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Get in touch with our team to discuss how GOFORWARD can help you!

Thriving in Uncertainty and Complexity

Earlier this summer, Triangle Organization Development Network (TODN) sponsored an interactive event at the Duke Fuqua School of Business on “Thriving in Uncertainty and Complexity: A Symposium for Business Leaders”. Thought leaders from Duke, UNC, and NC State presented their perspectives on how business leaders can thrive in these times of global change, complexity, and uncertainty---when many of the traditional models of leadership and organization no longer apply.

Richard Kouri, the “Chief Evangelist” at Center for Innovation Management Studies at NC State, provided a unique perspective at innovation in his presentation “Disruptive Innovation in Biosciences”. He developed the point that innovation is not solely the purview of R&D and defines it as the “successful commercialization of invention”.

So to successfully innovate, organizations need to reconfigure the value chain. Kouri’s model of “disruptive innovation” is about connecting, collaborating, building the networks, and prioritizing the opportunities. Today’s manager, trained in programs such as TQM and Lean Sigma, has been rewarded to cut costs. This alone is not the skill set to build the culture where disruptive innovation thrives.

What must today’s leaders do to embrace “Innovation Management”, where competitive advantage lies in the ability to generate the largest number of ideas in the least time with the lowest cost and yielding the highest value? Kouri responded that leaders

  • learn to build a broad ‘coalition-for-change’ across the firm’s operating areas
  • determine what is truly ‘core’ to the firm’s success (and how to partner for the rest)
  • establish new partnerships in a non-competitive atmosphere.

Peter Ubel, a physician, behavioral scientist, Duke professor of Marketing at the Fuqua School, and instructor in the Sanford School of Public Policy, spoke about “Dealing with Uncertainty: The Interplay of Emotions and Logic in Decision Making". He used case studies to illustrate his research on the unconscious forces that shape decision-making as well as the quality of advice given to people about their decisions. Ubel’s key insights included

  • When decisions get complicated, people don’t want to decide.
  • When the consequences of a decision are emotional, small changes seem large. So in these situations, even the “experts” may not have the right answer.
  • Therefore, “good advice” depends on good “perspective taking”. The advice giver should seek to understand the preferences and values of the advice taker.

In navigating organizations through uncertain times, today’s business leaders will make the best decisions if they pay attention to their own biases and unconscious forces. Understanding the perspectives of their staff, alliances, and customers will guide them to modify their “advice” style--direction, soft recommendation, coaching—to specific situations to generate the best outcome.

Joe R. Bongiovi, who served as an HR executive prior to pursuing his doctorate at UNC, built on the themes discussed in Kouri’s and Ubel’s sessions -- competitiveness, uncertainty, and the need for collaborative networks – in his talk “New Business Models: Designing your Organization to Compete”. Bongiovi interestingly highlighted that our quest for “new” organizational forms—networked, virtual, collaborative—may be a “back to the future” journey. Looking back to the 16-17th centuries, such trust-based organizations like guilds where put in place to support bartering, trade, currency, and apprenticeships. He believes that process-focused organizations designed to achieve the balance of guidance and freedom will have the competitive advantage. The successful leader will achieve this balance by trying different approaches, while mitigating risk by keeping multiple options open. Bongiovi made the point that all partners should be engaged in this organizational design process, emphasizing mutual benefit and enhancing the network.

How will YOUR organization meet these challenges? New leadership skills to truly innovate, engage, and understand? New approaches to partnerships? New organizational designs?

Contact GOFORWARD LLC to discuss translating these concepts to custom solutions for your team!

What Our Clients Say

June quickly translated her valuable corporate experience to our non-profit situation. She effectively lead us every step of the way in the development of a Strategic Plan, so that now we have a shared sense of organizational direction. June's broad skill set - ranging from the technical rigor in designing and interpreting a stakeholder survey to the professionalism and compassion she showed in coaching our staff through the resulting organizational change - positions her as a unique consultant for a small, dynamic organization.

-Dan McLellan, Leader, Durham non-profit organization