Revolutions Need Leaders

Have new material delivered to your Inbox as it's released.


Revolutions Need Leaders

The world is entering its fourth Industrial Revolution, often called Industry 4.0.  And while Western countries ruled the first three industrial revolutions, the economies that will dominate the 4.0 World is yet to be determined. 

The future is up for grabs. The question is, what will be the differentiator for winning organizations in the 4.0 World?  

The first Industrial Revolution was powered by the steam engine and led to the mechanization of work. The second revolution, driven by the electric motor, led to the electrification of factories and machinery, which in turn enabled mass production on a grand scale. The third revolution, which occurred in the second half of the twentieth century, introduced computers to the workplace and led to the automation of both back-office administration and the factory floor.

The common theme of these revolutions was the reduction of the organization’s dependence on its human capital. Industry 4.0 is about to change that.

Industry 4.0 is driven by a digitally connected world. In the emerging 4.0 World, people are connected not only to each other, but also to each other’s knowledge. The impact of this connectivity is best summed up by the following observation made by Dr. Nick Bontis from McMaster University:

“In the 1930s, the cumulative codified (i.e., written down) knowledge base of the world doubled every 30 years…. In the 1970s… it doubled every 7 years.”

Bontis predicted in 2000 that by 2010 the world’s codified knowledge would double every 11 hours.

We may or may not have reached that fateful 11-hour figure, but what we do know for certain is that we now live and work in a world in which knowledge is growing exponentially. Since knowledge equals opportunity, this means that the opportunities available to organizations are also growing exponentially. And because everyone is connected to this knowledge, everyone is connected to the emerging opportunities. Competitive advantage today lies in an organization’s ability to exploit this knowledge and spot the opportunities before anyone else. Companies that can consistently do this faster than their competition will thrive. Constant innovation is the defining characteristic of the 4.0 World.

An interesting by-product of this knowledge explosion is that the days of the all-knowing, all-seeing manager are over. Knowledge workers today are often more aware of the emerging opportunities than their managers are. No, managers have not gotten dumber, rather employees have gotten smarter – or at least better educated.

Organizations are now filled to the brim with highly educated knowledge workers. That’s a key difference between now and the First Industrial Revolution, when our current management systems were invented. Here’s a nice bit of alignment: we have an explosion of knowledge at the same time that we have a growth in the capability of the organization’s employees to understand and make use of this knowledge.

The continued prosperity of already successful organizations now depends directly on the ability of their workers to continuously generate new value. Winning organizations have awoken to this new reality. 

What does ‘waking up’ mean? At its core, it means a fundamental shift in how people are managed and led. The 4.0 World requires a very different approach to leadership, an approach we call 4.0 Leadership.

The ability to find, attract and recruit 4.0 leaders is going to be the differentiator for winning organizations in the 4.0 World

Building an environment that facilitates the ongoing creation of new value means managing not only the individuals who make up a team but also the interaction space (aka the organizational culture) between these individuals. Between any two individuals on a team there is a hidden creative force. When the interaction space between individuals is effectively managed this force emerges and the creative impact of the team is multiplied.

In a 4.0 World constant innovation is the price of staying in the game.  Constant innovation is driven by people working together and building on each other’s knowledge and insights.  However, for this working and creating together to happen, trust and caring about the success of the whole must define the organization’s culture.  This means that an organization’s ongoing prosperity now directly depends on its leaders’ ability to draw out this creative energy by building an organization in which its people trust each other and care about each other’s success.

Building an organizational culture that facilitates the ongoing creation of new value is not rocket science. However, building such a culture will require a fundamental change in perspective, a change that will challenge current management practices.  This challenge also includes changing how a manager’s performance is measured and evaluated.

To be successful in a 4.0 World, organizations will now need to evaluate their managers not only on the basis of what they have delivered, but also on the readiness of their teams to deliver in an unknown future.  Here’s the big insight… winning in the Fourth Industrial Revolution is not about speed.  It’s about non-stop strategic change which constantly advances the organization toward its stated goals.  

So, what does a 4.0 Leader look like. Well, for starters they understand how to build a culture that will draw out and maximize their people’s creative energies. Moreover, they never allow their organization to rest. They understand that success in the ever changing 4.0 World requires an organization to be like the fabled ‘Tortoise’, constantly moving forward, never stopping, never resting.  And so, the 4.0 Leader is constantly developing, challenging, and strengthening their organization’s change muscle.

The goal in recruiting is to find the best talent, period. Today that means recruiting leaders who are comfortable in a 4.0 World.  And herein lies the recruiting challenge.  The 4.0 leaders that are out there already have jobs, jobs that they find deeply meaningful, i.e., the leaders you now want to hire aren’t looking for work.  

Recruiting, in a 4.0 World, now means going after talent that isn’t looking for work. 

And so, if the recruitment tactics of the past forty years remain unchanged, the candidates that you would like to fill your organization’s recruitment funnel will be all but invisible.

Hiring a 4.0 leader, who is not looking for work, is not about money. Shocking but true. 4.0 leaders will come to an organization not to make more money.  They will come because they see an opportunity to devote themselves to something that they see as deeply meaningful and worthy of their time.

A key and somewhat frustrating learning from previous industrial revolutions is that it takes organizations about 40 to 50 years to realize that the world has changed and that business as usual will no longer work.  If past industrial revolutions are any indication, it seems that the guiding principle for many organizations will be ‘I will not see beyond what I have known’. Given that the 4th Industrial Revolution got underway around the turn of the 21st century and if past patterns repeat themselves then it will be somewhere between 2040 and 2050 before organizations, en masse, get their heads around the challenges of the 4.0 World. And for the few that get it now, they have a very large playing field all to themselves.

 Revolutions Need Leaders: The book

is a guide to preparing for and successfully navigating the 4.0 World. In it the authors share:

  • A 4.0 leadership model – a model that lays out the key behaviours and attributes of successful 4.0 leaders,
  • A Framework for finding and recruiting 4.0 leaders, and
  • An approach for measuring a leader’s performance in the 4.0 World – an approach which measures both current and future performance.