A parable tells of a bird that lived on a barren tree in a desert. Too fearful to find a better home, he lived a meager life. One day lightning struck the tree, which caught fire and forced the bird to flee. The bird then reached an oasis filled with water, food, and other birds as company.
Microsoft’s move this week to buy LinkedIn offers a profound lesson most analysts lack the stamina to catch. On the surface it appears to be another potentially brilliant move in the chess game CEO Satya Nadella has been playing since he took the helm of Microsoft in 2014. You can see a transformed Microsoft emerging when you consider the assets they now have in play: a purely cloud-based Office 365, the most popular VoIP solution (Skype), two of the most active online gaming communities (Minecraft and Xbox/Halo), etc. The company looks radically different from the company that used an installed operating system to muscle companies into adopting its work productivity software. Now with LinkedIn, it buys itself a chance to move itself up from last place in the five-way race that now defines tech (Amazon v. Google v. Apple v. Facebook v. Microsoft).
The term “employee engagement” was introduced into the management lexicon around 1990 when HR (or personnel, as they were called then) departments shifted focus from employee satisfaction toward employee commitment. Employee engagement is now a multi-billion-dollar business with consulting firms, training companies, and technology firms seeking new ways to get employees to find meaning in their work.
“As the rate of change escalates exponentially, the old ways of organizing and educating, which were designed for efficiency and repetition, are dying.”
– Bill Drayton, Founder, Ashoka: Innovators for the Public
For centuries, leadership skill has been measured by your ability to make things happen inside “built to last” organizations. Success depended on your ability to build trust, cultivate long-term relationships, and manage stakeholders. But we are now entering a world defined by temporary, cross-functional teams, frequently formed to work on specific issues or goals, rather than more traditional fixed structures. Excelling will require a fundamentally different skill set.
Our ideas make no difference if we cannot get others – our colleagues, partners, bosses, investors – to embrace them. Through the 120 or more interviews I’ve conducted this last year with innovators, I’ve heard over and over again that change is constant and those who have impact are skilled at getting people to embrace this fact.
When it comes to pitching your employer new business ideas, few can claim a track record as impressive as Brendan Ripp’s. Brendan most recently served as group publisher of the Sports Illustrated Group, where he led the development of nearly two dozen brand extensions, including a new film production unit, a college sports vertical, consumer events for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit and most recently the launch of SI Overtime, a branded content studio. He also formed content, media and marketing partnerships with WebMD and Wired, prior to which he served as publisher of Time, Fortune and Money.
We all know that companies that thrive in the future share certain traits. They need to listen to core customers and excel at sensing new trends.
It is so easy to miss! When the future was lobbing softballs at you, you could hit the trends every time. But the future has upped its game. It’s throwing fastballs and curveballs now.
What software company would’ve thought five years ago that Amazon would be its biggest competitor in the cloud? What automobile manufacturer thought five years ago that a simple mobile app would force them to rethink their business?
In our last blog post, we argued that a “digital transformation” being experienced across nearly every sector is thrusting us into a new era of complexity. Large companies are failing to adapt. They are dying earlier and faster than ever before. And their failure to adapt could come at a profound detriment to society.