The New Normal Leadership

I just finished Peter Hinssens new book ‘The New Normal. Explore the limits of the digital world.” Peter is a creative and passionate thinker. He paints in an attractive and convincing way what “digital” is doing to our business world. He synthesizes his 20 years of experience with the struggle of organizations with “digital” into a clear set of limits, rules and strategies. And he makes it concrete and alive with images, quotes, anecdotes, figures and loads of oneliners.

What are his core messages? First of all: we’re entering the digital world. In this world technology will no longer be technology, but fully part of everything we do. This affects our ‘boundaries’, our ‘limits’. Attention span goes to zero. We have endless possibilities to seek information. Lot’s of tools and services are free. Patience is ‘out’. Privacy is lost, transparency is the norm.  Changes are constant. Execution speed dominates quality.

This New Normal change the rules of ‘the game’, whatever game we’re playing. Good enough beats better. Total transparency leads to total accountability. Absolute control is nonsense: networking, bottom up and inside out with self-correcting mechanisms instead of top down and outside in.

These new rules should push all organizations to rethink how they deal with customers, information, organization, innovation and technology. Each dimension is worth rethinking fundamentally. Peter Hinssen defines the challenges in a compelling way. Some examples:

1)      Customers want to participate, form communities, expect consistency and end to end contact.

2)      Information management can be defensive (compliance, control, total archive) or offensive (speed, sharing, intelligence). What’s the best option? How to set filters? How to manage unstructured information.

3)      Organisations lose control. Intra- en entrepreneurship becomes vital. The limit of outsourcing is the core or the soul of the company. Employees have the free agent mindset. They manage their own career and image. How does HR set this on the agenda of the CEO? And vice versa.

4)      Innovations can no longer be managed on an island. Connect and develop is the paradigm: no more stand alone, controlled innovation ‘management’ but networked, outside in & inside out. Is the R&D dimension of our company equipped for that transformation?

5)      IT evolved from build to buy to compose. Software is a service and the new challenge is to compose from the cloud, to design to change. From IT to innovation portfolio management.

Peter Hinssen is clearly an optimist future thinker. He detects what’s going on, sets the scene and expects us to deal with it. “How can we best brace ourselves when the full tsunami power of the New Normal hits us? (p. 199)”. What I lack in the book, and is also clearly out of scope, is the societal and psychological impact of the NewNormal. These two dimensions can deepen and widen the debate.

Some examples: the successful people in the New Normal will be connected, can synthesize, innovate, aggregate. They will be self aware free agents. How do we change the risk aversion, resistance to ambiguity and lack of commitment in our organizations and society? How do trust, deep, long term relations and deep knowing fit in this shattered, fast changing New Normal? How human is the New Normal?

Another interesting topic is the Leadership challenge. What about leadership in the New Normal? Will the New Normal be leaderless? Is Belgium a good example of New Normal, as it is getting used to work together without a prime minister?  Do we need a New Normal world boss?

Peter Hinssen doesn’t ask these questions. And that’s exactly the strength of his book. He sticks to his domain of passion, the fusion of technology and business. He lets us see the world to his eyes. It’s up to all of us to invent answers.

Any comment ?


About Koen Marichal

Director Future Leadership Initiative at Antwerp Management School
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