existing knowledge to produce something entirely new. This is the basis of creative thinking. Mix existing pieces of knowledge over heated and excited discussion and there is no telling what will emerge (think MySpace, Google, Yahoo).
Today, management’s job is to surround their people with an environment that gets them working and building together, an atmosphere that promotes the leveraging of the creativity and knowledge of others to acquire/build and productize new knowledge on a constant basis. There are three things that managers and their leaders need to do, and do well, to build such an environment.
The first is to help people to believe in themselves. Today’s winning organizations are ones in which its employees are taking it to new places. They are trying new things. They are making mistakes, learning from these mistakes and moving on (think Disney, Microsoft). When they get stuck or go off into the weeds, the employees of these winning organizations are the first to recognize it and they freely put up their hand and ask for help. The degree to which people believe in them- selves is a measure of your organization’s Emotional Intelligence (EI).
The second is to build an organization in which people care about each other. How can caring produce a culture that produces a winning bottom line? The answer was most eloquently articulated by Jean Autry, the former CEO of the Publisher Group, when he said, “I need to know that you care before I care to know what you know.” Caring is the basis of trust. If I know that you care about me and my success then I can trust you. If I can trust you, I can speak openly and frankly with you. If I can speak openly and frankly with you, we can solve problems together. If we can solve problems together, then we can leverage each others creativity and knowledge to build competitive advantage (think Pixar, Apple). The ability of its people to trust is a measure of your organization’s Relationship Intelligence (RI).
The third environment-building thing that a manager has to do is instill common cause. In winning organizations, employ- ees have a deep and common understanding of the organization’s desired future. But not only do they understand the organization’s goals and objectives, they believe in them (think Cisco, Starbucks). Achieving them is personally meaningful. The strength of attachment of your people to your desired future is a measure of your organization’s Corporate Intelligence (CI).
Today, more than ever, companies need leaders capable of engaging a community of people with a common mission who are willing to routinely operate at levels of peak performance. This has deep implications for whom you hire, which aptitudes and qualities you recruit and how you lead. Skillfully combining EI, RI and CI produces leadership Equity the organizational equivalent of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing – employees who are plugged-in, turned-on and in-tune with your organization.
Two real-world examples:
1. CML Emergency Services in Hull Quebec went from worst to first and into a $70-million merger in under 10 months in the skilled hands of new leadership.
2. Customer Service Direct, a joint venture between Suffolk County Council and British Telecom, grew from zero to 800 employees and zero to 40 million pounds sterling and the break even point in one year.
Increasing the value of your company is not just about “collecting talented people.” It’s about aligning your people with the company’s overall strategy — getting them to buy in and commit to a common vision. More importantly, it’s about compelling them to work toward an idea not because you told them to – but because you’ve given them impassioned reasons to do it. That’s how organizations compete profitably in a knowledge based economy as centres of excellence – without leaving dead bodies at every gun fight.
David Perry, BA MM, is an atypical management consultant with Perry-Martel International. David is a published author, thought leader on recruiting executive search, and an intellectually rigorous business person. Ken Suddaby MD, FRCPC, is principal, organizational health with Totem Hill. Ken uses his knowledge of relationship systems to implement detailed change strategies specifically and uniquely tailored to each client. Ron Wiens, M.Sc., is principal, strategic leadership with Totem Hill. Ron has devoted his career to helping leaders effect real, sustainable, and bottom-line enhancing change in their organizations. His new book Building Organizations that Leap Tall Buildings in a Single Bound is a must read for all leaders serious about change..