Today, businesses compete in a world of exponential change. Whether large or small, all organizations strive to meet the changing needs and expectations of customers, yet, size can sometimes hinder this mission. Large businesses have traditionally existed to generate economies of scale and efficiency. They create standard products and services for large markets, with limited segmentation. Yet smaller companies are connecting with smaller groups of customers quickly. They develop personalized and customized products because they can respond to new market developments. In fact, they’re disrupting whole markets.
In 2009, John Hagel and John Seely Brown developed the shift index to understand large, market dynamics beyond simple measures such as GDP and employment indices. They discovered flows of information, people, capital and resources were increasing and driving change exponentially. The shift index recognized that businesses must move away from a scalable efficiency model to scalable learning to survive. Achieving this paradigm shift will enable them to compete with smaller, new entrants. Newcomers take market share from larger players because they understand and meet customer needs more effectively. They iterate and innovate their products quickly to respond to changing customer demands.
Moving From Insular to Innovative
Silos are commonplace in large organizations. Whole departments and business units keep their knowledge and operations to themselves, which prevents the flow of market intelligence. It prevents larger organizations from mobilizing cross-functional teams and developing winning products. In diverse markets, 360-degree customer insight is critical.
Face-to-face interactions accelerate learning in a way virtual communities don’t. Bringing individuals and colleagues together with viewpoints they may not otherwise encounter is now the exception rather than the norm. Virtual communication, social media and SMS are replacing face-to-face interactions. However, studies show that diverse teams and collaboration deliver innovation, whereas homogenous teams and networks stifle creativity and innovation and make it more difficult for organizations to adapt to changing environments. Nurturing diverse perspectives that reflect the communities we serve enables companies to develop products that satisfy the unique needs of unique customers. When conversations happen across functions, the entire organization learns, shares and responds to changes in the marketplace.
The Value of Exponential Learning
When we share knowledge with someone, it enhances their understanding of some aspect of the business and increases the expertise of the person sharing. When we strive to find the most effective way of teaching the information we know, it embeds our own knowledge further.
Sharing knowledge also triggers the principle of reciprocity. When someone shares something of value with us, we feel compelled to return the favor, fostering two-way communication. Again, this is valuable to long-term organizational learning and capability.
For example, say I’ve attended a conference in the U.S. about government technology. I learn that new research shows a lack of customer-centricity is hampering digital transformation in government. When I return, I add these details to my digital work profile. I receive a notification that a colleague is developing a pitch to a U.S. government client. He wants to know about trends in the marketplace. I meet with him and I share what I learned at the conference. I notice on his profile that he writes a blog for government customers. I ask if I can pitch an article to him about digital transformation in government. He agrees to take a look.
When we share our knowledge with a colleague, they can also share this learning with their peers. Sharing market insights with one person may in fact magnify the learning to six or more people. Then, they may share their learning with five of their own peers. New technology has the potential to amplify learning within the workplace and reduce the effect of silos in large organizations.
Large businesses can succeed in environments of exponential change. They can use technology to move away from the scalable effciency paradigm towards scalable learning. When they leverage the collective knowledge of their teams, they can maximize their effectiveness within diverse markets. Large organizations have ample market intelligence at their fingertips. It’s simply a case of selecting the right technology to drive scalable, exponential learning.