In the 1950s, the average age of a Fortune 500 company was 60 years. As we approach the end of the first quarter of the 21st century, it is less than 20 years. This trend is getting faster due to the disruptive impact of technology. Companies live shorter lives. Products have shorter lifespans. Skillsets have shorter applicability – and ergo ways of leading and managing people must adapt faster.
As we entered 2020, firms and products were already being developed, succeeding, plateauing and become obsolete faster and faster. Then: Covid-19. The pandemic has caused trendlines to sharply accelerate, decelerate, or flat-out flip.
Since February, we’ve all been buffeted by and (hopefully) starting to anticipate and ride out waves of “new normal.” What can leaders do to adapt themselves and their teams to the reality of continued hyper-acceleration?
1. Find the source. Every organization has pain points that are impeding success in this hyper-accelerated world. They are barrier conditions that we keep bumping into – over and over again. Depending on the industry, companies spend 40 – 80 cents per revenue dollar on people. Barrier conditions erode the value of that expenditure.
2. Value talent more. Without the right talent, products and services cannot be brought to market successfully. Without the right talent, your company will be out-maneuvered by technology-based disruption (RIP Toys R Us and Blockbuster). Bad technology is an outcome, not the underlying root cause, of company and leadership failure. Market losers don’t apply their talent dollars effectively. The survivors and winners have leaders who value and invest in people.
3. Debt is not just financial. Knowing what your barrier conditions are is half the battle. The other half is figuring out which ones are causing the most pain, and having the leadership fortitude to deal with them. We all have debt barriers, and not just the kind on the balance sheet. Outdated processes, badly implemented technology, governance that chokes rather than empowers …..
4. People are not “expenses.” Companies do it to themselves – our most valuable asset is people and yet we have so much grit in the gears of the employee experience. Depending on the industry, 40-60% of each revenue dollar is people-related. These aren’t “expenses on 2 feet,” they are “assets with brains.” Time tracking, expense reports, status meetings waste the brain power. (And leaders wonder why stuff doesn’t get done on time.)
There are multiple forces driving the hyper-acceleration, and time just makes barrier conditions larger and more difficult to address. Robots were predicted to create 2 million jobs by 2020, while also eliminate 6% of US jobs by 2021. This meant a shift in the nature of work – and the pandemic has now added to the complexity. The actual reality is up to people, not robots. Technology is amoral, it’s what people do with it that counts.
Insurance industry, disruptor coming up fast. Lemonade Inc (LMND), which went IPO in early July, is using tech double-threat of analytics and AI to market to younger renters and homeowners in 20+ states & growing.