In 1995, Alvin Toffler wrote about creating a new civilization. In his aptly titled book, he delves into how societies have to address the main features of a Third Wave economy to make a successful transition from the paradigms of the Industrial Era to a future in which shared knowledge breaks down barriers between societies, organizations, and individuals. In particular, he asserts that historically flawed thought models related to business profitability and global competition would create issues for business leaders.
Turns out, his vision of the future was correct. More than two decades later, many leaders still struggle to grasp the complexity and totality of shifting notions about how wealth is created. Second Wave methods of quantifying value via an inventory of land, labor, raw materials, and capital are too finite to prove useful in the modern economy.
Today, wealth is generated and harnessed as knowledge creation and ownership. Therein lies the challenge. Information is an intangible, inexhaustible commodity. It is hard to quantify and doesn’t readily translate to a financial statement. But there is a solution, and it is found in the hands of your people.
Adapting and Evolving in the Modern Business Environment
Business has changed immensely over the past 20 years – and that change is accelerating and widening. Even in the past five years, we’ve seen organizational imperatives change dramatically:
- Greater demand for customized product lines
- People have more say in how and where they work
- Innovation is required
- Integration is a must
- Problems extend well past single work units, departments, and even the boundaries of organizations
- Competition is intense
- Go-to-market strategies are focused on speed
- The pace of work continues to intensify
Each of these changes increases demand on organizations – and on the people operating them. It is no longer sufficient to recruit the best talent from a top school and hope to retain them with competitive benefits.
The current organizational climate is characterized by greater generational and demographic diversity than ever before. There is no prescriptive approach to talent recruitment or retention that will work for all of your best people. Leaders must understand and fulfill the intrinsic needs of individual employees. And they must recognize that longevity is related directly to the frequency and nature of change coming from external and internal inputs.
Your employees need to feel a sense of self-worth as a global citizen while being challenged with ever-new projects, development, and interactions that mirror the changes your organization is facing.
Regardless of their level or role, people across your organization define their professional fulfillment in terms of how they perceive they are valued. By dissolving barriers between factions and creating more fluid communication channels up and down the org chart, people have the opportunity to share in business objectives and contribute more value to them.
Barring micro interpersonal or leadership issues, this approach almost inevitably leads to teams that show higher levels of active commitment to the organization. They feel trusted by and valuable to their colleagues and managers. And they are significantly more equipped and empowered to contribute to preventing and overcoming many future organizational challenges.
Three Ways to Improve Teams and Harness Global Talent
In December, Toffler Associates held Future Shock Forum 2016. The event united leaders from across more than 20 industries and the public and private sectors for two days of energizing, solution-oriented conversations. I facilitated a session dedicated to the concept of shared citizenship. During the discussion, a theme emerged among the group of executives – how to improve teams and harness global talent to advance their business position.
Together, we identified three primary ways to achieve this three-fold objective – partnerships, cross-populated networks, and identity.
As the world has become increasingly connected, organizational challenges have grown more complex. The leaders around our discussion table expressed a sense of responsibility to engage their employees and collaborate on a broader, more diverse scale. Regardless of whether the organization is public or private, they articulated the benefit to partnering with like and unlike entities. The practice can bolster reputation, expand brand awareness across markets, and afford the organization access to broader levels of talent. For employees, partnering is a vehicle to engage in diverse thought about the issues and solutions vital to sustaining a Future Proof® organization.
Companies have networks. Their executives have networks. Employees have networks. How often do they cross? Toffler Associates maintains a commitment to connect. It drives our employees to link people with others in value networks (as evidenced by Future Shock Forum). No organization is in full possession of every solution to their problems, new and interesting ideas, or an awareness of every possible opportunity. So much of this valuable knowledge exists outside of our own organization and teams. By cross-populating networks, we increase our functional intelligence by exponential levels. Finding ways to encourage and reward employees for expanding their networks out of their comfort area is vital to harnessing global talent and creating an environment where great teams can thrive.
Many companies are lost. They think they stand for X when they actually stand for Y. This delta between espoused values and tacit assumptions may be symptomatic of poor communication or a lack of effort put to crystallizing organizational identity. Whatever the reason, a muddled sense of company identity makes for a difficult and conflicting struggle for employees.  It’s important for organizations to define an identity and to persevere with adhering to that identify with every decision and action. The caveat is that organizations simply can’t afford to be solely for profit. A higher purpose is needed. Employees, customers, and markets will not establish trust on revenues. Brand reputation, access to talent, and building great teams resides in their ability to operate for the betterment of a global society.
With fewer barriers, broader communication, and more focus on organizational purpose, it may seem that our leaders are functioning in a kinder, gentler era. This could not be farther from the case. Information is a continuous resource – it’s like water – everywhere, free flowing if not harnessed properly, inherently powerful for those who own it, and inherently destructive for those who are unprepared to stand in its wake. It’s an asset hard to quantify but worth fighting to have and use.
People are the vessels through which organizations can gather and use this incredible asset to move forward. They are more vital than information. How you select, build, and sustain your fleet will determine your direction and your leadership.
It’s time to empower great people to work for the greater good of your organization.
 Creating a New Civilization: The Politics of the Third Wave, Alvin and Heidi Toffler, 1995