The Transformer's Dilemma: How to Break Silos & Accelerate Co-creation in a World of Increasing Complexity & Uncertainty

Avinash Jhangiani, CEO, Play2Transform Group Play2Transform Group is a Mumbai-headquartered Management Consulting firm with proven excellence in the areas of digital transformation, customer experience, business process management, organization culture building, innovation, creativity, design thinking, change management, and others.

While, at the outset, we understand that companies like Kodak, Blockbuster, Toys“R”Us perished due to sluggishness in evolving their business model, the underlying cause of shutdown is their inability to breakdown silos and rapidly co-create value for the new informed and impatient consumer. If Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, former CEO of Lego Group, had not reduced bureaucracy and created cross-functional teams to fuel innovation, the legendary toymaker would have joined the bankruptcy list.

Today, while the growing need to survive in the rapidly evolving consumer-led landscape is forcing companies to innovate like start-ups, there is too much talk and not much action in India. Change is slow as usual. Innovation continues to struggle in organizations that foster silos instead of collaboration. These silos are not just functional or department silos but also data silos, ego silos, generational silos and even silo'd silos continue to exist in large organizations today.

Due to the risk of affecting existing operations, many technology leaders are being forced to take silo’d approaches and unable to leverage exponential technologies at scale. Also what works in the U.S. or Europe may not necessarily work in India, so there is no proven method that can be used as a reference to stay relevant in this new age of digital consumerism. While many companies let CIOs drive digital transformation, expecting an IT leader alone to cultivate collaboration and open innovation is easier said than done.

The other reason why most companies are struggling to accelerate innovation is because they haven't learnt how to fail fast. Business led digital transformation is about shifting to an agile, designled mindset, then technology. The intersection of technology, business and culture is required for human centric problem solving and innovation. Top innovative brands, such as Apple, Ford and Google,are(not surprisingly)consumer focused companies with a relentless focus on design, technology and fail-fast culture to succeed at innovation.
The Epic Struggle Between Efficiency & Creativity
Thinking creatively, having constructive conversations and working collaboratively are the much-needed first steps for companies to become more open and agile. However we struggle with creativity in a system that rewards operational efficiency. We struggle because of our cultural norms, which we internalized and never questioned.

While many companies let CIOs drive digital transformation, expecting an IT leader alone to cultivate collaboration and open innovation is easier said than done

While growing up,we were clearly told that work was serious and play was fun and frivolous. By the virtue of our 19th century education methods, most of us were never taught to have fun with learning, and lost our ability to play and think creatively like a child over time. Moreover even today in a world of ambiguity, failing is considered to be a taboo in India. These notions about how work should be done significantly limits our ability to drive transformative innovation.

As the knowledge economy is being overtaken by the creative economy, our age old education system is also fast becoming irrelevant. In order to remain economically strong, India needs to create intellectual property and dream up solutions to problems that people may not yet even know they have. We need to shift performance measurement to cultivating and sustaining creativity in the workplace.

Playing Seriously to Stay Relevant
As per research conducted by Dr.Stuart Brown, medical doctor and psychiatrist, the ability to innovate largely comes of an ability of play. Play allows to attain a higher level of existence, new levels of mastery, imagination and culture. It gives us the irony to deal with paradox, ambiguity and fatalism.

Rediscovering these play 'behaviors' in the workplace is more critical now than ever. With AI taking over routine information and manual tasks in the workplace, we need additional emphasis on qualities that differentiate human workers from Artificial Intelligence-creativity, adaptability, and interpersonal skills, according to a recent Harvard Business Review.

There is an inner child in all of us, which can be transformative when it is rediscovered. Once Play helps you regain the mind of the child, it enables the process of dealing with problems and challenges more effortlessly. Play is how we develop and adjust to change. It involves experiential and trial & error learning. It allows us to express our joy and connect most deeply with the best in ourselves, and in others. This sets the stage for empathy, cooperative socialization and collective ownership of outcomes -much needed competencies for design led innovation. When meaningfully applied, these play based methods can shift mindsets in today’s world that is increasingly being characterized as volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA).

Shifting from working seriously to playing seriously can accelerate business and IT collaboration, and lead to break through partnership for innovation. There are five enabling cultural shifts necessary to perform in the new creative economy - shift strategy from customer centricity to human centricity, shift workplace from zone of comfort to zone of opportunity, shift KRAs from scalable efficiency to sustainable creativity, shift mindset from learning quickly to failing early to succeed sooner, and shift behavior from finding joy in certainty to harmony in chaos.