Fans of Game of Thrones are all aware of the various noble families currently fighting and squabbling over who sits on the Iron Throne, and the battle to rule over the 7 kingdoms. What none of those embattled leaders realise is that there is a greater threat to their existence coming from the army of the dead from the north. As the families continue to fight with tried and tested methods, they are ignorant to new capabilities they will need to defeat the army of the dead.

They will need a different mindset, attitude, tools and skills – and will need to collaborate with each other. Our protagonist, and early adaptor, Jon Snow is attempting to convince the rest to refocus their energies and prepare for the real change that is about to descend on them.

This analogy is relevant for many organisations today. Our capability development strategies are so focussed on managing the current status quo and maintaining ‘how things are done’ that they are failing to prepare staff for the real change that is coming, and how to survive it.

This is not only resulting in punctuated development interventions offered to staff in order for them to continue what they already do, I would also argue that the impact of current development interventions have a significantly limited impact on the overall performance of any organisation.

Our ‘army of the dead’ that is approaching is exponential and inexorable change.

It’s getting faster and – like the White Walkers – it cannot be stopped. We are in unprecedented times, the three largest forces on the planet – Technology, Globalisation and Climate Change – are all accelerating at once, and each is impacting the other. Technology growth is being driven by Moore’s Law, which states the rate of chip processing doubles every two years.

The impact of Moore’s Law can be described by using the example of the 1971 Intel’s first gen microchip 4004. Today the sixths generation Intel Core Processor;

  • Has 3,500 times more performance
  • Is 90,000 times more energy efficient
  • Is 60,000 times lower in cost

 

To give some real-world context to those figures, if the 1971 Volkswagen Beetle had changed at the same rate as the microchip today it would:

 

  • Go 300,000 miles per hour,
  • Get two million miles per gallon of gas
  • Cost 4 cents.

 

The Mathematician and philosopher Alfred Whitehead said the greatest invention of the 18th century was the discovering the process of invention itself. And that is the power of innovation.

The more you innovate the more you can innovate

This is because you are continuously raising the sophistication and complexity of the level you are innovating from. That is why innovation can’t be stopped, and is getting faster over time.

We humans are used to living in a linear world (in terms of time, space and velocity) and not an exponentially accelerating one. This means our ability to adapt is also at a linear rate and not an exponential one. The diagram below shows the comparison between the rate of change and the rate of human adaptability

As you can see we are already at a critical stage where the rate of change has overtaken human adaptability and the gap is getting bigger.

With this knowledge, what are we going to do, and where is Jon Snow when you need him?

Eric Teller, CEO of Google’s X research and development lab believes we need to enhance our ability to adapt to make a difference. Teller believes enhancing humanity’s adaptability is 90% about ‘optimising for learning’. We have got to become more agile, experimenting and learning from our mistakes. This means not just individual but organisational shifts in mindset and approach to learning.

We must learn faster and govern smarter to bridge the gap between the rate of change and our rate of adaptability. Learning needs to become a business driver, and we are already seeing how the new disrupters are using their ability to adapt to the rate of technological growth and change.

A great example of a company that has utilised this philosophy to tremendous success is Bridgewater Associates, an American investment management firm founded by Ray Dalio in 1975. Bridgewater manages about $150 billion in global investments for approximately 350 of the largest and most sophisticated institutional clients. They have made more money for their clients than any other investment firm…. ever.

Bridgewater is a learning organisation – where each employee is responsible for the development of others. Using an internal app, all employees provide feedback on each other’s performance immediately and continuously. This creates a real-time profile for each employee which everyone can access, meaning they are all able to identify each other’s strengths and development gaps. Employees offer development opportunities to colleagues who have gaps rather than playing to strengths, and this leads to a continuous aggregate increasing in overall competence of the entire organisation.

The time of static stability has gone and Eric Teller believes we need to prepare for ‘dynamic stability’ which is ‘like riding a bicycle, where you cannot stand still, but once you are moving it is actually easier. It is not our natural state but humanity has to learn to exist in this state’

As the rate of change throws more and more unexpected challenges at us we need to start developing a more adaptable mindset and attitude. We need to ensure our organisations develop the right learning environments from which we can adapt and learn to be dynamically stable. When winter comes we either learn to play in the snow, or we join the army of the dead.

For information on what ASK can offer to your organisation to prepare for the inevitability of change, to support ongoing learning, and institutional change throughout your entire workforce, call me today on 01234 757575 or email me on Liaquat.lal@askeurope.com and let’s discuss your goals, and how our programmes can get you there.