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Mike Walsh’s Advice on Future Proofing Your Business

By cmiadmin | March 07, 2016

Mike Walsh’s Advice on Future Proofing Your Business

by ERIC JOHNSON

Mike Walsh - Inspire

We opened the final day of Nintex InspireX, our first customer and partner conference, with food for thought from futurist Mike Walsh on future-proofing your business. He led with how technology innovation is impacting the human experience, and asked how businesses should and could be reimagining the way they work in the future.

These are big questions to try to answer in a 60-minute keynote, but at the crux of Mike’s presentation was this: Today’s business transformation – the much-discussed and perhaps not very well-defined “digital transformation” – isn’t about completely overhauling the way a business operates today; it’s about reinventing the experiences they deliver for employees, partners and customers.

For any organization preparing for the future, Mike recommends asking yourself these four key questions.

 

Question #1 – How will the next generation shape the future of business?

Kids are growing up in a vastly different world than many of us did. The pervasiveness of technology is changing their expectations of how the world is supposed to work. Today, technologies such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) and contextual computing, as well as the Internet of Things, messaging ecosystems and predictive analytics, enable us to interact, make decisions and obtain information more easily than ever.

According to Mike, this all means that businesses that want to prepare themselves for the future need to look through to the end consumer – what they expect, how they interact with technology in their personal lives – and then reimagine their business operations from that lens.

 

Question #2 – Can you design an organization to move as fast as consumers do?

Agility becomes more and more difficult the larger a company becomes. Bureaucracy can get in the way of innovation – something many of us may have experienced in current or past roles. But Mike offered this thought: The key to building adaptive, fast-moving organizations is to focus on the networks that connect your people and teams. Create more social workspaces, adopt transparent communications tools and share data internally to uncover new ways to hack your culture.

Of course, changing how we use technology inside our organizations can sometimes be a challenge in and of itself. Mike suggests that you pick a few high-profile projects, and encourage those teams to experiment with new collaboration tools and workflows (e.g., Slack) and have them share data and insights with the rest of the organization.

 

Question #3 – How do you design an agile technology culture?

Agility is about more than moving fast – it’s about how quickly you can respond to changes in your environment. In order to build an organization that responds quickly to changes, follow these two pieces of advice, Mike said.

First, focus on hiring people who will be energized by the unknown. People with a problem-solving mindset are less likely to fall back on process when faced with a new challenge.

Second, organize your workforce into small teams empowered to take risks and make changes – the saying “too many cooks in the kitchen” comes to mind here, with the idea that the more people you have thinking about a problem, the more difficult it can become to solve.

 

Question #4 – How much smarter do leaders need to be to survive smart machines?

New technologies driving machine learning and artificial intelligence mean that the solutions we use in our businesses today are only getting smarter and smarter. And these solutions in turn are making us smarter as business leaders. That said, it’s critical that we know how to leverage these technologies in the best way.

According to Mike, we need to get better at understanding the software and data components of our organizations. Find the data that matters and act on it to drive impactful business results. Get better at communicating complex info visually to get everyone on board with your ideas. Get rid of “that’s not the way we do things” mentality and use data to change anything and everything. As Mike puts it, embracing the future means challenging everything we know to be true.

 

The future is now.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by future-proofing your business and not know where to start. Mike’s advice: The future is an invitation for us to think in a different way. Digital transformation isn’t one big change – it’s hundreds of small changes in an organization that change the human experience.

If you’re interested in following more of Mike’s ideas and research on the future, check out his weekly podcast “Between Worlds.”

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