It’s essential to have a small group relentlessly thinking about future technologies, such as quantum computing, and how these might change the business. But the reality is that the future is impossible to predict at longer time horizons.
What companies can do in the present is to transform themselves to be able to respond to many different futures. That implies a level of flexibility that most organizations don’t have. Even as the world outside the four walls of the company moves faster and faster, organizations themselves — their structures and operating models — haven’t changed all that much. Too often, digital initiatives are conducted within outdated enterprise frameworks.
Superimposing 21st century technologies over 20th century structures and ways of working is a recipe for suboptimal results and even failure. To become as fast-moving as markets, companies must become superfluid.
“As the pace of change increases, we have to be more nimble, more flexible and more adaptable to everything that removes friction around our movement of talent, capital and assets,” says Samuel Tait, Executive Vice President, Managing Director — Media Transformation, Dentsu Aegis Americas.
Borrowing the term from physics, superfluidity suggests a future state where organizations organize and operate with as little friction as possible, which, in turn, puts them in a better position to create value. Focusing on your company’s four key asset classes is a good place to start.
- Time: Time should be respected as an asset. Ideas to introduce more fluidity include establishing strict cadences for decision-making and ensuring that meetings have a specific purpose (linked to decisions) and have only the right stakeholders in attendance.
- Talent: Consider the place of and purpose for humans and machines in your workforce. Make your workforce flex to changing demand by using a combination of full-time and contingent talent. Overcome the viscosity of hierarchies by enabling cross-functional, autonomous teams.
- Capital: Develop a more continuous budgeting process, enabling your company to fail fast and pivot if needed. Segregate the “business as usual” budget from investments for the future and subject your innovation experiments to a different set of metrics.
- Hard assets: Explore everything-as-a-service models. Today, nearly everything can be obtained as a service via the cloud, giving the superfluid enterprise the ability to exit non-performing business lines and enter new markets more quickly.
Janet Balis, EY Global Media & Entertainment Advisory Services Leader, points out: “At the end of the day, we have a set of finite assets that sit at the heart of a company — our people, our time, our dollars and our technology. If we deploy these scarce resources effectively, we can create the right products, services and customer experiences to drive new business models and maximize value creation.”
- How have you changed your organizational structure to facilitate greater collaboration and faster decision-making?
- How are your critical assets positioned to solve business problems and create value?
- How can your operating model prepare you to better face multiple disruptions?