As we transit from the Information Age into the Innovation Age, a question beckons; what is the type of organisation that will be warranted by the new landscape of economy & commerce as presented by the new age?
Change as a Constant
In an environment where truly indeed, change is the only constant, a major task on the hands of all members of an organisation will be to foresee and prepare for the possible changes ahead. This will not be something that organisations will be able to limit to management prerogatives, but rather it will be something that all ranks and files within the organisational structure will have to actively be involved in. The reason for this statement is simple. When change occurs, or rather before it occurs, every member of the organisation have to be prepared to embrace that change, and support it, by adapting to the new conditions, each time the change happens.
To be prepared for changes, organisations as a whole – as in in sum totals of their membership make-up – will have to be able to anticipate the changes. This ability will have to come from collective intuition, where every member of the organisation, ground-up, contributes to a change anticipation process, through their ground-up sensing of the environment.
The role of Intuition in Organisational Functioning
The intuition mentioned herein will not be for the purposes of organisations to predict the futures or scenarios accurately or systematically plan their strategies ahead. To do that, organisations need more objective, rational and systematic processes are practices in and prescribed for Strategic Foresight practices.
With a rapid pace of change that will exist in the foreseeable future of our world, time will be a commodity and to afford focus on environmental scans will be a luxury. This because the rate of change in processes, conditions and markets will likely be as fast as Foresight specialists or Decision-makers will be able to detect them. In such a situation, organisations will have to ask two questions:
1. What do you look out for?
2. Where do you start?
The answers are everything and everywhere respectively. This is where every employee of an organisation comes in, where each serves as a sensing node for possible signals of change or development. How this helps is that organisation gets a multi-lateral sense of the issues, concerns, developments and changes at multi-lateral levels, affecting all functions.
Organisational intuition guided Strategic Foresight: early warning systems
An information apparatus within the organisation will be intertwined with its core design and structure at the core, fed with inputs from all individuals making up the organisation, on what they sense, see, feel or are concerned about, serves as an early warning system that can then guide a Strategic Foresight effort at exploring and investigating the future impact potential of those inputs. For definition’s sake, an information apparatus is any system or model or framework, that supports the fulfilment of the requirement for the flow and transfer of information.
This is a role reversal where in prevailing practice till date, Strategic Foresight is employed to facilitate an organisation. Instead, what is warranted and therefore anticipated, is a case where an entire organisation works to support Strategic Foresight, so that it may prevent a costly oversight to the organisation from short-term to long-term.
This does not mean, that Strategic Foresight in future would be reliant on intuition alone. However, if employees are reporting what they read in papers, hear or watch on the news media or what they pick up from social or professional conversations, as areas of possible interest or concern for the organisation and its activities in the future, there will be likely legitimacy to those inputs best not ignored.
With the organisation’s continuity or market viability being in the interest of all internal stakeholders, inputs will likely be credible. And when credible inputs are harnesses as such, the horizon for the organisation expands, while also guiding foresight efforts along legitimate concern areas. This is not to say however, that an organisation’s foresight should be limited to just those intuitive inputs. The proposition herein, is that such an information apparatus be a part of future organisational designs to render them intuitive, for their particular benefits, on top of other avenues already in existence or that will otherwise be in existence ahead, as per their usefulness from time to time.
The term “Intuitive Organisation”
A simple Google search surfaces an endless list of returns with the term “Intuitive Organisation” with a wide array of meanings or usages with no specific parameter-bound textbook definition provided pertaining to its application or usage, that can be found, by any author or writer at the time of this article.
When approaching the subject of nature and frameworks of organisations in the coming decades, principally of concern is the global business environment where the Blue Ocean system prevails, and every organisation faces the threat of becoming irrelevant on each new business day.
In the scenario presented by such a business environment, pursuit of tried and tested models of market study, scanning, research and analysis will prove inefficient to the degree of absolute redundancy; because markets, environments and overall realities change faster than conformist processes of determination, conclusion, decision-making and action. The scenario also renders redundant all forms of “reaction”, leaving room only for pro-action that is non-conformist, meaning, proactive efforts that are non-compliant to rules and structures.
What the above essentially then warrants for an organisation, is that for its survival, it be fluid, organic, flexible, non-linear and unstructured in its approach. For such characteristics to be possible, the organisation essentially cannot be bureaucratic or authoritarian in nature, and therefore a top-down system or apparatus would be irrelevant. The nimbleness required for market survival would come from a bottom-up flow, of information at least.
Working without fixed order format of “processes”, an organisation behaving like a living entity in survival mode would then have to operate intuitively on what it collectively detects through all its sensory means or rather people that constitute it. It would therefore, by such definition, be an Intuitive Organisation, with concession, that the same term has been used by other professionals in commerce for various purposes in the past, and may continue to be applied for varying contexts and purposes in time ahead.
The word Intuitive is particularly ideal for employment to describe the characteristic of the next generation organisation presented herein to deal with the future business environment. The linguistic or descriptive reason to describe such a form of organisation in question, is that it will be acting, for its proactive purposes, on the sentiments (feel) and perceptions (instincts) of the individual input providing stakeholders, as opposed to dead-weight statistical data, which primarily defines the words “intuitive” or “intuition”.
The Case for the Intuitive Organisation
As the world moves from a business culture of market competition to market creation & collaboration, organisations that find themselves lacking in foresight, will begin seeing their declines either all too quickly or worse, all too abruptly.
As technology, internet, advanced means of communication, education and commercial empowerment proliferate and expand, the complexity of commerce will too increase will the horizons see a widening. Precisely for this reason, keeping lateral or limited focuses will become a matter of luxury increasingly.
In fact, organisations are caught off-guard regularly in the present context, because of the burgeoned possibilities of innovation, progress, developments and events that overwhelm focused or structured foresight efforts. A broad perspective is therefore justified, where broader will mean better, and an Intuitive Organisation model provides for such a perspective. And as complicated as this may sound, when translated into lay speak, it will simply mean, a 360 degree input model, particularly for the purpose of guiding organisational foresight activity with increased degrees of uncertainties ahead over time.
This in turn will support the concept, feasibility and relevance of resilience and network organisations, because a flexible and nimble organisation is better able to pro-act before a threat or shift materialises.
The means for developing an Intuitive Organisation
- The start will be training and development of employees on what foresight is, why it is important and what their roles will be in providing inputs for it, as the organisation’s individual information nodes.
- Educate shareholders and board members on the information apparatus embedded into the organisation’s structure and design to draw their inputs, to keep the organisation abreast of possibilities with potential impact upon the near-to-long term futures will be needed.
- Awareness that it is an incentive in itself for the stakeholders, for the inputs will ensure that the organisation weathers the storms on the horizon, or change course of activity, if the current activities, such as products, product lines or strategies or even the industry the organisation is in, do not have a future on a current trajectory.
- Resources have to concurrently be allocated to establish and manage the information apparatus that draws on the 360 inputs, funnelling them without omissions or filtering to the relevant people responsible for the organisation’s foresight activity, also ensuring, that no input is left unexplored upon, to whatever justifiable and adequate measures it may warrant.
- Standards for measures of addressing will need to be established for the system to work, and for the organisation to be effectively intuitive.
- Many organisations will claim that they already have organisation wide or 360 feedback systems or internal measures such as regular dialogues to solicit broad inputs; it has to be recognised however, that for the purpose of effective organisational foresight in the anticipated future environment, management will have to be objectively receptive in a non-dismissive fashion of intuitive inputs from all internal stakeholders for guidance of foresight activity to pick up threats or opportunities, without weight-age against rank or function or role of the source.
- While the term Intuitive Organisation is being employed herein for its definition as presented here, organisations fitting the description probably do already exist. Benchmarking against those organisations and their practices would be an ideal means to initiate efforts for organisations towards becoming intuitive.