We will streamline the next version of Windows from three operating systems into one single converged operating system for screens of all sizes. [...] In the past we had multiple teams working on different versions of Windows. Now we have one team with a common architecture. This allows us to scale and create Universal Windows Apps.
– Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, on the latest earnings call.
Smart move. Right move. But it could still not be enough if they can’t crack innovation.
This week, newyorker.com has a new look. On a desktop, on a tablet, on a phone, the site has become, we believe, much easier to navigate and read, much richer in its offerings, and a great deal more attractive. For months, our editorial and tech teams have been sardined into a boiler room, subsisting only on stale cheese sandwiches and a rationed supply of tap water, working without complaint on intricate questions of design, functionality, access, and what is so clinically called “the user experience.” The changes are not limited to technology and aesthetics. The Web site already publishes fifteen original stories a day. We are promising more, as well as an even greater responsiveness to what is going on in the world. For instance, in addition to Daily Comment, which usually concerns itself with political matters, we will also feature a Daily Cultural Comment, a regular column in which our critics and other writers confront everything from the latest debates over the impact of technology to the latest volume from Chicago, Oslo, or Lima and the ongoing sagas of Don Draper, Daenerys Targaryen, and Hannah Horvath.
Newyorker.com is all new and open for the Summer.
Here’s a short list of our most frequently cited and thoroughly highlighted books related to how organizations become more responsive. Please share your own suggestions with us on Twitter. Want more? Follow us on GoodReads.
Complexity: A Guided Tour, by Melanie Mitchell – A terrific introduction to the fundamentals of complex adaptive systems.
Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, by Nassim Taleb – Understand what it takes to thrive in the midst of complexity and constant disruption.
Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure, by Tim Harford – Explore the nature of adaptivity and how it applies to a wide range of challenges.
Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software, by Steven Johnson – Translates complexity theory from academic to real-world contexts.
The Second Machine Age, by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee – An incredible intellectual framework for the nature and scale of the technological change we’re experiencing.
The Innovator’s Dilemma, by Clay Christensen – A classic in business strategy for today’s constantly changing world.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
– Viktor E. Frankl
One of the first questions we often get when introducing The Responsive Organization is the difference between reaction and response. The Responsive Organization is not a reactive organization. In organizations, like in people, reactions are driven by primitive signals and base instincts. Fight, flight, or freeze are reactions we see in both people and organizations. In short, reaction is action without meditation (cognition and awareness).
In fact, the Responsive Organization shares a lot in common with a mindfulness based stress reduction practice in human beings. Mindfulness attempts to make oneself aware of both internal and external conditions and one’s own reactions (or judgements) to those conditions in order to live more fully from moment to moment. MBSR was originally developed to help those living with chronic pain and has been the subject of hundreds of research studies since the late 1970′s when it was developed.
Like a mindful person, a Responsive Organization is constantly sensing its environment and itself, yet relying on awareness of both to form a response rather than mindlessly react. In an organization, this is a process that involves both systems thinking and sensemaking – to understand the organization’s environment, to understand the forces behind those conditions, and to estimate the outcome of a response.
If you’re interested in MBSR, I highly encourage you to start by watching this video of Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the practice, giving a talk at Google.
Microsoft employees vent on anonymous network, Secret.
Venture capitalists used to define a ‘startup’ as a company still seeking product/market fit. Once that was solved, a company was sure to scale for the foreseeable future. Today, the future is far less foreseeable, the pace of change being exponential, and product/market fit has become a continual struggle for every company, not just startups.
The re-org is a tool of a bygone era, where product/market fit could be won and done. The 21st century organization tests and adapts product/market fit in real-time, and it re-orgs in real-time, too. But most companies today don’t re-org in real-time. Instead of small, continuous refinements in structure and practice (driven by the teams that do the work), legacy organizations undergo sever pain and re-alignment every 18 months, driven by leadership whims and financial emergencies.
The result is the image above – downtrodden employees with pessimism for the future.
Read our post, The Last Re-Org You’ll Ever Do.
Recognizing the need for integration, Electrolux’s digital, trade, brand and product marketers worked together to create a cohesive experience from pre-purchase, to the purchase itself, to post-purchase service and beyond. To this end we eliminated silos between functions including marketing, sales, IT, consumer insight, and innovation and established “consumer experience teams” in each business and region. These teams include consumer insight, brand, product, retail, digital, social, and consumer care specialists who now closely work together to create integrated consumer experiences and launch plans. We also moved responsibility for the post-purchase experience into marketing — all of the services, onboarding, registration, and add-on purchases and support that people receive after they buy.
This is smart. Copy this.
Safaricom’s M-Pesa just made a rare ROS platform decision. They are dropping the exclusivity restrictions that bound their mobile money agents to Safaricom services only. This means their vast network of agents can provide services for rival mobile money networks, and it prepares the way for users to seamlessly send money to people on different networks (the equivalent of an AT&T customer freely sending mobile money to a Verizon customer). This is a huge step towards making mobile money systems in Africa interoperable.
Responsive organizations create platforms for the world to build upon. Safaricom is starting to embrace an M-Pesa that’s bigger than themselves.