ensembleenabler.com https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/ Sun, 21 Apr 2024 05:16:47 +0000 de-DE hourly 1 The power of a PURPOSE with PULL https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/the-power-of-a-purpose-with-pull/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/the-power-of-a-purpose-with-pull/#comments Wed, 06 Mar 2024 20:20:00 +0000 purpose purpose shaping purposeful leadership core purpose Viktor Frankl Jim Collins authenticity long-term thinking inspirational purpose simplicity Interface Ray Anderson net zero Wise World WISE-Mindset https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/the-power-of-a-purpose-with-pull/ Weiterlesen

What makes an organization’s purpose statement truly powerful?

A key driver of motivation and engagement is PURPOSE. Our understanding of the impact of purpose has expanded over the past several decades.

In the mid-20th century, Viktor Frankl – an Austrian psychologist and a concentration camp survivor - built an entire school of psychology around purpose. He advanced his understanding of the importance of purpose in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning”.

Decades later, Jim Collins, a business management and company sustainability / growth consultant wrote his seminal book “Built to Last”. In this book he delved into businesses which had been successful for 50 or more years.

What did Collins’ research reveal?

What all these long-term successful companies had in common was what he labeled a CORE PURPOSE. He found that it was this core purpose which drove company decision making, produced stability and provided direction over multiple generations.

A consensus has emerged among psychologists, leadership scholars and organizational development professionals that PURPOSE is one of the key elements for business success. As a consequence most contemporary companies have formulated a purpose statement.

Yet not all purpose statements are created equal

In today’s constantly changing business environment, leaders need to ask themselves:

What are the essential components of a truly powerful purpose statement?

iStock 1189073186 Learning journey square


A purpose statement is an articulation of what a company believes and informs all its decisions and daily practice


A purpose statement inspires individuals to pursue goals that go beyond the company and respect communities, society and our planet


A purpose statement reflects the spirit of cathedral builders who contributed to a project which outlived them over multi-generations


A purpose statement is a concise statement which manifests all the components outlined above in one all-encompassing sentence in as few words as possible

Sounds like an overwhelming task?

Be inspired by a thriving company with a powerful purpose - Interface

IF CNF GENERIC Studio Set Titanium Step it Up Citrine c960x960

n 1994 he CEO of the company Interface Ray Anderson embarked on the journey to create a business “in harmony with nature”. Unfortunately he did not live long enough to see his vision realized.

Yet the new leadership of this carpet manufacturer continued with the pursuit of this company’s purpose. As a result of this purpose-driven efforts, the carpet manufacturer became certified as a net-zero emissions company in 2019.

This initial purpose continues to drive decision-making. Interface is currently focusing on becoming a fully circular business. Its target? To reach zero waste throughout their business by the 2040s

How powerful is your organization’s purpose?

Say goodbye to V.U.C.A. – the Future is W.I.S.E.

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Network Heroes - Zhang Ruimin https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/network-heroes/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/network-heroes/#comments Wed, 21 Feb 2024 19:27:00 +0000 Zhang Ruimin rendanheyi organizational transformation hierarchical organizational structures quality products Haier Accountability Transparency zero distance to the customer interaction with customers learning culture learning environment learning culture in an organization entrepreneur Bill Fischer MIT curiosity active learning experimentation entrepreneurial ecosystem microenterprises self-organization GE Appliances leaderful Wise World Network Leadership intentional collaboration network mindset https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/network-heroes/ Weiterlesen

An unlikely story of how a working class boy who came of age in Mao’s Culture Revolution is transforming management and business organizations on a global scale

An essential challenge to the manner in which businesses currently organize themselves is coming from an unlikely source. It is a man who was a member of Chairman Mao’s Red Guards (a mass student-led paramilitary social movement) in his youth. Moreover, this provocation of the way businesses should operate is emerging from an unlikely industry: the white goods industry which is traditionally acknowledged as being fairly stable and undynamic.

The business world is beginning to get a glimpse of what the architecture of organizations will look like in the years to come from this improbable source. Zhang Ruimin has introduced rendanheyi to the world. Evolution contends that the fittest will survive. Early indications are that this organizational transformation is fitter than traditional 20th century hierarchical organizational structures and, as a result, are more fitting to the current digital era.

Humble beginnings

Zhang is the son of a working class family. His parents both worked in the garment business in the northern Chinese coastal city of Qingdao – a city known for its beer. The Tsingtao brewery was established in Qingdao in 1903 by German settlers and is the largest exporter of beer in China today.

Zhang at the age of 35 was appointed general manager of the Qingdao Refrigerator Plant In 1984. At the time, the company was on the verge of bankruptcy.

Principle #1: Attention to Quality

Zhang became acutely aware of the lack of quality of his company’s products during an early visit to his partner Liebherr in Germany. Zhang was willing to remedy the situation by employing radical measures. He has continued to show this approach throughout his career.

What did he do? 

He smashed 76 faulty refrigerators in front of his employees and television cameras. Some employees cried. At the time, one refrigerator cost the annual salary of 4 employees. But this action conveyed the message not only to his employees but to his customers as well. This focus on quality led to the introduction of other appliances. Continued success and growth through acquisition followed. the company was renamed Haier in 1991.

Ruimin smashing refrigerators

Principle # 2: Accountability and Transparency

Early on Zhang introduced a practice in order to further reinforce the importance of quality. Employees who committed an error were required to stand in front of their fellow employees and explain the error. In addition, he ensured that employee remuneration was directly tied to the sales of the products which the employees were producing.

Principle #3: Get as close to the customer as possible

In 1996, a washing machine repairman travelled to Sichuan to repair a broken-down machine. A Chinese farmer had been using the washing machine to wash sweet potatoes, causing the drainpipes to be clogged with mud. The repairman reported to headquarters about this uncommon use of their product. After realizing that there were 87 million residents in Sichuan who cultivated sweet potatoes, Zhang immediately ordered the production of a washing machine for sweet potatoes. Zhang characterized this approach in the following way: 

“Direct interaction with customers is crucial.”
Haier washing machine for sweet potatoes

Principle #4: Learning is more important than knowledge

Bill Fischer, a Senior Lecturer at MIT and a long-time acquaintance of Zhang , has written that what differentiates Zhang from most other leaders is his insatiable curiosity. According to Fischer:

“No matter what managerial topic is on the table, it seems as if Mr. Zhang has read more, knows more, is personally familiar with the authors of the ideas being discussed.” Fischer further notes that Zhang has seen his role as “being an exemplar of active learning and experimentation.”

The Seeds of Revolution

All of the above principles can be recognized as indications of a well-led company, but certainly nothing transformational. Zhang’s approach began to truly revolutionize organizational design at the beginning of the internet economy. 

By 2005 he had realized that the internet was completely changing the way business would be done. This change would be a shift from a business world comprised primarily of a chain of command to a world of networks and ecosystems. As a consequence, he introduced the concept of rendanheyi.

Taking a moment to understand what this word means reveals this shift

“Ren” refers to each employee

• “Dan” refers to the needs of each individual customer

“HeYi” refers to the connections that tie employees to customer needs

In other words, Rendanheyi is considered a process to connect every employee directly with the needs of the customer. As Zhang is fond of saying, his mission is to make every employee a CEO who can add value directly to the customer.

Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Enabling Organizations

How different is Haier from other companies? 

Haier reorganized its structure in 2012 to allow it to operate as a network. This restructuring brought the logic of rendanheyi to its ultimate conclusion. 

The Haier network is comprised of thousands of independent microenterprises. Each microenterprise is an entrepreneurial self-organized unit which can make its own decisions on issues ranging from investments, resource use, hiring, firing, compensation, etc. The typical size of a microenterprise is about 10 - 15 people. There are no bosses or managers. As a matter of fact, over 12.000 middle management jobs were basically eliminated when Haier shifted to this structure in 2012.

Microenterprises (MEs) are connected to each other through “Ecosystems of Micro-communities” or EMCs. Each EMC is dedicated to a particular user group – for instance “air conditioner customers”. The MEs are incentivized to support each other. Why? Because when one ME is successful, this typically impacts the success of other MEs in the ecosystem.

Haier ecosystem graphic Simone Cicero An entrepreneurial Ecosystem Enabling Organozation 2019

Graphic from: Simone Cicero An Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Enabling Organization (2019)

The direct connection to the customer is reinforced by the remuneration system. A significant proportion of compensation comes directly from the customer, not the company.

A new name is emerging for this organizational architecture, namely an EEEO or Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Enabling Organization.

And the results speak for themselves.

Haier is the number one company in the white goods industry with over 100.000 employees (actually the appropriate name is entrepreneurs!). Its stock price has soared; it had doubled multiple times since the introduction of rendanheyi in 2005.

Could this model could be applied in other countries? 

General Electric Appliances in the United States which was acquired by Haier in 2015 is an illustrative example. By adopting the rendanheyi model, GE Appliances has transformed itself from a company in decline, to the #1 white goods company in the United States by 2021.

Architect not Captain

Zhang rejects the metaphor of captain of the ship which has been used by so many past and current business leaders. He likes to think of himself as an architect who is constantly redesigning the organization to better fit its environment.

Zhang Ruimin retired from Haier in November of 2021. His retirement caused a lot of anxiety in the financial press. His response was typical of the bravura which had accompanied his entire career: Haier was a company full of leaders or “leaderful” as he often expressed. Haier was built upon a network of distributed leaders who were located in every corner of the organization. Zhang was confident that this leaderful organization is equipped to respond to any future emerging challenge.

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NETWORK HEROES Gordon French https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/network-heroes-gord/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/network-heroes-gord/#comments Tue, 13 Feb 2024 18:45:00 +0000 Gordon French Network Heroes Lee Felsenstein Fred Moore Homebrew Computer Club Silicon Valley Microcomputer revolution Computer history https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/network-heroes-gord/ Weiterlesen

In a sleepy valley in California in the early 1970s, something big was stirring. 

In 1971 Bill Hewlett of Hewlett Packard fame, issued a challenge to his engineers: fit all of the features of their desktop scientific calculator into a package which would be small enough for his shirt pocket. The result? The HP-35, the first hand-held calculator which was advertised as “a fast, extremely accurate electronic slide rule”.

hp35 desktop scientific calculator

As a result of these developments, (mostly) young men were tinkering in their garages to develop diverse electronic devices. Magazines such as “Radio Electronics” featured stories on how to build these kinds of devices by yourself at home.

Cover of Radio-Electronics magazine 1974

In this environment of tinkering and creating mock-ups, Gordon French (along with a few of his acquaintances, notably Lee Felsenstein and Fred Moore) decided to form a club which they named the “Homebrew Computer Club”. The idea behind the club was to have tinkerers come together to exchange ideas and trade hard-to-get parts.

Gordon French's  business card in Menlo Park

Gordon French’s business card, handed out so that club members would know where to meet.

Of course, Gordon held the first meeting of the club in his garage in Menlo Park in March of 1975!

Gordon French in front of photo of Homebrew Computer in Computer History Museum

Two early members of the club were Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. Their Apple-1 ‘computer’ was first presented at a meeting of this club in 1976.  Steve Wozniak later said:

 “Without computer clubs there would probably be no Apple computers.

The Homebrew Computer Club existed from 1975 to 1986. It is widely credited as a critical force in the development of the microcomputer revolution and the rise of Silicon Valley.

Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs constructing an Apple 1 computer

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NETWORK HEROES - Dee Hock https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/network-hero/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/network-hero/#comments Wed, 07 Feb 2024 00:00:00 +0000 networks network leadership Networks in business VISA Dee Hock Innovation innovation and leadership financial network chaordic organizations chaordic Network Heroes https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/network-hero/ Weiterlesen

In order to tell thought-provoking stories about the power of networks, I would like to share notable examples of the impact which network leaders can have in their organizations.

I cannot think of a better example to start this series of NETWORK HEROES than Dee Hock.

Dee Hock was a manager at a local bank in Washington state (USA). This bank had been franchised by the Bank of America to issue its credit card which at the time was called the “BankAmericard”.

First Visa card from BankAmericard in the 1970's

Dee Hock convinced Bank of America to give up its ownership and control on their BankAmericard credit card licensing program. In its place, the licensing capability was transferred to a new entity which was owned by its member banks

By realizing this innovative approach, he turned the financial world on its head.  

Instead of one bank owning the credit card, a network of banks became the owners. This move created one of the most successful financial networks the world has ever seen. This institution was ultimately renamed VISA in 1976.

Portrait of Dee Hock creator of the VISA card financial concept on a background of the VISA logo

In his later years, Dee Hock was developed the concept “chaordic” to describe organizations which were both chaotic and ordered at the same time. The accomplishment of his work in this lives on in his books and curated website. Dee Hock died in July 2022 at the age of 93.

Quote from Dee Hock about innovation

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Catalysers of the World Awake! https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/catalysers-of-the-world-awake-2/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/catalysers-of-the-world-awake-2/#comments Fri, 21 Jul 2023 10:02:00 +0000 catalyst sustainable change change change initiatives potential untapped potential purpose shared purpose vision shared vision courage regenerative leadership purposeful leadership leadership mindset leadership capacity leadership in networks collaboration intentional collaboration traditional organization challenges possibilities sensing greater purpose 2023 dynamism https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/catalysers-of-the-world-awake-2/ Weiterlesen

Reeling from an unexpected end of what I thought was an on-going initiative, I found myself in bewilderment. Shortly thereafter I was fortunate enough to have not one, but numerous encounters which helped me to come to grips with my situation. I am not alone in my current dilemma.

Out of my bewilderment emerged a wonderful realization: I am a Catalyst.

According to the research, there are not too many of us – only about 5- 7 % in any social group. We are the people who strive to enable sustainable change.

But I as I have learned firsthand, traditional organization environments are not kind to us Catalysers. This became crystal clear to me as I read Hemerson Paes' insightful article: Awakening of the Catalysts: Unleashing the Power of Change in Organizations.

The read was soothing to my soul. His was an affirming success story of “Yes we can!” Paes’ article provides a wonderful example of the ‘awakening’ of catalysts’ potential by providing the needed support, tools and cultivation of healthy behaviors.

An invitation to collaborate and discover a innovative solution

Corkboard with 4 post-its pinned onto it -A green post-it reads Yes we can

I fear that there are many catalysts who are working in not such a supporting social context in their organizations These other bold individuals are really struggling to enable real change.

But where is the space for the not so fortunate Catalysts to talk about this challenge?

Thankfully I had the opportunity to hear the stories and listen to other Catalysts during a session of my Regenerative Leadership course offered by Laura Storm. Each of these Catalysts were exhibiting signs of “the emotional burden and the friction created by their traditional organizational boundaries” as Paes so elegantly describes.

Graphic of person struggling to hold up the world

Take a moment to ask yourself: Are you suffering from emotional burden and friction?

While each of their stories were very different, I sensed a common thread running through each of the presentations and subsequent discussion.

• All of these Catalysers have a strong vision

• They yearn for a shift from a traditional organizational culture to one of a shared purpose and shared leadership

• They all aspire to enhance collaboration throughout their organizations to work towards making their dreams for our collective future a reality

As they told their stories and reflected upon the feedback from others, I could personally relate to their feeling of disappointment and setback. I was also suffering from the frustration of the sudden ending of an innovative initiative which appeared to be flourishing.

Similar to my colleagues who were struggling, I now recognize that it was the friction which my efforts had caused to provoke this traditional organization to strike back and decide not to continue forward. All the hopes and ideas which had been voiced will most likely never be pursued nor realized.

friction of different perspectives illustrated in colors

Friction emerges as the traditional organization strikes back

At the end of the reflection with my fellow Catalysts, I realized that we all shared something:

  • We see the challenges facing each one of us quite differently than most others
  • We envision the possibilities to develop solutions for the issues which our organizations are facing
  • All of us recognize that only by breaking from the “molds and confines” of a traditional organizational structure can we make progress in our search to break new ground for the future

We are all striving to:

Sense Potential - Take Action - Explore all avenues - Realize a greater purpose

Rainbow over Sendling in Munich Germany

Unleashing the power of Catalysts

Marieke Smets pulled all my reflections together when she mused in a recent thought-provoking posting:

“And maybe daring to be in the not knowing together, can even be a little thread we can pull on, one tiny starting point for change.”

Despite the setbacks, this is the Catalyst which I choose to be

Tropical vine and wool

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How can you disrupt yourself? https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/how-can-your-disrupt-yourself/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/how-can-your-disrupt-yourself/#comments Sun, 18 Jun 2023 17:48:00 +0000 disruption powerful questions Mindset curiosity Industrial Revolution Third Industrial Revolution Jeremy Rivkin digital revolution Karl B. Murr transformation transformational change technical innovation intercultural disruption disruptor Gillian Tett Robin Wall Kimmerer indigenous wisdom scientific knowledge systemic view of life pandemic post-pandemic business MSBR Jon Kabat-Zinn Center for Healthy Minds Healthy Minds Framework positive disruption capacity building change opportunity knocks potential healthy mind dynamism https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/how-can-your-disrupt-yourself/ Weiterlesen

This is a powerful question.

It took me unawares. It’s the kind of question which you can’t let go of very easily.

It was the story which was told to illustrate this question which really got me thinking.

An artist friend started to look at his work and noticed that it was becoming just “more of the same”.
This is not a good place for any artist to find him or herself.
The artist decided to throw absolutely everything out of his studio and disrupt himself completely.
He even repainted his studio white – just like a blank canvas.
white canvas

This simple question and story got me thinking.

How could we all disrupt our lives, and, as a result take on change with a different mindset?

My reflection led me to think of some personal stories of disruption from my life. First off I had to understand what disruption really meant.

Disruption is “the action of preventing something, especially a system, process, or event, from continuing as usual or as expected.”
The Cambridge Dictionary

Coming from a family which loves language, I researched the word disruption. What is its origin? My curiosity uncovered that the word disruption comes from the Latin disruptus which means “break apart, split, shatter, break to pieces”.

But it wasn’t the etymology which surprised me. I discovered the remarkable use of the word itself. The use of the word disruption initially appeared in the 1650s but it wasn’t until about 1820 when it became more commonplace.

Having enjoyed a fascinating read of Jeremy Rivkin’s book The Third Industrial Revolution, I asked myself: Could the commonplace use of the word disruption hark back to the first Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries?

My research led me to a reflection on the parallels between industrial and digital revolutions by Karl B. Murr, Director of the State Textile and Industry Museum in Augsburg (Germany) He notes:

“The emerging possibilities appear all the clearer when you examine similarities between the digital revolution and the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries. This comparison gives reason to reflect on the disruption caused by such fundamental transformations. Starting from technical innovations, both revolutions describe not just partial but rather comprehensive changes that not only affect economies and the world of work, but also political and social processes and private life.

Disruption and transformation appear to come hand in glove, and according to this historian, contribute to “not just partial bur rather comprehensive changes.”

That’s why the artist threw everything out and started again with an empty white studio:
to change and transform his artistic endeavors.
Disruption in a white room

Which brings me to the my reflection on the simple question:

“How can your disrupt yourself?” and "How have I invited disruption into my life so far?"

Here are a couple of simple stories which I consider to have caused disruption in my life– some small, others more significant.

Learn to live & work in another language

Lima Munich

I have experienced this challenge twice. Once as a Fulbright Scholar going to Latin America to do post-graduate studies, fieldwork and gain experience working in a National Museum.

The other was a move from the United States to Germany

By acquiring some language knowledge before my time in Latin America, I was somewhat prepared to speak some spanish. When I arrived in Germany, I had to start from scratch and ended up going to an intensive language program. This was the easy part.

The disruption of both of these experiences was my new social milieu. I arrived “a stranger in a strange land” in both instances and knew absolutely no one. I had to learn how to cultivate relationships in different countries with other social behaviors. This was a tough disruptive challenge.

Travel to an unfamiliar part of the world

Grand Tour

I have been fortunate to have grown up in a family of travelers. We used to pack up the car and take off to explore new parts of the United States. My first experience of being in ‘another world’ was when we travelled to Quebec, Canada. It was the first time I had been somewhere where I didn’t understand the language.

But it was our family’s “Grand Tour” of Europe which was truly transformative. Not only did we move from country where a different language was spoken (Spanish, Italian, German, French), but each place was so different! I experienced a bullfight, an open air opera in a Roman ruin, paddled in Alpine lakes and marvelled at palaces of all sizes.

The disruption of these experiences was the encounter with the new and unexpected at every corner – from language, food, landscapes and people. I now live in one of the countries I visited as a child.

Go to a museum on a weird topic of no interest to you

Nairobi Rail Museum

Having grown up in New York, going to museums was something which I did regularly as a kid growing up – from marvelling at dinosaurs to pondering mummies to being captivated by Impressionist painters. I have always liked looking at objects and thinking about the era which they represented.

I learned that museums can be disruptive too.

I experienced this first hand when I travelled to Kenya for a project. I extended my stay since I had never been in this part of Africa before. I wanted to experience the animals and the landscape about which I had read and heard about from a friend who had lived there. But I also wanted to see the memories of Nairobi’s colonial history.

Part of this exploration was a visit to a train museum. I am not interested in trains at all. It wasn’t a well-designed museum. But the objects and old photographs which told the story of the history of building the train from Mombasa to Nairobi which captured my imagination.

Even though I stayed to experience the wildlife in situ, my understanding of the impact of colonialism in Africa was transformed by this single museum visit.

Read different kinds of books

Independen Bookstore

For those who like to read it is easy to get stuck in a certain genre - whether it be mysteries, criminal detective stories, romantic novels and the like. However once you encounter a book which opens a completely novel perspective for you, your reading quest inevitably shifts.

Even though I studied anthropology and pursued it professionally for a while, I hadn’t read read this kind of writing for a long time – until now. It wasn’t until I read Gillian Tett’s book “Anthrovision: How Anthropology can explain business and Life” which brought this systemic view of life which I had embraced early in my career vividly back into focus for me. 

Since then I have explored other books like “Braided Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a professor of environmental biology and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation who addresses the interconnections between indigenous wisdom and scientific knowledge.

I have found that exploring all kinds of books ranging from the networks of mother trees, neuroscience and the wellbeing economy disrupt my thinking by introducing novel ways to view the world.

Strive to meet different kinds of people

walking dogs

One of the key ideas of the webinar which sparked this reflection on disruption was intention. Approaching anything with intention can initiate disruption.

Being intentional about meeting different kinds of people will certainly expand your personal network. But more importantly, it just may open up new avenues of new understanding and maybe even a collaboration.

A Canadian colleague whom I met a year ago was a result of pure serendipity. I wasn’t looking to get to know his work; he just liked a posting which I had made on LinkedIn on Mental Health Day. I reached out to him and we started sharing resources with each other. When I was planning a large worldwide dialogue, he personally knew someone I wanted to serve as an idea catalyst for this discussion. It was his introduction which led to a fruitful collaboration with this award winning scientist.

The disruption element was a result of sensing serendipity and the potential of a chance encounter. This chance meeting enabled me to transform the way I conceive high-quality dialogues.

Try out a new hobby or activity

scuba diving day and night

I had to wait a long time for this disruptive element to enter my life. It started with snorkeling off an island in Hawaii. I saw fish swimming at the bottom and wanted to go down and take a look, but couldn’t reach them. Not enough air! I told myself: I need to learn how to scuba dive so that I can swim with the fish.

The time finally came when I had the time (and money) to learn how to scuba dive. I learned the basics in a near-by swimming pool. With this certificate I was able to dive in open water.

When I arrived at my inaugural scuba diving location, I had enjoyed the opportunity of finally being able to swim with the fish underwater and marvel at the underwater environment. 

But unbeknownst to me, disruption was waiting.

It was my first night dive. The idea of entering dark water (even though I had a lamp) was terrifying. I sat at the edge of the water and couldn’t even stand in the water which I had done with ease during the day. An experienced diver saw my fear, came to me and carefully helped me get underwater. He held my hand the whole time. He enabled me to shatter my fear and experience underwater life at night. I love to dive at night now.

Disruption is getting beyond your own sense of comfort and breaking through. It’s a lot easier when trusted friends (or colleagues) accompany you on this learning journey.

Change the focus of your work

Idea for new job

This takes courage and a lot of sensing about what is right (and interesting) for you at a certain time in your life.

As I previously mentioned, I started my academic studies as an anthropologist. An experience in Peru convinced me that I aspired to work in museums rather than doing academic fieldwork. After my graduate studies, I worked in museums and finally in a company which created exhibitions for museums.

Fast forward to Germany. I continued my work with museums but with another focus: visitor research. It was a field I had always been interested in pursuing. I ended up working for numerous national parks and museums to improve their visitor experience. During this work, I gained considerable experience with qualitative research and facilitation of groups of all sizes.

The disruption originated in an undynamic market. It was clear that I needed to re-focus my efforts and searched for other opportunities.

I currently use the skills and experience which I cultivated to work as the Creative Engagement Enabler at  Ensemble Enabler. If you had asked at the beginning of my career that I would land working as part of an Enabling Company, I would have laughed. But disruption brought me to work which I love and enjoy.

Lastly how could one speak about disruption without mentioning the pandemic?

As mentioned previously, I enjoy reading books from a broad spectrum of topics. Before the pandemic, I had read about an insurance company CEO who had a terrible accident. He tried a variety of things to deal with his pain and healing. After many months, he had recovered his health and asked himself: Why don’t we as an insurance company offer these kinds of services to our employees? The book mentioned his personal experience with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MSBR) developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Just this mention in a book was disruptive. The next day I researched where I could take this course and participated in the next available cohort.

But it was the challenge of the pandemic with which I would like to end my reflection on the question “How can your disrupt yourself?” 

learning from homr

Once again it was serendipity which created disruption.

Like many of us, I took advantage of many live events online during the course of the pandemic. It was a wonderful opportunity for exploration. I became aware of an online conference about mindfulness and because of my experience with MSBR, decided to attend. There were many interesting presentations but one especially captured my imagination. It was an overview of a neuroscientist’s work on the pillars of wellbeing. I became fascinated by the combination of neuroscience and mindfulness which was the focus of research of the Center for Healthy Minds

I discovered that this research had resulted in the development of an app based on the Healthy Minds Framework of the 4 pillars of wellbeing.  During the pandemic, it became a daily habit to listen to their lecturettes and meditations. Nowadays, I can't imagine a day without cultivating a healthy mind.

Disruption can be positive and transformational

I end with this positive example of disruption because embracing disruption is probably one of the most important capacities we all need to actively cultivate during this era of constant change. As some of the stories which I have shared illustrate, disruption can be challenging and often very discouraging.

We live in challenging times. But unlike the disrupted society of the first industrial revolution, we have the good fortune (and many more options) to transform disruption into opportunities - not only for each one of us personally but for the the communities and work environments in which we live and work.

How will you disrupt yourself?

Enable your organization to use the power of networks to identify sustainable business solutions with speed and effectiveness: Network Leadership – Intentional Collaboration -Network Mindset

Make the shift from a V.U.C.A. to a W.I.S.E. World

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Shifting from a V.U.C.A. to a W.I.S.E. world https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/shift-from-vuca-to-a-wise-world/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/shift-from-vuca-to-a-wise-world/#comments Sun, 07 Aug 2022 19:57:00 +0000 VUCA VUCA world Warren Bennis future fear turbulence ambiguous ambiguity volotile volatility uncertain uncertainty complexity Mindset linearity causality interconnectedness feedback loops ripple effect multi-directional causality CDO information age change renewal regeneration informational flow in organizations energy flow in organizations WISE W.I.S.E. whole interconnected systemic systems energized motivation health organizational health well-being wellness balance dexterity https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/shift-from-vuca-to-a-wise-world/ Weiterlesen

Volatile Uncertain Complex Ambiguous – these four words which make up this acronym V.U.C.A. have become a dominant description of our times. First coined by the leadership theorists Warren Bennis and Burton Nanus in 1985 in their book “Leaders. The Strategies For Taking Charge”. The term was later adopted by The U.S. Army to describe the lack of clarity they experienced as the world shifted from the Soviet Union as their one unambiguous enemy to a post-Soviet world characterized by multiple threats.

V.U.C.A. has become the acronym of choice to describe the turbulent times in which we all live today.  Digitalization, climate change, viral pandemics, financial crises – these are just some of the forces that seem to be turning our world upside down. Many reputable companies such as Kodak, Nokia and ToysRUs have been ravaged. The emerging response is a growing fear of the future and the disruption it may bring.

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Business' reaction to a V.U.C.A. World

Businesses are frantically trying to find ways to reduce ambiguity. 

  • Perhaps there is some silver bullet which will help to create just a little bit more certainty, a little less volatility?
  • Would the introduction of the latest software or the successful execution of a transformation initiative do the trick? 

The prevailing belief is that if the rampant ocean of turbulence can be traversed, solid ground will be eventually reached on the other side. This belief is misguided. 

Habits and ways of thinking which have been enormously successful - not only for decades but for centuries - are certainly the cause for having this belief. When faced with such a major challenge such as V.U.C.A. the knee-jerk reflex is to analyze the situation by breaking it up into parts, look for the root causes and then fix it.

But what happens when the root cause of the V.U.C.A challenge is our own way of thinking?

The world has strikingly demonstrated that it does not obey the rules of linear causality. In an interconnected world causality is multi-directional. Feedback loops have revealed that seemingly minor unrelated disturbances can have major system-changing ripple effects.

One example of multi-directional causality is the seemingly innocent looking financial instrument CDO which was created in 2002. CDO (or collateralized debt obligations) were used for refinancing mortgages in the US and as a result, became one of the contributors to the Great Recession 0f 2008. Who would have thought that the CDO would have partially contributed to the Euro crisis in 2011?

Despite all of the evidence from financial markets, from society and from nature - most of our organizations continue to cling to the myth of linear causality.

V.U.C.A. has no one source. There is no silver bullet which will bring more certainty or less volatility. V.U.C.A. is the way the world is and has always been. We are only now becoming acutely aware of the pervasiveness of V.U.C.A. in the world all around us. The current information age has made V.U.C.A. more visible through the acceleration of change which is taking place.

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We cannot resolve the V.U.C.A. world but we can transcend it:

The first step away from a V.U.C.A. world is taking a look at our own thinking. Leaving a V.U.C.A. mindset filled with fear of the future behind, enables a W.I.S.E. mindset to emerge. It is a mindset characterized by a reverence of life’s ability to continuously renew and regenerate itself.

Emergence of the W.I.S.E mindset

A W.I.S.E. worldview begins by accepting and embracing V.U.C.A. without fear. Unpredictability is not a bug in our analytic algorithms, it is a characteristic of our world. In some situations good approximations about what the future will hold can be made. This makes accurate prediction a possibility. However, in a complex world there are too many variables which are interacting with each other. Just ask any weather forecaster who attempts to forecast the weather just two to three weeks in advance.

What does the acronym W.I.S.E. mean? 

W.I.S.E is the synthesis of four words:


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A W.I.S.E. world focuses on the WHOLE because here is where the health of individuals, organizations and our planet resides.

Health is the most important asset that any a living being posesses. A focus on the health of the whole will ensure positive outcomes.

It is interesting to note that the English word “whole” originates from the proto-Germanic word “haila” which means “undamaged”. “Haila” is not only the source of the word whole, but also of the word health. In other words, when we focus on the whole, we automatically focus on health as well. 

WHOLE also implies the well-known maxim that “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.

An example of this maxim can be understood by automobile parts. The individual parts have no apparent value. However when they are all assembled into a car, the value in its ability to transport people and goods becomes evident. This is an important viewpoint which is often not perceived.

The Western tradition is ingrained with reductionist thinking. What does reductionism imply? The whole can only be understood if the parts are understood. This is patently inaccurate.

The following example illustrates the invalidity of reductionism: Both hydrogen and oxygen can be analyzed. Everything is known about these two elements. However this knowledge will not reveal the characteristics of water which arise from the combination of oxygen and hydrogen.

Whereas reductionist thinking can be extremely useful, a W.I.S.E. world dismisses prediction and certainty as a means to produce good outcomes. Alternatively it emphasizes a healthy balance between the analytical approach of reductionism and an integrated approach which creates a greater awareness of the WHOLE.

What does embracing the WHOLE mean for business leaders? 

WHOLE implies that leaders of organizations not only need to take care of the health of their employees, but the health of their organizations as well.

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A W.I.S.E. world recognizes that everything is INTERCONNECTED.

Physicists discovered at the quantum level the phenomenon known as “entanglement” in the 20th century. Particles cannot be seen as independent of each other. They are all part of the same system.

David Bohm used a famous metaphor to describe what is happening: When we look at waves in an ocean, each wave appears to be an independent object. However in reality all waves arise and return to the sea of water from which they were formed. Bohm’s observation implies that as individuals and organizations we cannot see ourselves as separate from nature. When we damage the environment, we damage ourselves.

INTERCONNECTEDNESS has many further implications on both a personal and organizational level. From a personal perspective, a lack of connections has a direct impact on an individual’s health. Loneliness can be seen either as a lack (or the perceived lack of) interpersonal connections. Loneliness is often the first step towards much more serious mental health issues such as depression. Recent neuroscientist research has now well established that interpersonal relationships can be as important to our health as diet and exercise.

From an organizational viewpoint, INTERCONNECTEDNESS can contribute to an organization which thrives or one which is disrupted and fails. Innovation is a result of interconnection which existing technologies and/or concepts together in a new way. All of the technology needed to build an iPhone was available in 2006. Sony had all of the required technology in-house. However, it was Apple which was able to connect the dots and bring the iPhone to market.

What does INTERCONNECTEDNESS mean for business leaders? 

Connecting people and ideas is one of the most important activities which a leader can cultivate and communicate.

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A W.I.S.E. world is SYSTEMIC. Networks provide the underlying patterns of organization for all of life.

Ecologists have known this for more than a 100 years. All living beings are interconnected with each other through food webs.

Our own bodies are the consequence of multiple networks. There are the neural networks in our brain and throughout our body. Our entire circulatory SYSTEM is a network of arteries, veins and capillaries which carry nutrients all over our body.

WISE Systemic

If we look carefully, we can see that our organizations are networks as well. For example, value chains (or better said 'value networks') in every industry are a system of interconnections through which the transfer of information and material goods take place.

However most businesses still view their organizations as machines whose sole purpose is to convert inputs into outputs as efficiently as possible. In this mechanistic and reductionist world view, if something doesn’t work, you identify the faulty part and either fix or replace it.

In a W.I.S.E. world, businesses are living SYSTEMS based on networks. As with all living systems, resilience is more important than efficiency.

What does SYSTEMIC mean for business leaders? 

The networks of interconnections in a business need to be cultivated by its leaders and fostered throughout the organization and its business ecosystem. Like a garden, when an organization is healthy and well-tended, it will flourish year-in and year-out.

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A W.I.S.E. world is ENERGIZED. Ultimately it is energy which flows through networks.

Everything is energy as Albert Einstein’s famous equation E=MC² encapsulated.

  • The energy in an organization can be seen in the motivation and engagement of its people. Are they willing to address and take ownership of the challenges facing the organization? 
  • Or are they just counting the days towards the weekend, next vacation or even retirement?

Energy in organizations directly correlates with the flows of materials and information throughout the networks of the organization itself. When these flows stagnate or are blocked, frustrations among an organization’s people grow and rumors proliferate.

What does an ENERGIZED organization mean for business leaders? 

Leaders need to pay attention to flows throughout their organization and put a special emphasis on transparency. Both transparency and the trust which emerges from it, provide the fundamental ingredients to keep energy flowing.

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A choice between V.U.C.A. or W.I.S.E.

Living in a state of constant fear of the future is needless. V.U.C.A. can be overcome. How? Certainly not because the world will become less volatile or complex or ambiguous. V.U.C.A. can be transcended when we have become W.I.S.E. enough to understand the implications of V.U.C.A.

Challenging long held assumptions and ways of thinking is the answer. Breaking away from centuries of ingrained thinking habits requires a shift from a worldview dominated predominately by reductionist thinking.

A W.I.S.E mindset enables leaders to foster a future-oriented organization by embracing 3 simple principles:

  1. Cultivating the capacity to observe how everything is interconnected in this world,

  2. Recognizing that our organizations and planet are living systems,

  3. Acknowledging that energy is the medium of exchange which truly matters

A W.I.S.E. world is embodied by an organization which is teaming with energy, emergent potential and focusses on cultivating the circumstances to ensure its thriving future. 

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Enable your organization to use the power of networks to identify sustainable business solutions with speed and effectiveness: Network Leadership - Intentional Collaboration - Network Mindset

Make the shift from a V.U.C.A. to a W.I.S.E. World

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An invitation to co-create a vibrant post-corona world https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/personal-thoughts-on-setting-the-foundations-for-a-post-corona-world/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/personal-thoughts-on-setting-the-foundations-for-a-post-corona-world/#comments Wed, 01 Jun 2022 09:16:00 +0000 COVID19 covid-19 crisis future emerge stronger transformation transformational change a better tomorrow opportunity knocks rethinking learning journey stronger together collective intelligence new world new reality visionary bold crisis in business discovery https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/personal-thoughts-on-setting-the-foundations-for-a-post-corona-world/ Weiterlesen

Our Historical Moment

As the first few days of this crisis hit and people began quarantining in their homes in an effort to "flatten the curve" in 2020, I immediately felt that this was one of those events that changes the course of human history. I wrote to some of my professional colleagues in those momentous first days that I believed that future historians would write about a pre- and post-corona world. One colleague responded to me by saying that we had gone through several crises in our lifetime - 9/11 and the financial crash of 2008/2009 - and not much changed in the way society functions. 

Why should this time be different?

We have gone through various waves of variants and are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel out of the pandemic. I believe that we have collectively sensed that this crisis was different from previous crises. In none of the previous crises have people across the globe been subjected to changing the way they spend time with family, teach their children, communicate with each other, work together, and travel (or better said don't travel). These imposed behavioral changes were shared by BILLIONS of people across the globe. I believe we have to go back to World War II to find a relatively recent comparable episode in human history which impacted so many people in similar ways at the same time.

beso beso kiss greeting

As countries and economies re-emerge out of the Corona pandemic, there will be a great temptation will be great to return to life as we knew it (aka "The new normal"), The virus (and its numerous variants) has made this journey much longer than anyone could imagine. We have all experienced resurgences in the contagion which led to further shutdowns (most localized). Certainly former cultural norms such as handshakes and the European penchant to kiss your acquaintances on both cheeks will certainly have a comeback.  

What is struggling to emerge?

This crisis caused untold sorrows for millions who have lost loved ones and significant dislocations for those suffering from the impact on the economy. This suffering will reverberate throughout society in the months and years to come. I shudder at the long-term toll this will take on individuals, families, communities and society.

new growth after forest fire 2

However with every crisis there is an accompanying opportunity. It is like a forest fire which in the wake of its destruction makes room for new growth. The most important question I believe we have confronting us at this moment is: 

How will we take advantage of this singular moment in human history to improve our destiny? 

The stakes could not be higher and there is no guarantee that the change will be for the better. After all, the Great Depression of the 1930s was an incubator for fascism. 

How can we get it right this time?

A Ray of Hope

I for one see a ray of hope in some of the collective action and awareness which we are witnessing across the globe. During the pandemic, connections happened on a local scale in neighborhoods which would not have happened previously. Many of our neighbors gathered for months 9 p.m. to give thanks to the essential workers who were doing their jobs on the front line and keeping the rest of us safe. This resulted in getting to know some of our neighbors in the apartment complex across the street. 

In our own apartment complex "Apero-Sunday" was initiated. Every Sunday at 6 p.m. the inhabitants of our building appeared on their balconies with a cocktail of their choice. We wished each other continued health, well-being and continued to chat for about 30 minutes. I have never been so well informed on how each of my neighbors is doing! The "Apero-Sunday" is infectious; little by little people from adjacent buildings are joined us in this Sunday ritual.

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The other phenomenon which has touched my heart came from musicians. Quarantined, isolated, unable to perform on stage, they found ways to reach us. I believe a new art form may have been born - remote choirs and remote orchestras. 

One example which literally brought me to tears occurred early on during the crisis. As Italy was the epicenter of the pandemic, a choir sung the chorus overture to Verdi's opera Nabucco. It was a symbolic masterpiece. The opera Nabucco is seen by many scholars to represent the Italian Risorgimento in the 19th century which led to the unification of Italy. The song itself - known as the "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves" - moans about their current suffering and longs for the country they have lost. This specific artistic performance was dedicated to the medical workers of Italy.

virtual chorus 1

Ever since I watched that video, my YouTube feed has been filled with a myriad of similar offerings - not only from choirs, but also from orchestras, rock bands and jazz musicians from all over the world. I have had the opportunity to enjoy productions from places like Australia, Thailand and Senegal. Perhaps most important of all, amateur groups have joined the fray and people - quite literally from all over the world - have been singing together.  (Take a look at an example of people from 15 different countries singing together).

Setting my stake in the ground

If we want to create a different world,
we need to articulate what this world will look like.

On the basis of these two examples, I would like to share my vision for a post-corona world. If we want to create a different world, we need to articulate what this world will look like. For me this new world can be built around what might at first appear a paradox: individuals who are part of strong local communities and, at the same time, interconnected with the rest of humanity on a planetary scale through the virtues of technology. If we see that this is possible, why would it be desirable (maybe even necessary)?

This may seem like an inordinately simple analysis, but I believe that at the center of what afflicts humanity today is a rampant uncontrolled individualism. At the heart of our current economic model is Adam Smith's "enlightened self-interest" which is working like an "invisible hand" to magically provide the best social outcomes for all. This thinking from the 18th century has had an incredibly beneficial impact on humanity - leading to the acknowledgement and protection of individual rights, freedom of choice, personal dignity and robust self-reliance. It has also unleashed economic productivity the likes of which have never been seen previously. In my opinion however, this kind of thinking has gone too far. It doesn't need to be replaced - but it does require a counterbalance.


Physics and biology tell us that everything is interconnected.  A wonderful image of this inter-connectedness was provided by David Bohm who is acknowledged to be one of most significant theoretical scientists of the 20th century.  He said that the most fundamental particles are like waves in an ocean. As they rise up, they seem to be individual objects, but they are really just part of the ocean. So it is with the fundamental particles in nature. They appear independent, but they are actually all interconnected. If particles at the most fundamental level are interconnected - it follows - then so are we.

Yet this reality of inter-connectedness is not reflective of how we currently behave in society. We act as though we were completely autonomous - as if we did not depend on anything else but our own capabilities. This pandemic revealed this fallacy as we realized that without the so-called "essential workers", society would not function.

Unfortunately this illusion of autonomy has some very serious drawbacks. An example of one of those serious drawbacks (spoiler alert - there are many more) is the rise of loneliness in modern society. With each one of us going about our lives as though we were independent of everyone else, a curious phenomenon has taken place. Despite the fact that there are approximately 8 billion people on the planet and that through the internet we are more connected than ever, there has been a steady rise in self-reported loneliness in all major countries. Such loneliness can lead to depression, mental illness and to destructive behaviors such as substance abuse.

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"Interactive Neighborhood Spaces" and "Collaborative Learning"

As an antidote to rampant individualism, I offer two ideas for a better tomorrow. Most of us live in neighborhoods surrounded by myriads of people who for the most part remain anonymous. In my opinion, creating a healthier society should begin by connecting with those people who are physically closest to us - our neighbors. Why not institute an "Apero-Sunday" as a regular way to keep in touch? Or better yet, why not create spaces and build neighborhoods around areas for people to meet and interact locally?

A conscious effort to strengthen local communities could lead to completely new ways of structuring our living environments and transform our interaction with neighbors. I am aware that many cities have projects and initiatives to strengthen local communities. What I am proposing here is not just a random architectural or urban planning project or a pro-active community center, but a complete re-thinking of how we live with the people surrounding us. This requires not only new concepts of spaces but also providing the opportunity for meaningful interactions. In other words, it requires neighborhoods which are conceived and planned with the meaningful interaction of the community as its central focal point.

Community that Works

On the other end of the spectrum, with the help of technology we can foster human connection literally all over the planet. Typically we look at learning as an individual activity. We study, learn alone and take tests alone to measure our progress. There is nothing wrong with this approach. However as the world becomes more complex, we have begun to realize that individual learning may not be sufficient and lifelong learning is a necessity to focus on the challenges which lie ahead.

Social learning has been shown to be one of the most effective ways of learning. We can and should create a culture of learning with and from each other which can literally take place on a planetary scale. 

In the same manner in which we connect virtually to sing together,
we can connect virtually to learn together.  

Over the past several years, Ensemble Enabler has been pioneering a process of Peer-to-Peer Learning inside of organizations. We have seen how this process can span regions and geographies. If this type of learning can take place inside of organizations across the globe, why not in society as well?

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Carpe Diem!

This is not the time to be timid. We live in an historical time. This Corona pandemic was only one of the major phenomena which shook the foundations of our civilization. Climate change and social inequality equally threaten our way of living. Digitalization promises to upend all of our previous concepts about how we work together. It is a time to be bold and to create the future we want to see emerge. During the course of history there are times when people have arisen to redefine the society in which they live. 

This is our opportunity.

Enable your organization to use the power of networks to identify sustainable business solutions with speed and effectiveness: Network Leadership - Intentional Collaboration - Network Mindset

Make the shift from a V.U.C.A. to a W.I.S.E. World

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Leading beyond teams - Developing a Network Perspective https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/leadership-sprints/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/leadership-sprints/#comments Sat, 21 May 2022 17:50:00 +0000 network collaboration learning centered leadership development leadership development information age digital transformation digital transformation in companies digital change in family owned companies leadership VUCA VUCA world collaboration teams networks Networks in business network connectivity network leadership mentoring network leadership bokeh Apple Inc. iphone dragonfly thinking Dr. Bruce Oberhardt network critical zones ONA organizational network analysis network mapping network leadership development visual enabling enabling organizations leadershipsprints mentoring network leadership dragonfly problem solving dexterity https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/leadership-sprints/ Weiterlesen

New leadership skills and sensibilities are essential for a rapidly complex and changing business environment. 

The growing need for agility has led to the realization that leadership is a team sport which requires the co-ordination and collaboration of many leaders. Moreover, the importance of leadership lies not only at the level of a team, but increasingly at the level of the network.

With information flowing at unprecedented speed, no single person can possess a complete overview of the current state of affairs in a business. Due to an environment characterized by complexity and rapidity, it is crucial for leaders to make sense of the situation by reaching out and engaging diverse perspectives. Where will these myriad of perspectives come from? Not only from within their organization but beyond its business boundaries with outside collaborators as well.

As individuals we tend to be "boundedly rational". What does this mean?  We base our decisions on our own personal definition of the problem. This definition of a problem is constrained by the perspectives to which we have access. By approaching a problem from multiple perspectives, a problem's definition becomes more diverse in nature. As a result, such a multiple perspective approach is more likely to pinpoint the core of the problem or issue. 

Networks are required to access such multiple perspectives successfully.

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The example of the camera development project launched in 2009 for Apple's iPhone7 Plus provides an excellent example of the power of multiple perspectives. The goal was to build a camera into the phone which could provide a "bokeh" feature - an aspect of photography which is acknowledged by professionals to be a level of the highest quality. "Bokeh" is a Japanese term referring to the pleasant blurring of a photograph's background.

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In most cases. the camera team was able to technically realize this effect. However a few unique technical exceptions prevented the release of the "bokeh" photographic feature. In order to resolve these persistent issues, other team members from sensor software, UX prototyping, algorithm teams, and - perhaps most important - senior design leaders came together. 

With the help of the senior design leaders the team was able to define the question "What makes a beautiful picture?" . This definition helped to advise the algorithm team to pursue these guidelines. The result? An acceptable standard was achieved despite some technical exceptions and the new "bokeh" feature was included in the next iPhone release. This breakthrough would not have materialized without the inclusion of other teams and individuals from various other departments.

From "Bokeh" Photography to Dragonfly Thinking 

Apple's iPhone 7 Plus innovation story illustrates the increasing need to embrace new leadership skills and sensibilities suitable for a rapidly complex and changing business environment. 

New leadership capacities need to be championed to collaborate successfully at the network level.

Like a dragonfly, leaders need to foster their ability to gain multiple perspectives. Dragonflies have two large compound eyes, each with thousands of lenses, and three eyes with simple lenses! They are powerful and agile fliers, capable of moving in any direction, and changing direction suddenly. While in flight a dragonfly can propel itself in six directions: upward, downward, forward, backward, to the left and to the right. These are great capabilities to view the environment while at the same time being able to swoop down to see the individual components as well.

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Dr. Bruce Oberhardt, a biomedical engineer and entrepreneur, has developed a unique approach to problem solving which was inspired by his encounters with dragonflies. His Dragonfly Thinking approach enables leaders to identify and solve important problems in a creative and highly effective way.

Ideas are the fuel that make the impossible possible.
Bruce Oberhardt

What skills does a leader need to become a "Dragonfly Thinker"?


To be able to capture the multi-faceted nature of an issue.


To provide a safe zone for everyone involved to say what he/she thinks.


To have the ability to iterate between different ways of looking at a problem.


To provide clarity around the purpose of the problem-solving activity.

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Safe zones allow the dragonfly larva to metamorphosize and fulfill its purpose. The mature dragonfly with its multiple eyes ensures that it can continue to "see" the multi-faceted nature of the issues which it encounters. Lastly, its flying agility enables it to map the environment and the interconnectedness of its parts. 

Like the dragonfly's flying skills, such agility is reflected in the key leadership skills needed to work through an increasingly rapid-changing business environment.

Ultimately the true shift in leadership capacity occurs when leaders are able to "see" themselves and understand the consequences of their actions.  

Enable your organization to use the power of networks to identify sustainable business solutions with speed and effectiveness: Network Leadership - Intentional Collaboration - Network Mindset

Make the shift from a V.U.C.A. to a W.I.S.E. World

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Visionary leaders focus on the impact of networks https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/leading-edge-leaders-focus/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/leading-edge-leaders-focus/#comments Sat, 21 May 2022 17:39:00 +0000 leadership capacity leadership in mid-size companies leadership development leadership competencies network leadership network dynamics interconnectedness ONA organizational network analysis informational flow in organizations energy flow in organizations hub and spoke network silos Silos in organizations mergers and acquisitions M+A leadership mindset collaboration network collaboration Innovation digital transformation in business VUCA healthy organizations visual enabling virtual learning sessions hybrid learning sessions leadership reconnaissance business solutions business challenges Leading change transformational change dexterity https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/leading-edge-leaders-focus/ Weiterlesen

Cultivating Network Cooperation with Leadership Reconnaissance

The design of most leadership development programs has traditionally been utilized to provide a space and opportunity for individuals to reflect upon their leadership strengths and weaknesses away from day-to-day business pressures. Typically the individuals who attend such leadership development sessions are pre-selected based upon their previous performance and perceived future promise to the organization.

By that as it may, the cutting-edge leadership paradigm has another focus on the level of the network through Network Leadership.

Fostering such a novel approach to leadership from the network perspective requires fundamental shifts from the long-established and classical leadership development practice.

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How can Network Leadership be promoted?

1. It is fundamental that the selection process of the emergent leaders is based on the network dynamics in the organization.

2. A conscious focus on the leadership development practices is based not only on skill development but also on a deeper awareness of networks within organizations.

The selection of emergent Network Leaders looks different from traditional selection processes of high potential leaders in an organization.  

From a network perspective, leadership development needs to take place in the critical zones of a network, i.e. where the important interconnections of the network exist. This is where the greatest potential value to the organization is located. In the example of Apple described in a previous blog,  this critical zone would include the camera team as well as the senior design leaders, sensor software and UX-Design groups. New leadership capabilities are required to nurture effective interaction between diverse groups.

The science of Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) reveals where these zones could be located within an organization. These maps help to identify the flow of information and energy within the networks.

The following example of a network map highlights a type of network which is often found within organizations. The diagram outlines how information flows among a set of interconnected people. This type of network is known as the hub-and-spoke network.


In this type of network, information flows through a central leader, expert or team who are located in the diagram as the hub. The spokes which emerge from the hub, all act as silos which are independent of one another. Any necessary co-ordination is directed from the hub.

When does this type of hub-and-spoke network manifest itself? 

One example is the formation of new groups after the completion of an acquisition of a business. This type of network may also originate from certain habits and behaviors, such as a strict command-and-control mindset or an individual's excessive ego.

These kinds of networks generally have various negative effects on collaboration. Hub-and- spoke networks often prevent innovation by constraining the flow of information. As a result, unhealthy feedback patterns tend to emerge; only those ideas which reach the central hub are considered. The central hub also functions as a noticeable bottleneck. Timely decision making is impaired due to the overwhelming co-ordination work which is required of the central hub.

A hub-and-spoke network in an organization provides an ideal focus for leadership development. Leaders who are located both in the central hub and the spokes are ideal candidates for a leadership development initiative.

Network Leadership Development

Once the critical network zone is identified, a leadership development process can be incorporated into the workplace.

Network Leadership Development is grounded on the principle that "awareness is the greatest agent for change" . When the system is able to see itself, shifts happen.

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How to bring leadership development back into the workplace

Ensemble Enabler has developed a hybrid approach to Network Leadership development in order to grapple with the challenges of our VUCA World: Leadership Reconnaissance. The focus of this Network Leadership initiative is the critical zones of an organization's network where the maximum positive influence can be achieved within an organization.

Leadership Reconnaissance compel us to re-think how and where leadership development should take place. Leadership Reconnaissance brings leadership development back into the day-to-day workplace while concurrently enabling a team of leaders to collectively address and resolve key business challenges. During the process of discovering viable solutions to a specific business issue, these leaders cultivate their personal leadership capacity in real time and develop skills in their own work environment.

Leadership Reconnaissance is by its very nature hybrid in design. It is characterized by a periodic switch between face-to-face and virtual work sessions. The business issue and/or challenge to be concentrated upon determines the pace and length of a specific Leadership Reconnaissance. Moreover, each Leadership Reconnaissance is tailored to meet both the development needs of the team members as well as the business challenge to be mastered.

To support Leadership Reconnaissance and collaboration in organizations, Ensemble Enabler has developed the practice of visual enabling which relies on the disciplines of Organizational Network Analysis, simultaneous graphic recording, group video compilations and participatory dialogue to "visualize" what is happening (or not happening) in a network zone.

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Why do we call this Network Leadership Development process a Leadership Reconnaissance?

A Leadership Reconnaissance is a momentary picture of the current state of a critical network zone. These work sessions are not day long workshops, but a form of information gathering which is collected in the moment. This is followed by reflection on the meaning of the current picture of both personal leadership development as well as the project's status. Like software development sprints, the team members collectively develop the next steps in order to address the opportunities which have been made visible through the continuous feedback.

A Leadership Reconnaissance initiative is not necessarily limited to a one-time experience. A leadership group can convene at a later date to address a new business challenge as well as build upon their acquired leadership skills to reach yet another level of competency. This kind of initiative can be repeated several times throughout a year to inspire and document progress.

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What does a Leadership Reconnaissance look like in practice?

• The starting point for the Network Leadership development begins with each member of the Leadership Reconnaissance team. The first step consists of a combination of a personal interviews with Ensemble Enabler combined an appraisal of his/her strengths. This serves to identify who each leader is when they are at their best.

• The kickoff face-to-face work session explores the fundamentals of Network Leadership as well as the attributes of leading a healthy organization. During this session the business issue at the core of the network’s efforts is clarified and the goals for the next steps to be undertaken in the workplace by the leadership team are defined (or if previously defined, revisited and confirmed)

• The members of the Leadership Reconnaissance team collaborate on the business issue together - either virtually or on-site - until the next work session with Ensemble Enabler.

• In preparation for the next session, Ensemble Enabler provides the members of the Leadership Reconnaissance with a series of questions for group discussion and reflection. The results of this reflection are visually captured by a visual enabler. This visualization of how things stand serves as a check-in for the next work session with Ensemble Enabler. This subsequent work session with Ensemble Enabler can take place either virtually or face-to-face depending on the needs of the team members as well as the status of the developments of the team's business challenge.

• This cycle of work sessions are repeated as the project progresses and complexity require. Each of the sessions (as described above) addresses different aspects of Network Leadership depending upon the current needs of the group.

• The end point of the Network Leadership development is a collective reflection of the leadership team members together with Ensemble Enabler to explore the learnings of the Leadership Reconnaissance from both a personal, team and business perspective.

Ultimately the true shift in leadership capacity occurs when leaders are able to "see" themselves and understand the consequences of their actions.

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Example of a Leadership Reconnaissance Initiative

A Leadership Reconnaissance which serves as a leadership development process can be illustrated from the viewpoint of an automobile part manufacturer. It is in the process of shifting their manufacturing capability from components for fossil fuel vehicles to components for electric automobiles. The network relationships of an initial R&D team which is tackling the issue from an engineering point of view is insufficiently interconnected with component and raw material suppliers, production process experts and customers. This inadequate interconnectedness among colleagues throughout the system impedes the ability to foster the kind of vital organizational change which is essential. A Leadership Reconnaissance initiative supports all the network participants to collaborate with each other to enable this organizational transformation to occur more effectively.

A Shifting Leadership Metaphor for our VUCA world

Today's business challenges require a new approach to leadership. With the arrival of the digital era, a fundamental shift in the world of business has occurred. The familiar and traditional metaphor of a successful business as a "well-oiled machine" is not able to effectively address the broad spectrum of challenges emerging from our current VUCA world.

Digital transformation has highlighted the significance and influence of networks. The new and emerging metaphor for an organization is a "living network". The implications of this metaphor are profound for the way organizations perceive themselves as well as their unique approach to business. This new metaphor requires a mindset change in all employees but especially a transformational shift in how that leadership potential is cultivated throughout organizations.

The use of Leadership Reconnaissance provides a cutting-edge approach to enable businesses to champion these leaders within their organization. It enables leaders to engage in an agile manner with the evolving changes throughout the business environment.

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Make the shift from a V.U.C.A. to a W.I.S.E. World

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Network Leadership Mentoring to promote thriving in organizations https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/mentoring-network-leadership/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/mentoring-network-leadership/#comments Sun, 24 Oct 2021 13:16:00 +0000 network leadership network leadership development network leadership mentoring network biology thriving thriving organizations Roald Amundson Robert Scott leadership leadership in networks leadership development executive coaching behavior change change change initiatives disruption disruption in business mentoring Mentoring network leaders networks Networks in business ONA organizational network analysis visual enabling organizational culture self-leadership team leadership leadership capacity network structures Foundations of Network Leadership communication channels of communication central connectors in a network boundary spanners in a network energizers in a network periphery contributors in a network networkleadership mentoring network leadership mentoringleadership VUCA VUCA world c-suite coaching dynamism https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/mentoring-network-leadership/ Weiterlesen

Entering unknown territory

Currently we are all entering into unknown territory, attempting to master the continuous challenges we face today with the behaviors and processes which worked so well for us in the past. 

This endeavor reminds me of the competition between Roald Amundsen of Norway and Robert Scott of Great Britain to be the first person to reach the South Pole.  Part of the reason that Amundsen was successful while Scott was not, was that Amundsen used dogs to help him traverse this hostile terrain.  In contrast, Scott used ponies. They had been extraordinarily useful in past explorations, but ponies were not particularly well suited to the conditions in Antarctica.  Why? Ponies are less tolerant to cold than dogs and their relatively small hooves and large weight cause them to sink into the snow...Admusen and Scott

Today's leaders face a terrain which appears equally as hostile as Antarctica appeared to Scott back in 1911.  If current leaders insist on using the methods of yesteryear, they will surely get stuck in the snow.

Yesterday's leadership development approaches are insufficient to master today's challenges

During the past few decades, coaching has grown to become an invaluable resource for leaders.  It allows them to reflect upon their actions and behaviors as well as to consider how to become even more effective.  As useful as this approach has been, it does not factor in a radically changing environment.  It is often the case that neither the leader nor coach have the necessary understanding of the new terrain into which we are entering - a world of constant disruption and change. 

As an experienced executive coach,  I sense that something more is needed.  Leaders still require the quality reflection time that coaching brings. However, they also need input to understand how to effectively navigate this brave new world.  Leaders require inputs to make sense of a radically changing environment.

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Our Network Leadership Mentoring initiative is our response to this conundrum. It is a practice which combines the wisdom of coaching with the transfer of insight.  The emerging new terrain requires an understanding of networks. The importance of this understanding of the nature of networks in today's business world is explored in more detail below. 

Ensemble Enabler's "Mentors" are fully accredited coaches who have a deep understanding of networks.  This unique combination supports leaders not only to reflect on their prevailing situation, but to also make sense of the rapidly changing business environment around them.  By using additional visual tools such as ONA Maps and Visual Enabling, leaders are mentored not only to understand, but to "see" this new environment as well.

A leader's understanding about how networks work underlines the value of the Network Leadership Mentoring process.

The new terrain is made up of networks

In the past 100 years, science has discovered that networks are the basic pattern of life on earth. All living beings are interconnected with each other through food webs. Our brains are a network of neurons connected to each other through a billion (!) synapses.

What scientists have learned about life, leaders and managers are just beginning to learn about organizations. Networks are at the heart of how organizations are structured and how they function.

Traditionally, leadership has focused primarily on self-leadership and leading teams.  These traditional dimensions of leadership still apply, but today's leaders urgently need to add a new dimension to their portfolio: the leadership of networks.  This dimension of leadership will allow them to successfully navigate the constant disruptions which are characteristic of our time.

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As with any new terrain, there is much to discover and learn.  Ensemble Enabler specializes in guiding leaders through this new territory through the Network Leadership Mentoring process and our unique practices. This support and learning experience enables leaders to feel secure and grounded in this new environment. It promotes a leader's ability to recognize the unexpected possibilities which this new dimension opens up for them  - both personally and for their organization.

A quick glimpse into the nature of this dimension helps to clarify its significance for building leadership capacity today.

Network structures are not all the same

There are a multitude of different network structures - each with its strengths and weaknesses.  Two very simple yet contrasting network structures will be described to illustrate the variety of network types which exist.


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Let us take the following hypothetical situation.  There is a fire raging and there are 100 people willing to help to put out the fire.  A river is approximately 100 meters away from the fire. It is the only source of water in the vicinity.  There are 10 buckets. 

How can the people be effectively organized to put out the fire as quickly as possible?  

The bucket brigade network structure works beautifully in this kind of situation. Instead of filling a bucket with water at the river and then carrying it to the source of the fire, the people position themselves in a straight line and pass the buckets to each other up and down the line. 

While this network structure is excellent for moving materials from A to B, it is not good at disseminating information quickly or accurately.  For a message to get from the fire to the river, information needs to be accurately conveyed across a chain of 100 people.  Anyone having played telephone line as a child knows how awry this process can go.


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A different network structure is needed for the dissemination of information.  This type of network structure was used successfully to disseminate information quickly prior to the advent of the internet.  In this kind of network structure, each person commits to contact at least 2 people and pass on a specific piece of information. 

The telephone tree was designed to spread information to many people simultaneously, thus creating a cascade of information flow.  Unlike in the bucket brigade, this network structure is robust.  Even if one or more people do not pass on the information, the chain of communication is not broken.  In contrast, if only just one person does not pass on the information in a bucket brigade network structure, the entire chain of communication grinds to a halt.

What roles exists in complex networks?

As networks get more complex, individuals are connected to the rest of the network in many different ways.  This creates distinct network roles.  What follows is only a taste of network roles since there are many more types than are listed here.

Here are some roles which are commonly found in networks:

Central Connectors:  People who are at the center of a cluster of connections. 

Boundary Spanners: People who connect different departments, functions, and/or geographic locations.

Energizers: People who inspire and/or motivate others.  Activating energizers is imperative for any change initiative.

Periphery Contributors: People with few connections and are situated at the edges of the network.  Some of these people can be very valuable if they possess needed capabilities. They could be even more valuable if they were better integrated into the network.

ONA Map connections

An understanding of network structures and roles is key for network leaders. All of these factors - different network structures and multiple network roles - require the full attention of leaders.  There are many factors to consider when leading these networks.  A leader's success will depend on how well they are acquainted with this new terrain. 

Networks provide an answer to deal with the challenges of a complex world. By their very nature, networks open the doors to unexpected opportunities for those leaders who possess the know-how to harness their power.  Networks are the zone where work gets done and innovation occurs.

Championing Network Leaders

Ensemble Enabler's Network Leaders Mentoring program is designed to accompany network leaders through the unfamiliar territory of a VUCA world.

How is Network Leadership Mentoring set in motion?

Individual sessions with experienced Ensemble Enabler mentors support leaders to recognize the networks and his/her role within this network.  Through a coaching-type of reflection, leaders learn what it means to lead these networks.  These one on one sessions are supported by both ONA analysis (Organizational Network Analysis) and Visual Enabling.  Both of these practices serve to make networks visible, tangible and vivid. The sessions typically last a couple of hours and take place on a regular basis over the course of 3 to 6 months.

It is also recommended that leaders participate in Ensemble Enabler's 6-part virtual  course Foundations of Network Leadership either prior to or during the sessions of their Leadership Mentoring Network process. The focus of these online sessions is to provide a learning experience about network structures, roles and the specific qualities of Network Leadership from the perspective of their impact on an organization and its business. During the course of this Foundations of Network Leadership virtual course,  participants explore the six principles of Network Leadership in depth.

There is strength in numbers. An additional value emerges when several leaders from an organization are concurrently part of the mentoring process. Normally a mentoring process  consists of exclusively individual sessions. However, an additional opportunity arises when the mentored leaders create learning groups with each other in the same company.  As the mentoring process unfolds, these groups of leaders can informally share knowledge and learnings with each other.

By a leader's participation in our Network Leadership Mentoring program and Foundations of Network Leadership virtual course, he/she can be prepared - like Amundsen during his successful bid to be the first to reach the South Pole -  to have the right tools and knowledge to successfully navigate this brave new world of networks.

Enable your organization to use the power of networks to identify sustainable business solutions with speed and effectiveness: Network Leadership - Intentional Collaboration - Network Mindset

Make the shift from a V.U.C.A. to a W.I.S.E. World

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Culture and competitive advantage are connected https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/the-link-between-culture-and-competitive-advantage/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/the-link-between-culture-and-competitive-advantage/#comments Tue, 05 Oct 2021 20:10:00 +0000 Culture culture change culture and organizational transformation culture transformation organizational culture Global Culture Survey Katzenbach Center organizational strategy strategy organizational performance distinctive culture decision-making in business decision making collaboration Innovation innovation capacity innovation and leadership coaching and development meeting customer needs post-pandemic business Change management change change initiatives disruption disruption in business purposeful leadership future of work thriving organizations executive leadership organizationallearning fluidcollaboration mentoring network leadership dexterity https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/the-link-between-culture-and-competitive-advantage/ Weiterlesen

A unique Global Culture Survey which involved 3,200 management leaders around the globe was just released. Managers responded to questions about the influence of culture on business success. The Katzenbach Center, an institution which is part of the accounting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers carried out this annual Global Culture Survey.

There are many key takeaways from the results of the survey. One in particular really got my attention:

"66% of the C-Suite and board members surveyed said that culture is MORE important to performance than the organization's strategy or operating model."

This assessment is supported by more detailed data. Respondents were divided into two groups - those which said they had a "distinctive" culture vs. those who asserted that they did not.  A "distinctive" culture was defined as having strong traits and behaviors exhibited throughout the organization.

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The companies which self-identified as having "distinctive" cultures showed statistically significant superior performance in:

  • Decision-Making
  • Collaboration
  • Innovation
  • Coaching and Development
  • Meeting Customer Needs

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In addition,

81% of respondents who strongly believed that their organizations were able to successfully adapt to the challenges posed by the pandemic also stated that their culture had been a source of their competitive advantage.  

72% of senior managers agreed that their culture helped to make successful change initiatives happen.

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Ensemble Enabler was founded as a result of an inner conviction which has been nurtured by professional experiences in both strategy and culture transformation initiatives that culture is more important than strategy.   Peter Drucker's famous quote "Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast" has long been my business mantra.  Although I never found too many senior managers who disagreed with this statement,  I have often felt that they didn't really give credence to this reality.

The pandemic appears to have finally tipped the scales towards organizational culture.  There had been an increasing awareness of the importance of culture. Moreover this Global Culture Survey has statistically documented that a majority of senior managers has begun to understand its preeminence for culture as a driver for significant superior performance.

To be nimble and adapt to the challenges of our current VUCA world, there is no other viable alternative but to focus and strengthen the culture of your organization.

Enable your organization to use the power of networks to identify sustainable business solutions with speed and effectiveness: Network Leadership – Intentional Collaboration -Network Mindset

Make the shift from a V.U.C.A. to a W.I.S.E. World

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Enabling change in a time of continuous disruption https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/how-to-successfully-navigate-chnage-and-disruption/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/how-to-successfully-navigate-chnage-and-disruption/#comments Mon, 04 Oct 2021 19:08:00 +0000 change disruption disruption in business organizational culture culture transformation organizational strategy Change management change initiatives leadership sprints organizational purpose purpose purpose shaping leadership development team coaching Steve Jobs Apple Inc. vision purposing Jim Collins visual enabling visualization Kelvy Bird Jon Kotter Peer-to-Peer Learning Peer-to-Peer Learning in business social learning Henry Mintzberg Community learning Pinboards virtual communication virtual communication platform Anita Roddick motivation intrinsic motivation c-suite dragonfly problem solving Bruce Oberhardt thematic large scale events Peter Senge Hybrid Work hybrid learning hybrid workplace digital communication digital communication platform Warren Bennis Mentoring network leaders network leadership learning journeys WFH enabling organizations organizational learning leadershipsprints fluidcollaboration mentoring network leadership dexterity https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/how-to-successfully-navigate-chnage-and-disruption/ Weiterlesen

A misleading myth

Change requires a combination of both honesty and authenticity. There is a long-held and predominant myth that 70% of all change efforts fail. This level of failures has been recognized as the absolute truth for over 30 years. But is is it really true? Where did this frequently cited number come from?

In their best-selling business book Reengineering the Corporation which was published in 1993 the authors James A. Champy und Michael Hammer state:

"Our unscientific estimate is that as many as 50 percent to 70 percent of the organizations that undertake a reengineering effort do not achieve the dramatic results they intended."

This is the origin of the myth of the failure of change initiatives. Over the years it has been cited by both by academics and professional consultants alike.

It turns out that no research was done to substantiate a 70% failure rate of change efforts. Not until 2006 was there a research effort which was undertaken to study change efforts in the public sector. The result? More thought-provoking results about change emerged. The results of the impact of change efforts were considerably more nuanced than the 70% myth would suggest:

31% of the change programs were very or moderately successful

43% of the change programs were somewhat successful

26% of the change programs were not successful

Looking at the results of this study, 74% of change initiatives had at least some success. This outcome underlines the fact that in reality, such efforts are not black and white and, as a matter of fact, there are many shades of grey in between. As a result, change initiatives cannot be viewed as either a perfect success or complete failure proposition. Nonetheless, the data emphasizes that change efforts are often not as successful as organizations would like to anticipate.

Now more than ever, change is a continuous force in today's business environment. Events like the pandemic or developments in artificial intelligence remind us daily that the rate of change is much slower today than it will be tomorrow.

Mastering the discipline to navigate disruption and change has become an imperative.

Is there a more down-to-earth and sensible way to champion change? The following reflections are based on decades of success (and failures) to enable change and provide companies with opportunities to gain sustainable momentum for adaption in our era of continuous disruption.

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Creating a sustainable culture to embrace and champion change

1) Beware of outside experts to drive your change initiatives

Ensemble Enabler’s rallying cry "True change comes from within" evolved out of first-hand experience partnering with our clients. Think about change from the perspective of trying to change a personal habit. It takes a considerable amount of will power and effort if a person wants to stop smoking or lose weight. This dilemma is no different for an organization.

Organizations need to own both its change strategy and the implementation of its change initiative. No amount of outside expertise can compensate for the spirit and energy emanating from inside of the organization. This approach is fundamental to make any change a sustainable reality. According to the study on the effectiveness of change efforts mentioned above, organizations which had successful change initiatives only used consultants 3% of the time. On the other hand, organizations with unsuccessful change initiatives were disposed to use consultants 35% of the time.

This is why a renewed perspective about how to collaborate with organizations in order to transform their businesses is vital for this era of disruption. Ensemble Enabler views its role as an ‘Enabler’ who partners with organizations to help transform their working environments. This is an acknowledgement that there is no true substitute for the internal determination which must be commonly shared by an organization’s employees to enable change. Through the use of our instruments and processes, Ensemble Enabler can support navigating the turbulence of change. However both the spirit and the management of the change process must remain firmly in the hands of the entire organization.

2) Be true to the purpose of your organization

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Change is not purely a cognitive process. Emotions play a significant role to ensure the success of any change initiative. When the objective of a change initiative is in harmony with an organization’s purpose (and vision), the more likely that its unique purpose will captivate the minds and hearts of employees and customers.

The company Patagonia is a leader in the outdoor gear and apparel industry which provides an excellent example of the power of purpose. In the early years of the business, founder Yvon Chouinard had created a profitable enterprise around making pitons, a type of gear for rock climbing. These pitons are a special kind of metal spike which are hammered into rocks in order to anchor a rock climber as he/she climbs. However by the hammering and extraction of pitons during a climb, the rock is permanently damaged. As an avid rock climber, Chouinard was aghast that he was directly contributing to the degradation of nature. From this personal realization, Patagonia’s purpose was born: "Do no harm". The change initiative which ensued was completely in harmony with the purpose of the organization: to create an alternative to pitons that would not damage the rock.

This change initiative proposed a potential existential threat to the organization, since at the time most of their business was making and selling pitons. However, the passion behind the vision sustained them throughout this transformational change process. The result? "Clean rock climbing" was invented by Patagonia through the development of so-called chocks and stoppers. This replacement for pitons became the norm throughout the industry. Aligning Patagonia’s change initiative with its purpose not only inspired its employees - it also inspired its customers.

Ensemble Enabler offers two powerful practices to support a company to unify a change initiative with its organizational purpose:


Interconnect a change message with the organization's purpose wins the hearts and minds of all involved in the change process.

“… if your purpose is to do amazing things or create things, you'll never run out of purpose because you're never done." 

Jim Collins, American researcher on business management, company sustainability and growth

Visual Enabling:

Multiply the impact of your change initiative by integrating the use of visuals to capture the entire picture of a meeting and/or workshop: both content and emotions. A picture is worth a thousand words.

“To do this requires a sensitivity with the energy of what is wanting to come through, an energy or vibe that has started to become tangible…” 

Kelvy Bird, Scribe and visual facilitator

3) Access your organization’s collective intelligence early in the change process

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Change initiatives of any size require the engagement of lots of people. Is it surprising that change processes often suggest steps which involve the mobilization of "coalitions" and "armies"?

Professor Jon Kotter of Harvard University, one of the leading experts on change advances just this kind of approach as part of his 8-step change process: Step 2 is "Build a Coalition" and Step 4 is "Enlist a Volunteer Army". These appear to be understandable proposals for action, but how can this be accomplished - especially the army part?

I believe that something very fundamental is missing here. The traditional idea is that management builds a compelling case for a change initiative. After the case has been made, many managers think that all that needs to be done is to communicate about the initiative. They assume that as a result enthusiastic supporters will sign up throughout the organization to carry the banner of change into battle.

Research has investigated this topic and determined that this is not how motivation actually works. People don't mind change. What they do mind is “being changed”. Every change initiative calls upon leadership to provide C-Suite commitment as well as inspiration for the process. However without the engagement of all employees throughout the organization, a change initiative will be “dead on arrival”.

Initiating a change process in which employees are incorporated on an equal footing to discover the changes which best meet their needs is key for its long-term impact. The involvement of employees and stakeholders early in the process, provides a unique opportunity to gain their insights and earn their moral support even before the initiative is launched.

This sounds good, but how does this really work in practice? 

The issue of workplace safety provides a good example. There were an unacceptable amount of workplace accidents in a manufacturing company we were working with. As a result a new set of safety guidelines for its factory was being implemented. Explicit issues were determined by experts and were non-negotiable. However, the routes which forklift vehicles were allowed to travel inside the factory introduced a “grey area”. Why not include employees to explore and recommend solutions for safety issues relating to the forklift vehicles in the factory? This involvement in the process not only fosters greater acceptance of the overall workplace safety package efforts, but in all probability will also identify safety solutions relating to the use of forklift vehicles as well!

Recognizing the power of collective intelligence to cultivate motivation as well as to foster inventive thinking about business issues throughout an organization, Ensemble Enabler has pioneered various practices to actively involve employees and stakeholders early in change initiatives. 

Dragonfly Problem-Solving:

Gain insights from multiple perspectives to resolve challenging business issues facing an organization.

"Ideas are the fuel that make the impossible possible."

 Bruce Oberhardt PhD,  Biomedical Entrepreneur

Thematic Large-Scale Events:

Use the power and wisdom of the crowd to mobilize resources throughout your organization.

“Collaboration is vital to sustain what we call profound or really deep change, because without it, organizations are just overwhelmed by the forces of the status quo.” 

Peter Senge PhD, Professor at MIT Sloan School of Management and Author of "The Fifth Discipline"

4) Till the field before you plant the seeds

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Communication, communication, communication. This is the mantra of every successful change initiative. Especially in a time of hybrid work and digital communication among employees, straightforward communication is fundamental. It is not the quantity of communication about a change initiative which enures the successful dissemination of transmission its message. This success is realized by the quality of communication

In other words, it is all about preparing the field so that when the seeds are planted, they will take root and thrive.

Quality communication means dialogue. Often management voices a reluctance to engage in dialogue because of a common misconception that its takes too much time: “We need to act and we need to act now” is a common stance. However embracing this approach is similar to a farmer who wants to plant seeds before first taking the time to till the field. Any farmer would certainly realize that “You get what you sow” and would therefore make the investment to till the soil before planting the seeds for next year’s crops.

With over 20 years of experience creating a broad spectrum of participatory formats to foster dialogue, Ensemble Enabler stimulates quality communication among employees at record speeds. One example is a a major re-branding initiative which engaged approximately 6,000 employees in 17 countries and in 13 languages throughout Europe in a 3 hour dialogue - all held within a 2 week period. The result? A much greater understanding and acceptance of the change initiative throughout the entire corporation.

The practices that we champion to make this quality of communication possible are:

The Leader as Teacher: 

Develop leaders not just as communicators but as both learners and teachers as well.

"Even while they teach, men (and women) learn." 

Seneca the Younger

Peer-to-Peer Learning:

Learn with and from each other enables individuals to learn better and more effectively. 

"When the world is predictable, you need smart people. When the world is unpredictable, you need adaptable people." 

Henry Mintzberg PhD,  Professor of Management Studies, McGill University

Learning Journeys:

Tackle complex issues such as organizational culture, disruption and change via digital, hybrid or face-to-face multi-faceted learning experiences.

"Wanderer, there is no path, the path is made by walking."
Antonio Machado, Spanish poet

5) Celebrate the small victories along the way

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Change fatigue and change doubt often begins to creep in during the course of an initiative. Many individuals have invested tremendous effort during the process. Yet arriving at the “promised land of change” still appears nowhere in sight. Be that as it may, many managers still want to see results just about this moment and press for more and more...

If the change process is long and arduous, how can employees’ enthusiasm and engagement be nurtured?

The secret is both simple and elegant. To take time out to breathe and realize the amazing accomplishments which have been achieved as a group to date. Celebrate and establish rituals which make the on-going progress both tangible and appreciated. It’s similar to a hike in the mountains. It doesn't matter if there are still 1.000 meters to climb. The fact is that the hiker has already climbed 800 meters. And with each additional step, the view gets better all the time!

System wide communication during the course of a change initiative is indispensable. Fostering this kind of company-wide communication is easily attainable through the use of today's digital technology. Unfortunately not enough companies avail themselves of this invaluable resource to promote communication throughout their organizations.

Ensemble Enabler has developed two approaches to address the challenge of communication during a change initiative. By integrating these approaches into a change initiative, an company benefits from the use of virtual formats to encourage communication throughout an organization – across teams, departments and geographies.

Community Learning:

Share business insights and learnings through large-scale virtual communication events.

"A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." 

Margaret Mead, American cultural anthropologist

6) Demonstrate GRIT through the inevitable ups and downs of the change process

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How does an organization and its employees react when the inevitable reverses - the ups and downs of change management occur? This is a fundamental question for any change initiative. One must appreciate that change is not a linear process. Inevitably there will be setbacks. It is the leader’s responsibility to grapple with these setbacks with imagination and foresight.

All leadership is contextual and for this reason, context grounded in the business matters. Ensemble Enabler's leadership practices are distinctive by the fact that they are context based by design. As a result, leadership advancement initiatives are not carried out in a vacuum. Instead these leadership practices focus upon advancing the impact of a change initiative in real-time throughout the company.

Team Coaching:

Support teams to become unstuck, tap into their innovative mindset and reach the next level of performance.

"Great things in business are never done by one person. They're done by a team of people."  

Steve Jobs, CEO and co-founder Apple Inc.

Leadership Sprints:

Develop capabilities and effectiveness of teams and networks in the context of a given leadership challenge.

"A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together." 

 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German poet and scientist

Mentoring Network Leaders:

Coach leaders to embrace a nimble approach to engage with disruption and change.

"Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality." 

Warren Bennis, Professor and Founding Chairman, The Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California.

Approaching change from a perspective of a shared endeavor shifts the manner in which such initiatives are envisioned and carried out. Ensemble Enabler’s practices have been shaped by years of experience with companies of all sizes. Our commitment is to continually strengthen how we support companies in their change initiatives in order to enable "true change to come from within" these organizations. Ultimately It is the quality of the collaboration within your company which will determine the success of any change initiative.

Enable your organization to use the power of networks to identify sustainable business solutions with speed and effectiveness: Network Leadership -  Intentional Collaboration - Network Mindset

Make the shift from a V.U.C.A. to a W.I.S.E. World

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Reaping the Full Benefit from a Participatory Event https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/reaping-the-full-benefit/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/reaping-the-full-benefit/#comments Fri, 30 Apr 2021 00:00:00 +0000 Participatory Meetings and Events Personal and Team Leadership Development Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica feedback loops participatory process participant engagement conversation participatory dialogue expert know-how wisdom of crowds collective wisdom collective intelligence face-to-face meetings participatory meeting design leadership in networks meeting strategy learning environment large scale events small expert forums community expert networks knowledge marketplace largescaleevents discourse https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/reaping-the-full-benefit/ Weiterlesen

Refreshing the design approach of an Expert Forum 

Boehringer Ingelheim's Vetmedica division initially conceived the idea for a Forum over 10 years ago. The aim is to create a meeting place to exchange perspectives and practices among some of the main players in the industry. Initially the meeting was labeled the European Forum because the main emphasis was on developments occurring in Europe. However over the years, interest was peaked all across the globe and, as a result, the number of participants coming from countries worldwide has increased every year.

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Krakow - location of the 7th Expert Forum

The original design of the Forum was structured in a traditional way with speakers, panel discussions and break out sessions. After three such Forums, two factors led Hugo Seemer from Boehringer Ingelheim's Vetmedica - the driving force behind the Forum - to think about re-designing the experience.

Why as a redesign of the Forum considered? 

  1.  Firstly, the participants' feedback indicated that they would like to have more time to interact with other participants.  
  2. Secondly, the organizer realized that actually every participant had very valuable know-how to share and could potentially take on the role of speaker. How could this worldwide know-how be made more generally available?

Participatory Meetings

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The planer of the Forum from Boehringer Ingelheim contacted Ensemble Enabler and requested us to re-design the upcoming Forum which was scheduled to take place in Amsterdam.  We were delighted to take on the challenge because creating participatory meetings and events is one of Ensemble Enabler's strong points. 

At the heart of our re-design was fostering meaningful and productive conversations among groups of four people. Research indicates that this size is optimal for promoting thoughtful exchange among participants. These conversations provide the focus for the event's main activity. Moreover, these conversations build on the know-know of select invited expert speakers around an established theme. 

Expert speakers play a key role in the Forum by providing expert input for the ensuing in-depth conversations. However, they also become participants in the discussions. After the invited experts have made their own presentations, they rejoin the conversation groups as a participant. As a result, the expert perspective is integrated into the meeting both as a speaker and participant in all discussions. Each of the tables discuss the same topic simultaneously which provides a shared understanding of the selected theme as well as fosters a sense of coherence and joint effort in the group as a whole.

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Working Towards a Joint Result

An integral part of the Forum's design is to promote the participants to work collaboratively to achieve a group result.  Numerous methods are used to document and visualize the insights and ideas on the theme which is the focus of that year's Forum.  All the participant feedback is analyzed and documented. This common objective adds a sense of purpose to all the exchanges among the participants during their discussions throughout the day.

For example, the theme for the Forum in Krakow was the emergence of global standards in the industry.  Participants discussed this issue from the perspective of three perspectives: Animal Welfare, Consumer Demand and International Trade.  All their ideas and recommendations from each thematic perspective were documented throughout the Forum. An initial overview of the results and recommendations was presented to them at a cocktail reception prior to a joint dinner.

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The New Normal can be either face-to-face OR virtual

This new design approach has been very favorably received by the participants of  Boehringer Ingelheim's Annual Forum. One participant shared with us that he "...cannot imagine going back to the more traditional meeting structure."  

The benefits for both the participants and Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica are numerous. During the course of the table discussions, participants enjoy thematically focused and high quality conversations of longer timeframes (20-30 minutes) with at least 20 different colleagues throughout the course of the day. A visualization of an initial overview of the group's reflections and ideas is presented to the participants at the end of the day. The Forum serves to foster a closer relationship with Boehringer Ingehlheim Vetmedica's customers as well as promotes a close network among the participants themselves.

Every organization can reap the full benefit from its meetings by embracing a participatory approach to the design of its meetings.

Whenever people meet, there is latent wisdom and emerging knowledge to be expressed and captured. A meeting's design offers both the flexibility and alignment with an event's requirements - either as a face-to-face such as Boehringer Ingelheim's invitation-only Forum of virtual events - whether on a small, intimate scale or large group event.

Discover the type of participatory event approach which will provide the insight and results you need for your organization

Enable your organization to use the power of networks to identify sustainable business solutions with speed and effectiveness: Network Leadership - Intentional Collaboration - Network Mindset

Make the shift from a V.U.C.A. to a W.I.S.E. World

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Capturing the wisdom of crowds through participatory meetings https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/capturing-the-wisdom-of-crowds-through-participatory-meetings/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/capturing-the-wisdom-of-crowds-through-participatory-meetings/#comments Wed, 31 Mar 2021 00:00:00 +0000 crowd dialogue participatory meetings and events systemic dialogue wisdom of crowds KMUs family-owned business mid-tier businesses large scale events employee meetings meeting strategy participatory process purpose goals impact feedback loops visualization graphic recording harvesting methods vision concept design for meetings employee participation employee engagement largescaleevents knowledge marketplace social learning collaborative learning discourse https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/capturing-the-wisdom-of-crowds-through-participatory-meetings/ Weiterlesen

The essence of our collaboration with a family-owned business over the years has been to develop unique ways to maximize the innovative potential of their meetings. The resulting new meeting strategy captures the knowledge and experience of clients and employees as a means to further develop their business.

The following case study illustrates how the power of adopting a 21st century approach for the design of participatory meetings provides concrete and usable results for businesses.  The meeting in question took place over the course of a full day.  In this instance, 60 participants representing key stakeholders in an industry took part in the meeting. The majority of the day's time was dedicated to participants speaking with each other and working out ideas and solutions together. Specific content input was provided by three speakers each of whom spoke 20 minutes over the course of the day.

The business issue: The company in question produces a product which enables a business to eliminate a key business problem – but only when it is used appropriately. What that means is that using the product without a systemic strategy is not sufficient. Several additional processes need to be put in place for the product to work successfully. Unfortunately the complexity of these processes has prevented the product from having the success which had been anticipated as it was launched into the market.

Formulating the participatory meeting's purpose and goals

Ensemble Enabler facilitated an initial discussion with the company’s team to explore the focus for the meeting in order to lay a solid groundwork for the participatory process. Out of these moderated discussions with the client's team, an over-reaching purpose for the meeting emerged: „To create awareness of the required systemic application of the product and to understand the barriers to this appropriate systemic use."  An ambitious goal was set to increase industry wide usage of the product by 30% over the next 12 months.  The meeting was designed to serve as a catalyst to achieve this goal.

The Planning Process

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Understanding  the participants' needs

Much of the key work in a participatory meeting occurs during the planning stages for the meeting itself. Time is invested to understand the participant's needs and perspectives. These insights serve to inform the conceptual development of the participatory meeting.

Depending upon the available time frame available for the development of a participatory meeting, a spectrum of suitable ways to assess participant needs and perspectives can be implemented. In this case study, a series of telephone interviews with selected customers/stakeholders with specific topical knowledge were undertaken. After all the interviews were completed, the results were analyzed to assess to which extent these frames of references fit into the company’s strategy and plan for its product’s use (or not).

Aligning meeting goals with participant needs

The next phase integrates the company’s aspired purpose with the input from strategically selected customers/stakeholders. An iterative process is used to refine the design for the participatory meeting to reflect the company’s established goals. The design approach for this particular meeting aligned a series of key messages to be discussed by the participants.

The company selected 3 speakers to provide the participants with the required Input which would foster meaningful conversations by the participants. After the key messages for these presentations were finalized by the planning team, each of the speakers were briefed to assure that their presentations would be in alignment with the overall concept design approach.

Capturing a wealth of ideas


View the video invitation to this participatory event

Meetings are held to produce useable input and ideas for a company’s business. Towards this end, Ensemble Enabler integrates the manner in which this input is captured during the course of a participatory meeting into its design. Parallel to the development of the flow of the participant engagement and any other elements such as the selection of speakers, the concept development for idea harvesting throughout the meeting is made. Participants‘ input and ideas can be captured by using a broad spectrum of processes. A visualization provides qualitative data for the documentation of subject items which are worthy for further reflection and consideration. Such a visualization which is done in real-time supports a shift in the nature of the participants‘ collective thinking on a certain question or issue.

This case study utilized a method mix of both analogue and digital harvesting methods. The participants were asked to document their findings and aspirations throughout the participatory meeting by using a mix of written post-its and digital entries. The speakers‘ presentation and group discussions were captured by a graphic recorder in real time during the course of the meeting. 

All of these materials served as the source for a post-meeting analysis of the meeting’s results. Select initial results were presented on the same day of the participatory meeting during an evening event. More detailed results were analyzed the week after the meeting. A digital overview of the results was created to share the overall insights with the meeting’s participants in a timely manner as well as provide a basis for the company to build upon the meeting's results for their subsequent efforts.

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What impact did the participatory meeting have for the company?

Both the nature of the exchange among the participants as well as the documented results indicate that the company’s set goal to „to motivate these influencers to take action to address this challenge“  was achieved. By monitoring their business results in the next fiscal year, the company will be able to measure to what extent the participatory meeting initiated a process of positive change which will be measured by the increased use of their product in the marketplace.

In addition, the feedback about the meeting’s participatory nature was extremely positive. One participant expressed his deep satisfaction by saying

  „It was a brillant meeting! I have been to many meetings and conferences in my professional life. This was the first time that  I was given the opportunity to ask my own questions and discuss their implications with other like-minded  colleagues.“

This case demonstrates that a participatory meeting approach speaks to both the heads and the hearts of the participants. Such a carefully developed concept will unleash the knowledge and innovation for a specialized question or issue while also fostering a high level of satisfaction among the participants. When a business re-thinks meetings from this deeply collaborative 21st century perspective, loyal advocates for the company are cultivated and usable business insights are generated.

Discover the type of participatory event approach which will provide the insight and results you need for your organization

Enable your organization to use the power of networks to identify sustainable business solutions with speed and effectiveness: Network Leadership - Intentional Collaboration - Network Mindset

Make the shift from a V.U.C.A. to a W.I.S.E. World


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Developing leaders for your business’ future https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/a-novel-approach-to-create-leaders-for-your-business-future/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/a-novel-approach-to-create-leaders-for-your-business-future/#comments Sun, 28 Feb 2021 18:09:00 +0000 leadership leadership in networks leadership development leadership in mid-size companies leadership development and team leadership Leading change Organizational capacity organizational culture organizational learning organizational development organizational health organizational mindset organizational networking organizational communication continuous learning life-long learning motivation curiosity experimentation Innovation innovation capacity innovation and leadership home-office new work virtual learning collaboration collaborative learning online collaborative learning team learning teams learning culture in a business learning culture learning culture in an organization learning enablers learning environment learning from networks learning method for teams learning centered leadership development personal leadership Peer to Peer learning cross-functional communication cross functional teams network connectivity hybrid learning face-to-face learning onsite virtual learning sessions moderation healthy organizations leadership competencies enabling organizations network leadership VUCA world VUCA networkleadership learnerteacher mentoring network leadership Peer-to-Peer Networking p2pnetworking discourse https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/a-novel-approach-to-create-leaders-for-your-business-future/ Weiterlesen

The greatest challenge for current leaders throughout any organization is to continuously learn and adapt to the rapidly changing business environment. Their ability to do so defines not only their capacity but also the quality of their ability to lead others.

But how do leaders come up with the time to cultivate their commitment for continuous learning and motivate colleagues during their busy work schedule? 

How can they be motivated to welcome curiosity and experimentation as a fundamental approach to their daily business?
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To date the classical paradigm of leadership development has been to host multi-day workshops off-site. Why not reclaim that learning experience for the on-site (and virtual) workplace and integrate this learning into actual business issues which require focus?  Bringing this learning process back into the workplace and applying these learnings to real-time situations provides a recognizable opportunity for businesses to foster optimized collaboration throughout their organization.

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By building on championing two key leadership skills – learning and teaching – Ensemble Enabler has developed a highly adaptable leadership development process fitting for our VUCA-world.

During this process, the leadership insights are gained from three perspectives: individual, team and organizational.

INSIGHTS ABOUT PERSONAL LEADERSHIP At the beginning of this leadership development, individual leaders learn about themselves and develop a personal leadership development plan based on their strengths.

INSIGHTS ABOUT TEAM LEADERSHIP Coupled with the leader’s individual learning journey, they set out to master the skill of moderating NETWORK CONNECTIONS modules for colleagues throughout the organization.

INSIGHTS ABOUT NETWORK LEADERSHIP THROUGHOUT AN ORGANIZATION Specific NETWORK CONNECTIONS modules wich address topics of strategic significance to the business are chosen during this last stage to roll out the learning initiative throughout the organization. When the participants of these NETWORK CONNECTIONS discussions come from a cross-section of the business, it also serves to enhance the network connectivity of the organization.

This leadership development process is hybrid in nature and mixes face-to-face participation with virtual sessions. It unfolds in four interrelated steps all of which can be custom-tailored to the needs of a business of any size. 

STEP 1: Design the leadership experience

STEP 2: Mastery of art of face-to-face and virtual moderation of NETWORK CONNECTIONS module

STEP 3: Roll-out of leadership learning initiative

STEP 4: Cultivation of an organization’s network connectivity

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"Cracking the nut" of effective leadership development in your organization: Two possible scenarios

But how does this novel approach operate in an actual work environment?  In order to illustrate the possible use of this leadership development approach in a business, Ensemble Enabler has developed two conceivable scenarios. These scenarios demonstrate the flexibility of the thematic focus of such an initiative to deal with the myriad of leadership challenges facing any business.

By selecting NETWORK CONNECTION modules whose focal point is leadership, the diverse perspectives of individual, team and organizational network leadership are can be explored. To accommodate the busy schedule of participating leaders, these NETWORK CONNECTIONS sessions of 90 minutes can be offered on a monthly basis to the members of the leadership development initiative .

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3-month SCENARIO – Fostering a resilient and healthy organization

This 3-month leadership development process provides an opportunity for an organization’s leaders to consider an organiation's resilience and wellbeing health as a competitive advantage. 

  1. An initial module reflects upon how best to increase an individual leadership’s energy levels to better meet the demands of his/her daily workflow. 
  2. A leader’s ability to observe and foster healthy relationships within his/her team is the focus of the second module. 
  3. The last module in this 3 month scenario advocates a better understanding the basic underlying assumptions of an organization’s culture and its leadership which determine its overall health and resilience.

6-month SCENARIO - Deepening leadership capacities for a thriving organization

Three additional NETWORK CONNECTION modules build on the insights and know-how gained in the 3-month initial leadership development process which were briefly outlined above. These three module topics give attention to leadership issues which are at the heart of all healthy and successful organizations.

  1. The implications of possessing a clear sense of purpose – both on a business and personal level – provides the first deep dive into effective leadership. 
  2. The subsequent module focuses on how to lead by trust and, by doing so, foster psychological safety in teams (and the workplace). 
  3. The final module devotes itself to the broad spectrum of attitudes and behaviors observed and experienced on an organizational level. It delves into the issues of mindset and its impact on an organization’s ability to continuously learn, foster creativity and inspire innovation.

The two scenarios outlined above are intended to demonstrate the broad spectrum of possibilities for the design of a leadership development initiative which meets the needs of your organization.

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Our experienced Leadership Enablers work together with organizations to develop custom-designed leadership development initiative from our library of the 100+ NETWORK CONNECTION modules which have been conceived and written by acknowledge business worldwide experts. Our approach offers a simple and elegant manner to bring this know-how into your organization to foster leadership capacity throughout your organization.

Enable your organization to use the power of networks to identify sustainable business solutions with speed and effectiveness: Network Leadership - Intentional Collaboration -Network Mindset

Make the shift from a V.U.C.A. to a W.I.S.E. World

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Network Leadership: a Mindset Shift for the Digital Age https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/network-leadership-2/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/network-leadership-2/#comments Sun, 14 Feb 2021 16:56:00 +0000 network leadership leadership circular economy neuroscience interconnection networks Networks in business network biology living networks organizational health organizational mindset organizational silos silos trust relationships in business connecting people in business Innovation motivation meaning purpose covid-19 crisis superspreader hubs ONA organizational network analysis information age VUCA VUCA world learning culture teaching colleagues facilitation learning-centered leadership development leadership sprints network leadership mentoring team coaching enabling organizations growth mindset leadership development leadership in mid-size companies leadership in networks innovation and leadership innovation capacity digital age learning culture in an organization learning culture in a business leadership development and team leadership networkleadership fluidcollaboration enabling environment csuite purposeful leadership future of work disruption strategy executive leadership Mentoring network leaders mentoring network leadership mentoring dynamism https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/network-leadership-2/ Weiterlesen

The World as Network

Our world is organized on the principle of networks. Everywhere we look, networks can be discovered.

It was the emerging new science of ecology in the early 20th century which observed that species were linked together through their feeding relations with each other (aka food chains). Subsequently, it was understood that these links are an integral part of a network known as the food web which connects all species in an eco-system with one another. This food web acts as a a kind of natural “circular economy” in which even the waste of one species is the food and nourishment of another species.

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With the advance of neuroscience, the ubiquity of networks as well as their sheer power has been revealed. An average human brain contains approximately 10 billion nerve cells which are interlinked in a vast network of 1 trillion (!) connections known as synapses. It is the patterns of these interconnections which gives rise to our sensory perception, memory, knowledge and consciousness. Everything we feel, taste, see, and know is a consequence of the power of networks and interconnections.

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Likewise basic cells are currently understood to consist of networks of molecules. This concept gave birth to the science of network biology. Even atoms are regarded as networks of energy.

A mindshift in the role of leadership in organizations is vital

If our natural world is organized around the network principle, it is natural to recognize our organizations as networks as well. Grasping to understand this network reality has significant implications for our understanding of the role of leadership in organizations. In addition, it requires a mindset shift. 

Currently the prevailing metaphor for organizations is a "well-oiled machine". This paradigm predicates that the role of leadership is to guarantee that all the parts of the machine are working appropriately. 

What are the implications of this approach? The end goal is usually to obtain the maximum amount of output possible from the entire process.

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How does a change in metaphors make a difference in our understanding of leadership? Let’s conduct a thought experiment to explore the impact of a new metaphor starting with the following question:

What happens if some component inside an organization is not working as effectively as it should be?  

From the machine model point-of view, the focus is entirely upon the underperforming part. The non-functioning component is analyzed and an attempt to fix it is made. If it cannot be fixed, the part is simply removed and replaced. The success of any intervention is dependent on the leader’s efforts which are external to the actual machine itself.

What if we consider an organization as a living network, rather than a machine? 

By using a living network focus, attending to a specific underperforming element of an organization would be similar to coping with a malfunctioning organ such as a liver. To develop an understanding of a degenerated liver, it is key not only to look at the component – the function of the liver itself – but the entire organism which determines an individual’s overall health. Is the underperforming liver the result of alcohol abuse, obesity or some other cause? This approach would indicate that the solution should occur at the level of the organism, not the organ in isolation. From a living system perspective, endeavoring to fix the part alone leads to addressing only the symptoms, not the cause.

If all else fails, an organ transplant can be considered. However, this is a highly complex undertaking which ultimately depends upon whether the host accepts the transplant (or not). The replacement "component" (ie. organ) may be fully functional, but if the host rejects it, the problem is not resolved.

In contrast to an external fix which is implied by the machine metaphor, in the case of a living network "true change comes from within". The success of an action is dependent on a behavioral shift and/or reaction from within the organization itself.

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HEALTH as a new leadership paradigm for our post-Covid world

First and foremost, what is the purpose of leadership?

As mentioned above, the machine metaphor defines the role of leadership as the individuals who make sure that the machine runs optimally. Moreover, it also implies external operators who maintain and run the “well-oiled” machine

In contrast, a network functions by itself. One of the hallmarks of life is its ability to maintain itself. Neither bacteria nor a cat need an “external operator” to successfully be alive.

In light of this new metaphor, the role of leadership in a living network must shift from "running the machine" to ensuring the optimal health of the organization.

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And what could this metaphor of health mean for our present-day understanding of leadership?

Rather than focusing only on the components (ie. machine parts), optimal health embraces a focus on the whole. The flow of nutrients throughout the entire body is more important from a health point of view than the functioning of its individual components.

What are we referring to, when we talk about organizational health? It is the flow of information and energy across the various nodes of its network which characterizes the health of an organization.

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The detrimental nature of silos in companies provides a helpful insight about the importance of fostering organizational health. An organization’s ability to function properly is impaired when different parts of an organization do not communicate effectively with each other. Lack of trust is an indication that individuals are holding back what they know and/or are willing to contribute. This detrimental mindset inevitably impairs an organization’s ability to perform optimally. This underscores the importance of why trust is the ultimate measure of health in an organization.

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The goal of leadership in the machine metaphor is to continually grow capacity and maximize output.  More is always better.   In living networks there is unquestionably a period of growth. However maturation is the more important phenomenon of living networks.

What implication does the concept of maturation have for organizations? How an organization adapts to its environment is crucial for its ability to maintain its health. This adaptation (or “maturation”) is developed through learning.

Growth at all costs as aspired to in a machine metaphor is replaced with a goal of "maturation" in the new paradigm of living networks. A fine balance of growth and adaptation is realized through learning.

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At the heart of optimal health lies quality not quantity.

What Leaders do

Under the new paradigm of living networks, a leader's focus is on the interconnections in an organization and the flows between them.  These flows consist of both energy and information. The health of a system (ie. organizations) is directly connected to the robustness of its interconnections. For example, while Mental health undoubtedly has a physical chemical component, researchers have discovered that there is also often a social component. Loneliness and lack of meaningful social connections often play a significant role in the development of anxiety and depression. A powerful antidote to depression is to foster strong interpersonal connections.

What does this mean for leaders? They must focus on relationships and fostering these relationships both within and outside of their organization. Connecting people is no doubt one of the most valuable leadership activities.

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Recognizing how certain combinations of already pre-existing technologies can lead to breakthroughs is the essence and inspiration of innovation. One of the reasons that digital technology is so disruptive is that novel combinations of software, sensors, platforms, etc. create new applications for their use. To successfully adapt to the on-going digital revolution, leaders are being forced to focus on those interconnections which are driving innovation in the marketplace.

However, it is insufficient to focus on the number of interconnections alone. It is the quality of those interconnections which ultimately determines their overall value. What flows through those interconnections is where the unforeseen value resides. The platform of Airbnb connects property owners with travelers seeking overnight accommodations. Although Airbnb does not own any properties itself, it owns the flows of information. This interconnection makes Airbnb more valuable than most established hotel chains. Property owners and travelers continuously flock to the Airbnb platform because of the quality of their information connections - measured in ease-of-use, convenience and reliability.

Moreover, the role of energy flows should also not be underestimated. It is energy which underlines the quality of the interconnections. Energy is made visible in an organizational setting through the motivation of employees and their willingness to go the extra mile to get things done. In an environment which is characterized by trust and fueled by meaning, energy flow in a human context is boosted. People are energized when they understand the purpose of their work and how it contributes to a meaningful outcome.

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Where is Leadership needed?

From the perspective of the machine paradigm, leaders are for all practical purposes external to the organization. Therefore, it is not surprising that leadership is traditionally regarded as residing mostly at the "top" of an organization. Perched at an eagle's lofty perspective, leaders can objectively look down on their machine and objectively figure out how to “tweek” it.

On the other hand when the organization is regarded as a living network, this perspective has distinct consequences for leaders. First of all, a living network normally has no clear top or bottom. There are only networks nested within networks in a living system. Seasoned managers know only too well that to accomplish tasks solely by following the hierarchical chain of command in an organizational chart can be futile. Managers often rely on a balance of authority and their informal networks to get things done. Seasoned managers intuitively understand that the power is not necessarily always located at the top.

But where does the power of networks actually reside? 

It is to be found in those areas of an organization where the highest quality (as well as quantity) of interconnections reside. A negative example directly related to the Covid-19 pandemic provides an excellent example of the power of interconnections. Super-spreader events are hubs which accelerate the spread of the virus throughout society. Similar “super-spreader hubs” in businesses can positively disseminate information and material resources rapidly throughout the organization. These hubs can be located anywhere within the organization, not only at the top. These power hubs require leadership and call for on-going leadership development.

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Leaders need to identify where these hubs are located throughout their own organizations. This new paradigm of an organization as a living system poses a new challenge for leaders. Leaders need to learn to map - not measure - how information and energy flows throughout their organization. The new science of organizational network analysis maps not only the hubs in the organization but the attributes of the interconnections as well.

Leadership in the Information Age

Networks have always existed. The coming of the Information Age has raised our awareness about the omnipresence of networks in our world. The challenges of the pandemic has furthermore raised important issues about a need for change in leadership practices. This shift in perception has undoubtedly been heightened by accelerated digital transformation and its impact on our working lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. The role of networks has become more noticeable to all of us more than ever.

All the more reason to embrace the idea that the paradigm of the "well-oiled machine" has outlived its usefulness. New thinking and up-dated metaphors atuned with the needs of the Information Age are required for leadership to evolve.

Ensemble Enabler has developed an approach to leadership development which addresses this leadership challenge of our current Information Age. These series of services enable organizations to transition into this new world of leadership.

Leader as Learner and Teacher - Learning, Connecting, Teaching, and Facilitating form the foundation of Ensemble Enabler’s new leadership paradigm. This leading-edge approach to how leadership works is based upon the "living network" paradigm which provides a framework for a transformative process to effectively develop leaders.

Leadership Sprints – Leadership development which is fostered in real-time and engages within the framework of actual project work located at the power hubs of organizations and their immediate networks.

Network Leadership Mentoring – An innovative approach to support key leaders throughout an organization which enables leaders to reflect and embrace a shift in perceptions and behavior about how to effectively lead an organization in a VUCA-World.

Team Coaching – Optimal team development is cultivated through observation, feedback and reflection on relationships and interconnections within existing teams to enhance the energy and trust within the group.

Enable your organization to use the power of networks to identify sustainable business solutions with speed and effectiveness: Network Leadership - Intentional Collaboration -Network Mindset

Make the shift from a V.U.C.A. to a W.I.S.E. World

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Leadership Development which integrates learning with teaching https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/agile-leadership-development/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/agile-leadership-development/#comments Tue, 01 Dec 2020 18:49:00 +0000 leadership leadership development leadership in mid-size companies Learning culture in an organisation learning culture learning journey learning environment learning method for teams learning from networks lifelong learning agile learning agile organization Agile learning organization Agile learning culture mastery teaching colleagues sharing knowledge John F Kennedy Apple Inc. VUCA VUCA world learning enablers Peer to Peer Learning meaning making facilitation communication Networks in business network learning Pinboards communication platform Leading change change initiatives channels of communication culture change in companies coaching Coaching Ourselves mentoring SMEs small and medium businesses family-owned business enabling organizations networkleadership learnerteacher organizationallearning peer-to-peer-learning p2pnetworking Peer-to-Peer Networking discourse https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/agile-leadership-development/ Weiterlesen

From time immemorial, leadership has been associated with learning. Put simply, leaders are always learning. 

The caliber of any leader is revealed in the way they deal with uncertainty and/or novel situations. Especially during these moments, leaders must learn as much as possible about the environment which they are encountering. Their capacity to learn and adapt is closely correlated to the quality of their ability to lead.

iStock 91100111 JFK quote

"Leadership and Learning are indispensable to each other."
                                                                      John F. Kennedy

Truly great leaders not only learn, they teach others. They transmit their accrued technical skills, business principles, life lessons to colleagues. Such personalized instruction fosters competence and compliance as well as a mastery of skills, thought independence and action.

In our VUCA world, Apple has understood the importance of learning and teaching for leadership. A recent Harvard Business Review article describes how general managers at Apple spend approximately 30% of their time learning and 15% of their time teaching. This dedication to learning and teaching has been central to their on-going success.

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If learning and teaching are such essential leadership ingredients, why are they so absent in formal leadership development programs? 

Traditional leadership development workshops provide participants with information and insights for learning, but they seldom provide a looking glass into the phenomenon of learning itself and its intrinsic connection to leadership.

Ensemble Enabler has pioneered a novel leadership development program which places learning and teaching at its core. 

This program builds upon our acclaimed NETWORK CONNECTIONS process which brings colleagues together to learn with and from each other. 

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This NETWORK CONNECTION process is led by certified Learning Enablers whose role is to skillfully facilitate the 90 minute learning sessions and foster deep meaning-making on the  module topics together with their colleagues throughout the organization. NETWORK CONNECTIONS is designed to create a learning culture by spreading learning throughout an organization. It also provides a unique learning laboratory for the development of both future and existing leaders.

How is NETWORK CONNECTIONS fully integrated into a leadership development initiative?

PHASE 1 - Design of a Learning Enabler Work Session for Leaders 

The leadership development process begins with a work session designed to generate internal Learning Enablers within an organization. During this leadership development work session, participants take a deep dive into the leadership issues of personality, relationships, influence, motivation and communication. State-of-the-Art diagnosis instruments (Workplace Big 5 ProfileTM, Strengthscope®, FIRO Business® and others) are used by Ensemble Enabler to assist participants to identify their leadership strengths and create a personal leadership development plan.

PHASE 2 - Leaders master the art of moderating NETWORK CONNECTION Sessions

Unlike traditional leadership workshops, the Learning Enabler process coaches participants to lead NETWORK CONNECTIONS sessions with their colleagues. During this process, the participants master the fine arts of facilitation (both analogue and virtual) combined with the  effective use of stories and metaphors as enablers for impactful communication.

ancient greek philosophers picture id506575133 resized 25

                               "Teaching is the highest form of understanding."


PHASE 3 - Leaders roll out a NETWORK CONNECTIONS initiative about leadership in their own organization

The leadership development process has only just begun after the formal end of the Learning Enabler work session. Learning Enablers continue their learning journey by hosting 90 minute learning sessions with their colleagues at least once a month. There is a library of over 100 topics on written by leading professors and worldwide business experts which is available on a broad spectrum of business issues. 

By selecting the topics key to your business and leaders, a NETWORK CONNECTIONS initiative is custom-designed to meet your organization's requirements.  These topics range from from practical management know-how to championing leadership capacity in the form of  emotional intelligence, trust, accountability, collaboration, decision making, etc. These newly certified Learning Enablers  reap great learning benefits from facilitating learning sessions about leadership with other leaders throughout the organization.

PHASE 4 - Leaders strengthen their networks throughout their organization

The final feature of this leadership development program is the advancement of an unparalleled networking opportunity. Through the invitation strategy of a NETWORK CONNECTIONS  initiative, Learning Enablers are teamed up with a different set of leaders from throughout the organization. By teaching other leaders in the organization, the Learning Enablers extend their personal network and strengthen their connections throughout the rest of company as well.

Virtual Peer to Peer Learning 1

Our Enablers serve as a continual coach and mentor to your leaders 

Throughout this leadership development process, Learning Enablers are coached and mentored by senior members of Ensemble Enabler's experienced team. Monthly calls are scheduled to review the next learning topic. These discussions provide the opportunity to debrief the learning sessions which your leaders have facilitated as well as to review each Learning Enabler’s personal leadership development progress.

Learning how to learn may be the most important skill in today’s rapidly changing business world. 

Fostering the ability of leaders to develop the capacity for continuous learning and sharing their insights through teaching is key for sustainable leadership development in any organization.

Enable your organization to use the power of networks to identify sustainable business solutions with speed and effectiveness: Network Leadership - Intentional Collaboration - Network Mindset

Make the shift from a V.U.C.A. to a W.I.S.E. World

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Disruptive Digital Strategy or Strategy Disrupted? https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/digital-strategy/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/digital-strategy/#comments Sun, 30 Aug 2020 19:37:00 +0000 digital disruption digital strategy digital revolution digital transformation digital vision digital business models experimentation fail fast fail forward Alexander von Humboldt Charles Darwin organizational learning team learning fluid strategy purpose vision Interface Climate take back Jim Collins scenario role plays reverse engineering of the future organizational mindset growth mindset organizational culture adaptability disruptor era of experimentation and emergence 3M Post-Its Dr. Spencer Silver Art Fry Willard Henry Perkin mauveine digital change learning from networks digital culture in business digital culture networkleadership fluidcollaboration mentoring network leadership discovery https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/digital-strategy/ Weiterlesen


Through the impact of the digital revolution, change is occurring with increasing speed in all aspects of both our business and personal milieus. Why would these accelerated developments not have an impact on how business strategy is approached as well? Digital transformation has indeed changed the classical paradigm of strategy. Like everything else in the digital age, the world of strategy is in a state of disruption.

This shift is particularly noticeable to me due to my hands-on-experience working for two of the best known strategy consultants in the world. During those years, I was applying what I had learned during business school about strategy and applying it as a strategy consultant, never questioning the fundamentals of the classical business strategy paradigm itself. 

How do most business people understand strategy? 

Classical strategy can be understood as the process of getting from point A to point B. Point A is the current location of the organization and Point B is the strategic goal that the organization sets for itself.

Classical strategy begins with a pursuit to accurately assess the current situation, in other words Point A. For example. one tool which is used is the famous SWOT Analysis - Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.

The next step is the determination of the strategic goal. This is Point B that is a fixed destination to work towards and achieve. Point B can be items such as increasing market share, addressing new market segments or gaining new organizational capabilities. 

The all-embracing role of classical strategic planning is to move the organization from its current position (Point A) to the desired pre-determined destination (Point B) as efficiently as possible.

Classical strategy is deliberate in nature. It depends on senior leaders to set goals and develop plans to achieve them. This typically leads to long-term plans which the organization doggedly adheres to and executes over a multi-year time frame.  

Digital strategy is more like a scientific expedition than travelling from Point A to B

The spirit of a scientific expedition – learning along the way, collaborating via cross-functional teams, adapting to unforeseen change, dealing with risk - offers an appropriate metaphor for digital strategy.

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                                                                                                                              (c) Deutsche Welle

Both the famous expeditions of Alexander von Humboldt in South America in the 18th century or Charles Darwin aboard the Beagle in the 19th century were expeditions without fixed destinations. The journey itself was the destination. Humboldt and Darwin gathered as much information as they could along their journeys in order to gain insights into the emerging sciences of biology, geology and evolution. Along the way, they were constantly interacting with the environment to learn as much as possible.

In the current business environment, promoting a similar intense interaction with the environment can provide an organization with a broad spectrum of potential options. Some options may lead to new breakthrough business models and/or processes which will allow a company to serve its customers more advantageously.

Digital strategy is emergent in nature. This suggests that it can surface from any part of the organization. Digital strategy emerges as an environment changes. concurrently the organisation is constantly shifting and adapting to apply its strengths to this changing reality.

At the heart of the digital strategy process is learning, not efficiency. In contrast to classical strategy’s “Point B”, it is the journey itself which is fundamental. If another pathway appears to offer better options for learning, then a change in the destination is the more appropriate step to take.

Why does digital strategy differ so radically from classical strategy?

A powerful analogy for the pivotal difference of digital strategy is the humble 3M Post-it Notes® product, (hereafter referred to as "sticky notes"). The origins of the product occurred when a 3M scientist - Dr. Spencer Silver - developed an adhesive that stuck lightly to surfaces but didn't bond with them. At the time, he had no clue how this kind of glue could be used. Years went by without finding a commercial use. It was only until Art Fry, another 3M scientist became frustrated by the fact that the little paper pieces which he placed in his church's hymn book would constantly fall out, that the first use of sticky notes was born. They could be used as bookmarks!

Since that beginning, myriads of ways of using sticky notes have been "discovered". Here’s an initial list (and there are certainly many more examples):

  • To-do Reminders: Placing sticky notes in a visible location with one to-do item per sticky note
  • Brainstorming: Using sticky notes to write down thoughts and arranging them on a board
  • Temporary Mind-Map: Rearranging items into clusters or categories prior to transferring them into a more permanent format.
  • Filing system: Using sticky notes of different colors to identify where documents are to be filed
  • Strategically positioned messaging: Posting notes on the refrigerator for the grocery list of items which need to be bought so that others can do the shopping
  • Thank you notes: Using notes to leave as a thank-you note for someone, sending kudos to a colleague/friend for a job well done, or offer an encouraging word.


  • Keyboard cleaner: Catching the debris and dust in the little spaces between computer keys. A strip of a sticky note picks up this debris between the keys
  • A coaster: Placing a sticky note (more than one is better!) under a cold drink to protect the surface of a table
  • Party decor: Hanging strips of post-its in different colors from the ceiling to add ambiance to the celebration
  • A Safe: Creating an unexpected place to store valuables by hollowing out a sticky note block
  • etc.....
post it safe

Digital technology is like sticky notes.  

Each platform or technology that is brought into existence has a myriad of uses. Similar to the sticky note examples above, unexpected uses often emerge which were not even envisioned by the technology's developers!

The use of Twitter provides an excellent example of the potential of multiple usage. Major media outlets use Twitter as a means to broaden the reach of their content. Airlines use Twitter as an effective customer service tool. Many other companies use Twitter as a business intelligence tool - by following certain Twitter feeds, organizations receive an early warning of what competitors are undertaking. To enhance their readiness to respond, Red Cross uses keyword monitoring on Twitter to quickly identify natural disasters as well as their intensity.

Every technology - platforms, collaborative software, 3D Printing, augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, etc. – embodies this multiplicity of uses. I like to think of this potential as the "the sticky note nature of digital technology".

What are the implications of the "sticky note nature of digital technology"?

1. The opportunities to copy from other successful companies are limited

Benchmarking has been a favorite tool which is used by many companies to keep up with the competition. Unfortunately, in a "sticky-note" environment what is good for one company may not be good for another company.

Many of the strategic challenges and opportunities which your company will encounter will be unique, with nuances related specifically to your company, your industry sector, your geography and your competitive environment. The nuances may overwhelm the similarities. In addition, solutions to challenges previously discovered by other companies will highly likely be outdated by the time your company can implement them- As a consequence, opportunities to "lift and shift" digital strategies from other companies is limited.

There is no alternative but for your company to figure out what the best "sticky note" fit of technology is for your organization.

2. Digital strategy requires continuous ongoing experimentation (and failing)

Since the appropriate use of technology can differ from user to user, how do you find out what the best fit is for your company and its customers? The opportunities to use technology in new and creative ways increase with every passing day. Not only are novel technologies constantly emerging and improving, but existing technologies can be more easily and effectively combined with the existing technological infrastructure to generate unimagined new capabilities.

The only way to find out what is best for you and your customers is to continually experiment.

And you have to be prepared to fail. Most experiments will fail. If you are not prepared to fail, you are not predisposed to learn.

This mindset requires a significant shift in a company’s organizational culture. Most companies have been built around the principle of efficiency which has little tolerance for failure. This mindset must shift to adaptability – fail fast learn fast - in order for organizations to survive in the current disruptive environment.

fail forward

3. Any company can be a disrupter!

The good news (and the bad news) is that any company can become a disrupter. Everyone can experiment and potentially find breakthrough combinations which change the nature of your business. Cultivating a culture of curiosity, experimentation and learning is the best path to cultivate a disrupter mindset. This is not an activity which is relegated to a select few IT specialists but must embrace the creativity and ingenuity of as many of your employees as possible. There is power in numbers! 

As we enter an "Era of Experimentation and Emergence" (E³!) we should remind ourselves that this is not a new process but has been around throughout human history. However what is new and different in today’s world is the exponentially increasing possibility of finding breakthrough combinations which can be implemented quickly. In addition, the possibility to identify these innovative approaches is within the reach of a much larger population. 

Experimentation and emergence has been around for a long time

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Sir William Henry Perkin - a British chemist in the 19th century attempted to synthesize quinine as a treatment for malaria. His numerous experiments ended up in failure - or so he thought. It turned out that one of his "failures" could be used to dye textiles. He had accidentally created the first synthetic organic dye - mauveine. By doing so he lay down the foundation for the synthetic organic chemicals industry, thereby revolutionizing the world of fashion. 

Don't lose track of the big picture

In the micro-world of experimentation, it is easy to lose track of the big picture. The effort to achieve short-term objectives can easily lead an organization in the wrong direction.

It is key not to lose precious time and resources experimenting in areas that will not bring the company forward. A fluid but deep-rooted framework to guide experimentation is critical for success.

Digital strategy relies on its focus on a strong purpose and a clear vision of the digital future.

PURPOSE…”like a guiding star on the horizon—forever pursued but never reached.”* 

Why does a company do what it does? The answer to this question determines what areas to experiment in and what lessons to draw from this experimentation. 

The company Interface provides an inspiring story about the power of purpose. Interface is the world's largest manufacturer of carpet tile and a global manufacturer of commercial flooring. Their purpose is to create products and services which not only fulfill customer needs, but also contribute to creating a better world. In 2016 they launched an initiative  called "Climate Take Back" . This was a pursuit to determine how their products could help to reverse climate change. With this purpose in mind, the CEO unleashed the creativity and ingenuity of his employees to find a solution. After much experimentation, the R&D group revealed a first-of-its-kind prototype carbon negative carpet tile. Further experimentation has refined this product. In 2020 the company launched a carpet tile that has a carbon negative impact (i.e. the production and use of the tile sequesters more carbon out of the atmosphere than if it had not been manufactured in the first place).

“… if your purpose is to do amazing things or create things, you'll never run out of purpose because you're never done."
Jim Collins, American researcher on business management, company sustainability and growth

 As companies think about their purpose, they are well advised to move beyond thinking of themselves not only delivering products and services, but delivering outcomes for customers, society and even the planet.

Ask yourself this key question to determine (or refine) the purpose of your organization:  "What are the outcomes you are delivering?"

* Collins, J.C. & Porras, J.I. (2000). Built to last: successful habits of visionary companies (3rd edition). London: Random House Business Books.


The word “vision” is a much misused word. Crafting a vision is challenging. In an era of constant disruption, a company’s vision is more crucial than ever.

You don't want to be fighting the last challenge but preparing for the next one. In the words of the great Canadian ice hockey player Wayne Gretzky:

  "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been."

The challenge is manifest. How is it possible to envision a future 2 to 3 years away - never mind 5 to 10 years in the future - with technology developing at such a rapid speed?

Processes such as scenario role-plays or reverse engineering of the future can provide helpful insights. Such processes help to make explicit the transformational impact of technology your business faces.

An example in the field of manufacturing makes this point clear. 3D Printing is for instance a potential disrupter of a classical manufacturing business. Leaders can use scenario role-plays to gain important insights. You begin by assuming that this technology has fully arrived. This assumption enables a company to explore what it could mean for its manufacturing footprint, supply chain, the nature of work in the factory et al. The result of these thought experiments enables a company to become better prepared for the future and act proactively rather than just reacting to on-going developments. It provides observations which enable an organization to articulate its purpose and the desired outcomes which it intends to deliver to its customers and society.

But how does this work in the current business environment? The advantage of this approach was evident at a recent health care conference. Participants from various companies were discussing the adoption of the current EMR technology (Electronic Medical Records). As part of this discussion, they contemplated on the potential impact of artificial intelligence and blockchain technology on EMR in the coming years. Many participants reached the conclusion that a large majority of the EMR systems which they were currently developing would be obsolete by the time they were implemented.

A well articulated digital vision helps prevent companies from going down the wrong rabbit holes. It is an envisioned future.

The arrival of fluid strategy

Deliberate strategy is dead. The classical approach of planning how to get from Point A to Point B is too slow and inaccurate to be suitable in a time of digital disruption. Such approaches are being replaced by "Fluid Strategy". This is a constantly evolving strategy which is determined by the ability of an organization to learn about a constantly changing environment.

scientific expedition

It is fitting here to return to the analogy of a scientific expedition. Digital strategy is similar to exploring a natural environment. The explorer regularly stops to learn as much as he/she can about the flora, fauna and landscape. While never forgetting the purpose of their expedition, the surroundings are scanned for possible next steps along the journey and the best path is chosen which could lead to additional discoveries and more learning. The process of learning, scanning and choosing the best path is continuously repeated, changing destination when necessary.

This is the excitement and on-going challenge of mastering digital strategy: To identify a broad spectrum of possibilities, consider possible successful scenarios to explore their viability and discover how best to test ideas and products which fulfill the company’s vision and, by doing so, continue to pursue the company’s purpose for its future.

Click here to discover more about how Ensemble Enabler can support your company's individual journey to digital transformation

Enable your organization to use the power of networks to identify sustainable business solutions with speed and effectiveness: Network Leadership - Intentional Collaboration - Network Mindset

Make the shift from a V.U.C.A. to a W.I.S.E. World

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Establishing the foundation for a thriving digital transformation https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/laying-the-groundwork-for-your-organization-s-successful-digitalization/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/laying-the-groundwork-for-your-organization-s-successful-digitalization/#comments Thu, 11 Jun 2020 00:00:00 +0000 digital change digital transformation digital change in family owned companies SMEs digital change in small and medium-sized businesses digital culture digital transformation organizational culture digital transformation in business digital culture in business Support for digital change Support for digital transformation agile organisation digital leadership Culture Change organizational culture capability building organizational capability building growth mindset organizational mindset culture and organizational transformation Peer to Peer Learning Thomas Siebel MIT John Hagel CoachingOurselves networkleadership organizationallearning peer-to-peer-learning p2pnetworking Peer.to-Peer-Networking https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/laying-the-groundwork-for-your-organization-s-successful-digitalization/ Weiterlesen

Any promising change initiative begins with identifying the projects focus and clarifying its goals.  Digital transformation is so all-encompassing that companies often find it difficult to adhere to these fundamental best practice principles for change management initiatives.  Part of the dilemma is that various misconceptions prevail about digital transformation: 

What exactly is it? How and when can it be achieved? 

Diverse views on the matter crop up and inevitably lead to a lack of alignment across the organization.

Ensemble Enabler has developed a special modular experience consisting of 6 core topics to support organizations to address the digital transformation process at any stage of development. This can be scaled across the entire organization both quickly and effectively.  

The result? 

  • An aligned understanding of the digital challenge
  • a better focus on the critical issues, and 
  • a significantly greater engagement of employees from all levels in the organization.  

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Each of these 6 core module topics will be described in more depth below. However, before we take a deep dive into the content of the six modules, let us look at the litany of key misconceptions about digital transformation which persist in most organizations. 

The Essential First Step: clarifying misconceptions

Even though digitalization has been a part of our world since the 1990s, many fundamental misunderstandings about what digital transformation means for organizations still prevail.  Eliminating these misunderstandings and creating alignment across the organization is the critical first step to mount a successful digital transformation initiative.

Here are some of the most common misunderstandings about digital transformation which are prevalent in many organizations:

Misconception #1       
Digital transformation is optional.

Although this misconception is gradually waning, there are many companies that continue to believe that parts of their business do not need to be transformed. A historical precedent provides food-for-thought about this kind of mindset:

In the early twentieth century, many manufacturing companies thought electrification simply meant replacing steam engines with electric motors.  The true gains came however from the redesign of production processes.  Many factories failed to understand the conceptual changes required.  The result: 40% of industrial trusts formed between 1888 and 1905 failed in the next 2 decades.  

Atkeson, Andrew and Kehoe, Patrick 2007 Modeling the Transition to a New Economy: Lessons from Two Technological Revolutions." Economic Review, 97 (1): 64-88

Fast forward to the 21st century: in his recent book entitled Digital Transformation (2019), Silicon Valley Guru Thomas Siebel predicts that:

 "It is estimated that 40 percent of the companies in existence today will shut down their operations in the next 10 years....Merely following the trends of change is not enough... Organizations need to reinvent the way they interact with the changing world."

Misconception #2
Digital transformation is difficult to define.

With the myriad technology offerings which exist in the marketplace, the endurance of this misconception is understandable.  Yet the definition of digital transformation is straightforward: it is the process of learning as an organization about how best to use technology to support its business goals.  

There is no "right" way to use technology. Twitter for instance, can be used as a customer service communication tool (as the airline KLM does) or alternatively as a window to understand what the competition is doing (as the pharmaceutical/chemical company Bayer does). Each business needs to discover for itself what the best use of a given technology might be.  

Misconception #3:                                                                  
Technology is the key element of digital transformation. 

No, it is not. Learning is at the heart of digital transformation.  A four year study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Deloitte which interviewed over 16.000 managers in diverse industries concluded the following:  The true challenge of mastering digital disruption (and a major part of the solution) is enabling people

Companies can effectively navigate the challenges of digital disruption by launching  initiatives which are far more organizational and managerial than technical.

"In a digital environment, organizations must shift from a world of 'scalable efficiency' to one of 'scalable learning'".  

Hagel, John, Beyond Process: How to Get Better, Faster as Exceptions become the Rule, Deloitte Insights, November 13, 2017

Misconception #4:                                                                              
Digitalization is led and owned by the Chief Digital Officer.

This flawed thinking leads to digital transformation proceeding in the following manner:  the leadership of an organization announces the nature of the next digital initiative and employees are expected to fall in line with this proposition.  

The problem with this approach is that the adoption of any kind of new digital technology actually hinders employee performance for the first few months. Why? It requires time to figure out how to best to integrate the new tools into a workflow.  Such top-down initiatives run the risk of creating significant resistance downstream.  New ways of working require providing employees with the adequate time and cognitive resources to explore, experiment and learn. 

Moreover, a top-down process often misconstrues the intrinsic nature of digital strategy. Traditonally formal business strategy has been formulated at the top and subsequently implemented throughout the organization in a multi-year time frame. In contrast, the development of a digital strategy is by nature iterative and requires substantial bottom-up feedback.  

Digital strategy is a continual process of identifying the overall goals, developing short-term initiatives which move the organization closer to the goal and then rethinking the nature of those goals based on what the organization has learned from those short-term initiatives.  As such digital strategy requires not only top-down commitment but bottom-up feedback as well.  The degree of digital maturity is measured by the extent that technology is adopted through pull (i.e. employees introducing novel technological solutions themselves) vs. push (i.e. all initiatives conceived and pushed into the organization from the top).

Misconception #5:                                                                                      
Setting up agile teams is sufficient.

This is the IT view of the world.  This perspective promotes the idea that everything can be solved with agile teams and agile methods.  The predicament of this approach is that these methods are not actually applied to the organizational culture as a whole, but usually just practiced within specific teams.  Some companies even go to the extent to ensure that their agile teams are 'quarantined' away from the normal business so that they do not 'infect' or clash with the traditional corporate culture.

Here is the stumbling block. Digital transformation means creating an agile organization - not only enabling agile teams.  Digital Transformation is all about transforming the organizational culture itself.

Misconception #6:                                                                            
Digital transformation is a final destination.

Truly digital organizations never arrive.  Digital transformation is a never ending journey.  Opting to initiate this journey is similar to the situation which the men of the Spanish Conquisador Hernán Cortés faced on the shores of Mexico when Cortes burned the boats which brought his men to the New World.  Once the boats are no longer there, there is no going back.  You can only go forward.

Furthermore, nobody knows where this journey leads.  We only know that we have no choice but to embark on it. 

 In the famous words of Antonio Machado: 
"Wanderer, there is no path, the path is made by walking."

Ensuring a successful digital transformation

The misconceptions outlined above all elucidate that digital transformation requires the participation of everyone within an organization.  All levels of an organization need to learn, grow and adapt in order to become a truly digital organization. 

A bold new vision about how an organization will adapt to this constantly changing world needs to be championed by C-Suite executives.  Project managers need to responsible for creating an operative environment which is more conducive to effective work and collaboration in the digital age. Employees need to respond to digital disruption by mastering new skills through continual learning.

The first step in the digital transformation journey requires that these misconceptions about digitalization inside of your organization are uprooted and employees are supported to develop an understanding about what this journey means both for the organization and them personally.

In order to support the development of a vibrant organizational culture which fosters a thriving digital transformation, a 6 core module program has been developed for the use by organizations of all sizes:

Digital Strategy 1

Casts off the misconceptions about top-down, technology-centered, CTO-led digital transformation initiatives.  Explores what digital strategy is and why it matters.


Delves into the iterative nature of digital transformation and the importance of bottom-up feedback for a sustainable initiative.  Explores the attributes of a fail-early, learn fast culture.

cross functional

Throws light upon how communication across departments and functions acts as a potent catalyst for digital application breakthroughs. Examines the importance of breaking down silos to facilitate digital transformation.


Examines the core skill of digital transformation - scalable learning.  Underlines the urgency for all employees of an organization - from CEO, office and shop floor workers - to develop a growth mindset.

New Work

Scrutinizes the impact of digitalization on work processes and the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the organization. Addresses opportunities which employees can set in motion during the course of a career in a digital world.

Organizational Culture

Reveals the underpinnings of a truly agile organizational culture. Reflects upon the qualities of leadership throughout an organization to promote sustainable digital transformation: Digital transformation is culture transformation.

An impactful and sustainable approach for any digital transformation initiative

Our custom-designed learning modules on digital transformation offer a cutting-edge approach to learning within an organization while promoting "scalable learning".

Informed by the most recent research recommendations on outstanding digital transformation initiatives, these six core modules topics have been developed exclusively by Ensemble Enabler to address the core issues related to this continuous challenge. Through our powerful NETWORK CONNECTIONS approach, each module embodies the principles of interactive adult learning while establishing the foundation to foster scalable learning throughout an organization.

Involving employees in this learning journey about digital transformation fosters alignment throughout the organization by getting everyone "on the same page". This leads to substantially more productive deliberations on digital strategy and, as a result, a far greater level of engagement in its transformation processes and initiatives.

Enable your organization to use the power of networks to identify sustainable business solutions with speed and effectiveness: Network Leadership - Intentional Collaboration - Network Mindset

Make the shift from a V.U.C.A. to a W.I.S.E. World

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Why Peer-to-Peer Networking creates a sustainable impact on your organization's Learning Culture https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/why-peer-to-peer-learning-creates-sustainable-impact-inspiration-from-scholars-in-the-field/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/why-peer-to-peer-learning-creates-sustainable-impact-inspiration-from-scholars-in-the-field/#comments Sun, 17 May 2020 00:00:00 +0000 collective intelligence Peer-to-Peer Learning P2P CoachingOurselves Henry Mintzberg leadership development lifelong learning Robin Dunbar Dunbar's number dialogue David Bohm meaning making Hubert Herman Dialogical Self Theory Viktor Frankl collective wisdom Personal and Team Leadership Development organizationallearning https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/why-peer-to-peer-learning-creates-sustainable-impact-inspiration-from-scholars-in-the-field/ Weiterlesen

Inspiration from scholars in the field

Ensemble Enabler is continually exploring new approaches to capture the wisdom of the crowd to support strategic initiatives, foster creativity and encourage innovation. Our experience has demonstrated that a key factor in this process is the intentional use of dialogue and conversation. A broad spectrum of scholars have explored the conceptual underpinnings which make Peer-to-Peer Networking an effective process. We would like to share a compact selection of authors who have informed our thinking on the value and impact of its use in organizations:

Lifelong Learning through conversations

Coaching Ourselves© is a process for peer coaching for organizational performance. Its serves as a fundamental source of inspiration for Ensemble Enabler’s work to encourage collective learning in the workplace. Henry Mintzberg is a renowned author on topics of management and business strategy and professor at McGill University (Montreal, Canada). Through his teaching, he observed the need for conversational learning between his students. As a result, he co-founded Coaching Ourselves© with Phil LeNir to offer peer-based management education in the workplace. A broad spectrum of over 100 modules on business topics makes the expertise of top business experts accessible to employees of all levels of an organization. Ensemble Enabler is a certified partner of Coaching Ourselves©.

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Numbers Matter! An ideal size for large group discussions

Dunbar’s number – 150 – emerged out of his work as an evolutionary anthropologist reflecting upon the nature of social cohesion in communities through the use of language. According to Robin Dunbar, this number refers to the “cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships”. This research indicates that the number of individuals who participate in specific kinds of dialogue matters for the quality of their mutual exchange. As a result, the size of our small format Peer-to-Peer Networking modules and the ideal number of participants of our participatory large scale dialogues have been inspired by Dunbar’s research. 

(Robert Dunbar “Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language“ Faber & Faber 2011)

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The use of dialogue to foster personal insights and inspire group insights plays a central role in the conceptual approach of all Ensemble Enabler’s work.

The key to optimal communication is dialogue

The foundation for Ensemble Enabler’s understanding of dialogue is the thinking of the scientist David Bohm. He introduced the concept of dialogue as a “free flow of meaning between people in communication“. A group collectively explores the process of “thinking together” through conversations. Individuals are encouraged to deeply listen and concentrate on the meaning of statements which are made by others in the group. Individuals begin to build on the ideas of individuals through these conversations. The result is the creation of shared meaning among them. This process of collective meaning making is fostered during the intimate format of a Peer-to-Peer Networking module as well as a large scale participatory dialogue. 

 (David Bohm „Thought as a System” Routledge 1994)

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The process of "mutual dialogues"

Hubert Herman’s Dialogical Self Theory views the “professional and personal lives as two sides of the same coin”. Dialogue with oneself on a individual level combined with dialogue among a group fosters both understanding and emergent mutual creativity. On the individual level, a diversity of personal issues is explored via what Herman calls internal personal “mutual dialogues”. In the professional and/or social setting, individuals become part of and engage with their social environment. Peer-to-Peer Networking modules encourage dialogues on both personal and professional levels, enabling the participants to mutually discover new approaches and solutions.

(Hubert Hermans and Agnieszka Hermans-Konopka "Dialogical Self Theory" Cambridge University Press 2010)

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The power of the sustainable impact of dialogue lies in the collective meaning making of its participants.

In his work, Viktor Frankl explores how people make sense of the influences, relationships and sources of information in their personal realm. Dialogue provides a process to enable individuals to act upon and experience meaning-making in their lives and work. These conversations serve as catalysts to actively stimulate the creation of new meaning. Individuals encounter new perspectives during the dialogue process and begin to integrate this novel information with their current understanding. This meaning making serves to encourage collective problem-solving and/or the development of innovative approaches. 

(Viktor Frankl “Man’s Search for Meaning” Beacon Press 2006)

collective intelligence

Enable your organization to use the power of networks to identify sustainable business solutions with speed and effectiveness: Network Leadership - Intentional Collaboration - Network Mindset

Make the shift from a V.U.C.A. to a W.I.S.E. World

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Supporting resilience in your leaders and employees in times of crisis https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/supporting-resilience-in-your-leaders-and-employees-in-time-of-a-crisis/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/supporting-resilience-in-your-leaders-and-employees-in-time-of-a-crisis/#comments Sun, 26 Apr 2020 00:00:00 +0000 CoachingOurselves covid-19 crisis collaborative learning collective intelligence culture transformation crisis in business emotional intelligence well-being resilience change dealing with stress sensing reflection caring dialogue conversation collective wisdom Leading change Foresight purpose teamcoaching peertopeerlearning mentoring network leadership p2pnetworking Peer-to-Peer Networking discourse https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/supporting-resilience-in-your-leaders-and-employees-in-time-of-a-crisis/ Weiterlesen

Since the onset of the Corona virus, we have all experienced a rapid change in our daily lives and work. Both our sensibilities and priorities have shifted during our own current personal journeys. At the same time, we are all coping with the impact of the crisis in every aspect of our lives.

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The emotional nature of current blog postings, chats during webinars and zoom calls with friends and colleagues – just to name a few examples - reveal a deep need to collectively reflect upon how we are feeling in this moment and to identify ways to grapple with the myriad of challenges which all of us are facing right now.

If we show up whole, we end up more productive.
Frédéric Laloux
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Making space for meaningful conversations in both our personal and professional lives will strengthen our ability to cope with the current state of anxiety and an unknown future. Frederic Laloux, author of the book “Reinventing Organizations” addresses the importance of bringing our “wholeness” to our conversations. But what does “wholeness” really mean? Simply put, it means initially putting the cognitive Let’s get to business mindset aside. He advocates that we start our interactions with others by opening our hearts and invite our emotions to be an authentic part of our conversations with them. (For a thoughtful reflection about “wholeness” enjoy Laloux’s video conversation on the topic ) 

Reflecting on the importance of ‘showing up whole’ to unleash individual and collective energy, creativity and passion in these challenging times, we asked ourselves the following question:

How could an organization provide crucial moral support to employees at all levels of the organization by encouraging conversations that matter right now?

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Sensing a collective need to bring wholeness to our conversations about the continuing uncertainty in both our personal spheres and business lives, we took another look at the content in the library of more than 100 CoachingOurselves© modules which have been written by worldwide experts in their fields. The focus of our review process was to reflect upon specific topics which are deeply relevant for our current collective challenge. Through this lens, a spectrum of relevant Peer-to-Peer Networking modules were identified. We feel that these modules will support individuals to have important conversations about what they are feeling and thinking about during these turbulent times with their colleagues and friends.

Our experience has shown that all of the CoachingOurselves© modules which we have singled out, can be helpful for anyone during this crisis. Nonetheless, we chose to suggest two collections of Peer-to-Peer Networking modules - one for managers and another for employees – in order to address specific needs from varying perspectives.

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During this moment and more than ever, leaders need to speak and act from the heart while at the same time tapping into their business acumen. Building the resilience of an organization’s leaders will enable them to deal with the current crisis by showing more compassion and business élan while, at the same time, strengthen themselves and their colleagues.

The following modules can lay the groundwork for leaders to deal with the current unpredictable and emerging future.

A leader’s health action plan: Incorporate simple tools to incorporate into a leader’s workday to promote both emotional and physical health.

Emotional intelligence: Your Inner and Outer Self: Examine a leader’s critical role to managing their emotions as well as those of others in the workplace.

Leading change in difficult times: Explore powerful methods to motivate employees to maintain productivity and performance which guide organizations through the most challenging of times.

Dealing with the pressures of managing: Reflect upon how the pressures of managing are constant, not temporary – and even more intense during a crisis.

Managing on the edges: Delve into how managers need to manage inside their area of responsibility as well as manage outside of their unit by relating to other components of the organization. Managing on the edge to the outside world is especially important in times of crisis.

Foresight: Cultivate an awareness of the unseen, the obscure, and the overlooked by focusing on the importance of foresight and the development of attentional strategies in daily management.

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The demands of the crisis to assure health and well-being of employees resulted in a high-speed shift from the everyday routine of working in an office to solo working in a home office. Virtual work and online team meetings have become the norm. Not unexpectedly, stress levels have risen throughout the workforce. Grappling with an unexpected change in one’s daily working routine combined with the worries of a health crisis has taken a toll on employees’ ability to cope.

The following modules have been chosen to allow employees to listen to the perspectives of others who are also dealing with the crisis and offer an opportunity for them to engage in conversation about it with others. By fostering this kind of empathetic listening, employees will see crisis from the eyes of fellow colleagues. The result of these conversations will the strengthening of a collective feeling of resilience.

The art of helping: Explore the dynamics of helping in order to contribute to a climate of mutual help so an organization can flourish.

Reflection: Appreciate the importance of collective and individual reflection in managerial work and identify ways to combine this kind of managerial reflection with action.

Time to dialogue: Recognize dialogue as a more creative and collaborative mode of communication which increases one’s capacity to address complex organizational issues.

Candid conversation: Look at how candid conversations can fostered in the workplace and ways to enable these conversations throughout an organization.

Building purpose in life and work: Delve into how leaders collaborate with employees towards creating a purpose-driven organization.

Ordinary people – extraordinary leadership: Embrace 21st century leadership by enabling leaders to return to their most profound personal perspective, imagination and wisdom.

Every good conversation starts with good listening.

Conversations also have the power to foster a deeper level of listening – generative listening. According to Otto Scharmer of the Presencing Institute, this kind of listening not only strengthens one’s personal sense of identity but also enables individuals to collectively connect to an emerging future. (Watch this video and hear Otto Scharmer reflect upon the different levels of listening. )

Powerful conversations provide the framework to foster deeper listening. Generative listening to one another opens the possibility of emergent creativity and co-creation. Both these capabilities are essential for all organizations to cultivate as our shared future unfolds.

Employees at any level of an organization will develop his/her personal listening skills, connect more deeply with others and create meaning about how to cope with the current challenge (and future crises) through the Peer-to-Peer Networking experience. Developing this ability to sense and express compassion is key to both personal and organizational thriving in a time of rapid change and uncertainty. 

Enable your organization to use the power of networks to identify sustainable business solutions with speed and effectiveness: Network Leadership - Intentional Collaboration - Network Mindset

Make the shift from a V.U.C.A. to a W.I.S.E. World

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Do Change Initiatives in Companies really make the "Whole Elephant" visible? https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/making-the-whole-elephant-visible/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/making-the-whole-elephant-visible/#comments Sun, 12 Apr 2020 00:00:00 +0000 collective intelligence culture transformation employee involvement knowledge management silos stakeholder engagement systemic dialogue value through alignment employee engagement large group dialogue large group event Motivation and employee development collective consciousness effective communication learning environment learning culture cross-functional communication bottom-up communication inter-departmental communication internal communication dialogue participatory meetings and events visual enabling enabling organizations World Cafe large scale dialogue world cafe method largescaleevents dragonflyproblemsolving discourse https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/making-the-whole-elephant-visible/ Weiterlesen

Companies are utilizing novel approaches to deal with complex issues.

Such as an energy company aspiring to improve internal communications, an organization dealing with an aging workforce or a pharmaceutical company targeting to create a learning environment within its marketing department.

All of the above mentioned issues are multi-facetted. Communication within a company includes top-down and cross-functional communication, bottom-up and inter-departmental communication, performance reviews and feedback, etc. – not to mention the myriad of instruments available to support this communication.

Most attempts to deal with such issues revolve around tried and true methods of analysis. A team is given the task to improve a specific component of a larger business issue. An analysis is conducted, experts are brought in as needed, and recommendations for improvement are developed. This modus operandi characterizes an “outside-in” approach. The team doing the analysis acts as an outside observer, attempting to assess the options as objectively and neutrally as possible. Proposed solutions are introduced into the organization from this outsider perspective. Most change projects – both good and bad – are initiated in this manner.


An “inside-out” approach acknowledges that the experiences and input of individual stakeholders (ie. employee, customer, supplier, shareholders, etc.) form an essential part of any solution. From their unique position within the system, these stakeholders know better than anyone what is working and not working for them (and the company). Key components which need to be changed and/or improved can be identified if this information is made visible. Ensemble Enabler uses large scale dialogue and Visual Enabling to make this information visible.

Find the right kind of large scale dialogue for your business

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Let’s look at a concrete examples of this novel approach.

Example #1 Improving internal communications

The top 150 executives of an energy company met to discuss how to improve internal communications. The company was suffering from an overload of information coming from all directions, essentially obscuring the key information which needed to be communicated throughout the company. A three hour participatory large scale dialogue process enabled them to identify the key issues. The following strategic map emerges from this process: 

Strategy Mapping Blog Communication

This mind map of ideas represents a 10,000 meter panorama from the executives’ point-of-view. Working in small groups, they identified and suggested solutions for a broad spectrum of communication challenges. Their suggestions were assigned into three categories: Individual, Team and Organization. Each of the sub-categories - such as “e-mail” - documents the number of suggestions which were made.

This strategic map identifies the multiple facets of the communication difficulties facing this company as well as highlights the priorities of the executives' issues. The map provides a simple yet complete overview of the complexity to deal effectively with these issues and whole also highlighting critical items. No one person would be able to identify all of these items individually. However, the collective intelligence of the stakeholders provided the diverse input which was summarized in a map of the prevailing state of the company’s communication climate.

The value-added of this approach is the creation of an awareness of the whole. 

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The 150 executives recognized all the issues with regards to fostering effective communication within the company. They were also aware that their fellow colleagues also recognized these issues. The participatory large scale dialogue process created a collective consciousness among the participants of what needed to be done and the next steps to be undertaken.  As a result, all the executives could address solving these issues from a mutual shared understanding. This created alignment within the company.

Example #2 Developing viable approaches for an aging workforce

Another example of the use of large scale dialogue with the use of Visual Enabling addressed the challenge and opportunities of an aging workforce. The retirement age in Italy has been raised to 70 years.  90 stakeholders from a variety of organizations and companies located in Bologna came together to consider workable approaches to the current challenge and opportunities of an aging workforce in companies. Most of participants were over 50 years of age. Moreover a representative number of workers under 50 years of age (ca. 15%) together with a some recent retirees also participated. As a whole, all these participants offered unique perspectives to consider the broad spectrum of issues and opportunities confronting an aging workforce. The results of the large scale dialogue is visualized in the following mind map:

Bologna Recommendations Mind Map

During this three hour large scale dialogue, 90 participants conceived an comprehensive approach for a company to consider when dealing with the complex issues and opportunities of an aging workforce. As a result of their participation, the participants were highly motivated to play an active role to realize the proposed ideas. During an post-dialogue evaluation, the participants were asked about the level of their motivation to support making these proposals a reality: 20% indicated that they were extremely motivated, over 60% were very motivated and approximately 20% were motivated to actively work to realize these ideas. 

As an “inside-out” approach, large scale dialogue and Visual Enabling capture the real world of each stakeholder and synthesizes their individual realities into an objective whole. It helps to make the “entire elephant (in the company)” visible.

Analytical approaches traditionally isolate individual issues in order to study them in more depth. This echoes the scientific approach of the past 400 years: the more that an issue can be isolated (for instance an element in the periodic table such as hydrogen), the more can be learned about it. However, there is a pitfall with such an analytic approach in a business context. The wrong issue may be the center of focus or understanding and, as a result, will not promote an understanding of the whole. Understanding the properties of hydrogen and oxygen in a scientific context does not necessarily help to understand all of water’s properties.

Visual Enabling provides an insightful complement to traditional analytical approaches. It is not a replacement of traditional analysis. However, combining the power of the two approaches is a winning formula. By initially understanding the context from a stakeholder perspective, this input guides a focused analysis of key issues. The integration of both analysis and Visual Enabling provides increased value-added for a company by observing the issues in the context of the company’s “big picture”.

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Example #3 Improving inter-departmental collaboration

One pharmaceutical company was working to improve its inter-departmental collaboration. Through the large scale dialogue and Visual Enabling process, all key members of the department created a strategic map which served to identify their top 10 priority items. This strategic map reflected the collective intelligence of the group. It was used by the company to examine each of the priorities under a magnifying glass and scrutinize each item in depth. By fostering inter-department collaboration in this manner, not only were issues impeded collaboration identified, the manner in which the various departments work together has been transformed.

Find the right kind of large scale dialogue for your business

Enable your organization to use the power of networks to identify sustainable business solutions with speed and effectiveness: Network Leadership - Intentional Collaboration - Network Mindset

Make the shift from a V.U.C.A. to a W.I.S.E. World

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One last food-for-thought……

For those wondering about the reference to “making the elephant visible", John Godfrey Saxe’s (1816-1887) version of the famous Indian legend offers another reason why Strategy Mapping® supports positive change in companies:


It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach’d the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -“Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he,
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

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Virtual Peer-to-Peer-Networking connects employees https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/virtual-social-learning/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/virtual-social-learning/#comments Mon, 16 Mar 2020 16:59:00 +0000 online collaborative learning social learning teams learning culture silo busting Networks in business collaborative learning Collaboration crisis in business covid-19 crisis Change management virtual learning organizational culture digital strategy digital change digital culture digital maturity digital leadership digital transformation digital disruption agile organization agile collaboration capacity building CoachingOurselves Peer to Peer Learning peer-to-peer-learning p2pnetworking Peer-to-Peer Networking https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/virtual-social-learning/ Weiterlesen

In times of crisis and rapid change, exploring new ways to foster group learning is fundamental. Research has determined that one of the most effective ways to promote learning takes place in small groups. 

A study from Eastern Michigan University confirms this assertion. It investigated different learning methods for students who were learning statistics.  The study determined that students improved their scores through collaborative learning (learning in small groups) by up to 23 points on tests based on a scoring system from 0 to 100 as compared with with traditional lecture learning.

Collaborative learning is acknowledged to work extremely well face-to-face. But can the same quality learning experience be delivered online? The resounding answer is YES!

Peer-to-Peer Networking sessions provide quality collaborative learning for employees in organizations virtually across geographies and time zones.

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Today's video conferencing technologies makes learning remotely in groups accessible and effective. Ensemble Enabler's virtual learning platform provides remote learners with access to the same high quality content which are offered during our face-to-face Peer-to-Peer Networking sessions.  Learning Enablers (the facilitators of the learning sessions) are trained to use various virtual interactive tools (i.e. whiteboards, breakout rooms, pointers, chat) to enhance the learning experience.  Evaluations from our remote sessions are as well-received and enthusiastic as from our on-site Peer-to-Peer Networking sessions. Both virtual and face-to-face Peer-to-Peer Networking offer quality learning experiences stimulated by top notch content which is authored by world wide business experts.

Enhanced Networking and Silo Busting

In addition, remote learning has an additional impact: it enhances networking and breaks down silos across teams and locations.  To turbo-charge the networking and silo-busting impact, the composition of the participants of each 90 minutes session can be designed to include new learning partners every time!  

The learning which occurs during such an intentional cross-functional learning process is not restricted to the content alone. The additional valued-added which is generated is that all participants become aware of and learn about other functions and departments in their own organization more deeply.

Imagine your entire business community learning together! 

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An additional advantage of our virtual learning platform is the the opportunity for a community to learn together.  Once individual employees has attended a particular session topic (for instance on "How to hold more effective meetings"), there is the opportunity for these individuals to convene together virtually in groups of 20 or 30 (up to 100!). During this virtual community learning session, participants share their insights and learnings from each of their own small group Peer-to-Peer Networking experiences of 4 participants with the Peer-to-Peer Networking groups of other employees. This virtual scaling of the sharing process not only strengthens community awareness within an organization but also bolsters the shaping of community norms and behaviors.  Our team of experienced Ensemble Enabler virtual facilitators facilitate these large group sessions.

Test your own Virtual Peer-to-Peer Networking Session

Curious about what this new learning paradigm might look like in your organization? 

It's easy: All you need is 4 - 8 participants, access to the internet and two hours. 

This demo session will enable you and your team to experience all of the aspects and advantages of a virtual Peer-to-Peer Networking session first hand and, of course, virtually!

A virtual Peer-to-Peer Networking Demo session includes:

  • An introduction to Peer-to-Peer Networking
  • A virtual Peer-to-Peer Networking session (4 - 8 participants)
  • A  virtual community learning simulation (8 participants)
  • A discussion on how Peer-to-Peer Networking may best benefit your organization

Enable your organization to use the power of networks to identify sustainable business solutions with speed and effectiveness: Network Leadership - Intentional Collaboration - Network Mindset

Make the shift from a V.U.C.A. to a W.I.S.E. World

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Deliberately developmental organizations focus on culture https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/minimizing-fear-is-the-essential-first-step-towards-digital-maturity/ https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/minimizing-fear-is-the-essential-first-step-towards-digital-maturity/#comments Sun, 23 Feb 2020 16:35:00 +0000 learning culture Learning Organization Agile organization digitalisation digital culture digital maturity digital transformation digital disruption psychological safety in the workplace Feedback loops organizational culture digital strategy growth mindset organizational mindset Culture Change culture and organizational transformation culture transformation organizational capability building organizational development Edgar Schein Robert Keegan Lisa Lahey Amy Edmondson fluidcollaboration mentoring network leadership dynamism https://www.ensembleenabler.com/blog-en/minimizing-fear-is-the-essential-first-step-towards-digital-maturity/ Weiterlesen

Organizations need to create work environments which provide employees with psychological safety 

It is becoming increasingly clear that mastering digital disruption is primarily an organizational culture issue not a technology issue.  The results of a 4 year study by the Massachussetts Institute of Technology and Deloitte clearly spells this out.

Digital maturity is the new paradigm which will increasingly be the focus of organizations' efforts to master digital disruption.  A "fearless culture" is the first step to digital maturity.

DIGITAL MATURITY is defined as "an organization's ability to compete effectively by taking advantage of opportunities enabled by technological infrastructure, both inside and outside the organization."

Digital maturity is all about organizational culture. 

PUSH vs PULL: The key chracteristic of digital maturity

One of the key differences between more digitally mature companies and less mature organizations is this:

Less mature organizations tend to PUSH digital transformation through managerial directives or by making technology available.  Maturing companies tend to PULL digital transformation by cultivating the conditions which are ripe for transformation to occur.

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In other words, more mature organizations enlist their workforce to help determine which technologies will bring most value to the organization and its clients.  Digitally mature organizations have a considerable bottom-up approach which requires highly motivated and engaged employees.

The need for a robust bottom-up approach

Why is a bottom-up approach necessary? 

Because the technological environment is changing so rapidly, out of necessity digital strategy must be iterative in nature.  Digital strategy cannot be a long-term plan to which the organization rigidly adheres and executes over a multi-year time frame.  Instead digital strategy is a constant experimentation which is designed to better understand how a specific technology can create the best value. 

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Take Twitter for example.  Major media outlets use Twitter as a means of broadening their reach of their content.  Airlines use Twitter as an effective customer service tool. KLM uses Twitter as a way to answer their customers' questions and promise a response to any customer request within 17 minutes.  Other companies use Twitter as a business intelligence tool.  By following certain twitter feeds, organizations can get an early warning of what their competitors are undertaking.  The Red Cross uses keyword monitoring to quickly identify natural disasters as well as their intensity.

In other words, 

Each organization needs to explore which is the best use of a given technology for their company.  To optimize this discovery process, it is critical to have employees who are willing to experiment, take risks and discover where the value added lies to master the digital disruption which is confronting their specific organization.

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The essential first step towards digital maturity

Unfortunately employees in many companies do not feel secure enough to take risks or to challenge the status quo.  Many managers still believe in the power of fear to motivate.  They assume that people who are afraid will work hard to avoid unpleasant consequences.

ALERT to those managers who continue to prescribe to this theory: Brain science has abundantly demonstrated that fear inhibits learning and cooperation. Research in neuroscience shows that fear consumes physiological resources, diverting them from parts of the brain that manage working memory and process new information.  This impairs analytic thinking, creative insight and problem solving.

The success factor of psychological safety

What is needed is a working environment of "psychological safety". This is defined as "the belief that the work environment is safe for interpersonal risk taking."

All of us are subject to subtle interpersonal risks at work. When you are at work - whether explicitly or implicitly - you are being evaluated. An individual higher up in the hierarchy is formally responsible for assessing your performance. Peers and subordinates are sizing you up informally all the time.

In contrast, it is OK to ask for help or admit failure in a psychologically safe environment.  Individuals feel comfortable to share their concerns and mistakes without fear of embarrassment or retribution. According to Professor Edgar Schein, an environment of "psychological safety allows people to focus on achieving shared goals rather than on self-protection" 

When an environment of psychological safety is not prevalent, things can go very wrong.

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Take the case of the American financial institution Wells Fargo.  Cross-selling has always been a strategy for financial services firms.  The fastest way to grow the business is to sell existing customers additional products. Savings accounts, loans, credit cards, etc. are pitched to existing customers who may only have a checking account. 

In the early 2000s, Wells Fargo adopted a strategy labeled "Going for Gr-Eight".  The idea behind the strategy was to get Wells Fargo customers to buy on average 8 products from the bank. Incentive schemes were put in place to help fulfill this strategy.  However, this target was not achievable.  

In an environment lacking psychological safety, employees did not let their superiors know that the targets were unrealistic.  Instead they resorted to a series of questionable practices such as opening accounts for customers without their consent, convincing customers to open unnecessary multiple checking accounts, creating fake email addresses to enroll customers in online banking  - to name just a few.

"Most people at work, even in high-performing organizations, divert considerable energy every day to a second job that no one has hired them to do: 

preserving their reputations, putting their best selves forward, and hiding their inadequacies from others and themselves. 

We believe this is the single biggest cause of wasted resources in nearly every company today."                        

                      Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey - Harvard University

FeedForward Unhappy workers

Deliberately Developmental Organizations

Digitally mature companies intentionally focus on culture. 

In our experience, there are a number of steps which need to be taken in order to promote this specific focus:

Creation of an environment that feels safe, sustained first by top leaders who are willing to role model vulnerability and take personal responsibility for their imperfections and missteps.

A focus on continuous learning through inquiry, curiosity and transparency, instead of an environment characterized by judgment, certainty and self-protection.

Time-limited, manageable experiments with new behaviors in order to test individuals' unconscious assumptions that changing the status quo is dangerous and likely to have negative consequences.

Continuous feedback — up, down and across the organization – which is grounded in a shared commitment to help each other grow and progress.

Ultimately, organizations need to learn how to learn together. 

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