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Derek Bishop

Culture Consultancy


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2017 – The year of the Next Generation


What’s it going to take to lead in 2017?  Will Brexit and the change in US President bring fire fighting to the fore or will all those foretellers of doom and gloom be proved wrong once again as 2017 turns out to be a year of unprecedented growth?   No I’m not a fortune teller either but one thing I do know; whatever the New Year brings, the winners are far more likely to be those who have brought Next Generation characteristics to their leadership model.

Let me explain.  Irrespective of the political scene you don’t need me to tell you that the world has changed and continues to change thanks to the inescapable pace of technology. Colleagues may sit at the next desk or the other side of the globe, we can source our suppliers from anywhere in the world and, depending on our marketplace, our customer base may well be equally far-flung.

As if that weren’t enough, our competitors are no longer the known rival which more often than not matched us in size and longevity. There are a whole host of new businesses on the block and they are lean and keen and eager to disrupt our cosy view of the world. They are bursting full of ideas, they don’t have legacy systems to contend with and they are bringing start-up mentality and innovation techniques to not only disrupt the marketplace but to create a whole new one.

The time of the Next Generation

This then is the time of the Next Generation and if established businesses are not to be swept away by the inescapable tide of change then they too have to adopt Next Generation characteristics;   instilling intelligence, collaboration and adaptability as part of their innovation outlook.  But, and this is a big but, that’s not going to happen overnight.  Anyone who thinks that intelligence is just a matter of buying in big data or that collaboration means job sharing or that adaptability means being prepared to change the paint colour on a product is in for a nasty shock. 

Quite simply, those looking to adopt Next Generation characteristics  had better be prepared to change their culture to one of innovation and to make sweeping changes to structure, outlook and values.  And that will only succeed if it comes from the top.  In our book Building a Culture of Innovation, which has been shortlisted for the CMI’s Management Book of the Year award, we comment that if it’s not on the top team’s agenda it’s not going to be in the culture; and we don’t mean just adding the word innovation to some meeting notes.  For culture change to succeed the leadership have to take the new values and behaviours into their hearts and be prepared to demonstrate them with every action and decision.

Intelligence, collaboration and agility

So what does leading a Next Generation organisation really entail?  Let’s start with intelligence.  You may think you know your customers, you may have lots of data on them but do you really KNOW them.  What makes them buy, how do they see your product, is it a ‘best approximation’ to what they really need or does it solve a genuine problem?  All these questions and more come to the fore when thinking about intelligence and to find out the answers you’re going to have to change some parameters.

For real intelligence it is time to free up your people to have a dialogue.  That means ditching ‘time management’ of front line employees and freeing them up to have the genuine conversation which will help to develop understanding.  Yes you are going to have to re-train them in telephone answering techniques and in listening and open dialogue and yes you are going to have to re-structure their job descriptions, targets and rewards but that is a small price to pay for developing genuine understanding.

And that leads us on to collaboration.  You can’t collaborate in a silo’d structure, you can’t collaborate when people are setting one team up against another in a bid for promotion and you certainly can’t collaborate when jobs worths and ‘we’ve always done it this way’ hold sway.  As a collaboration leader you have to create the conditions which encourage people to interact not just internally but with external bodies, clients and suppliers. This may mean boosting team working skills, helping people to open up and share their knowledge and to gain a more holistic view of the organisation. Here again it will also require a change in terms and conditions and in the reward structure.

More importantly, it also requires the leadership to act in unity. There is no point in agreeing a collaborative structure if accounts then refuse the funds for necessary training or if the leader of one arm of the company instructs their people not to share certain information with their colleagues. This also holds true when it comes to agility. There is absolutely no point in identifying a need today and delivering the solution in two years time.

The agile organisation leverages intelligence to develop products and services which solve a genuine need. Get the intelligence right, and you may well be delivering the product before your customer has even identified the need themselves. As an agile leader it’s up to you to create the conditions which enable your people to experiment and iterate and deliver solutions.

Are you ready to lead a Next Generation organisation? Make no mistake, if you don’t make 2017 the year of the Next Generation for your business then someone who is more adept at gathering intelligence, has a more collaborative outlook and has set their company up with agility in mind will make it their business to take your business.

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Derek Bishop


Read more from Derek Bishop

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