How to create Quantum Ventures that navigate towards success through “the middle way”.
The Eroding Business Operating Model
We need a new map that makes sense of what work and ventures mean to people. The current Business Operating Model is eroding in a fast pace. It is around 80% of employees that are currently unengaged at work. The context in which we operate on a professional level is highly volatile, complex, uncertain, dynamic and ambiguous. On top of that the lifetime of ventures and products is getting shorter and shorter, placing pressure on the classic model of exploration and exploitation. It is time to re-imagine what ventures are and what work is and re-define our role in it.
The current domains where we seek guidance to cope with these topics are: Agility, Adaptability, and Resilience. These three magic buzzwords are on every organization’s agenda. Organizing ourselves in self-steering teams, becoming more of a platform company and utilising machine learning into our processes are populair ways to achieve this fluidity. The price of this approach is that we neglect an important part: What is in it for the employee? It is my thinking that we need to humanize organizations more and not give logic and automation the upper hand all the time.
With this post I offer a mental map that offers especially digital ventures a way on how to navigate through a world of continuous change and further raise the collective consciousness and creative intelligence of an organization. It is a balanced approach that gives room for automation, creation and spiritual development.
First I want to address a couple of symptoms of today’s workplace before entering into the solution space. I do this by reframing these symptoms into a “how to deal” question and provide a possible answer.
How to deal with uncertain outcomes?
As we live in a complex world where outcomes are very uncertain the best thing to do is to create a context in which the outcome has no effect on the result.
The answer: This simple reasoning drives many organizations to create platforms or marketplaces that for example handle multiple use cases, target audiences or products. It “dismisses” management to make a bet on a product, usecase or target audience.
How to deal with impermanence?
One of the the hardest values to incorporate into a system is impermanence. The fact to acknowledge that everything is temporary is a direct threat to repeatability and predictability, which are core qualities of any pre-defined system.
The answer: Organize yourself around the lifecycle and not around the objects. Currently we appoint people to the objects, like products or projects. Think of Product Owners for example. In this way people identify themselves very much with the object and the current state of the object. As the object is moving through the lifecycle it places pressure on the “owner” to transform with it. A better way is to appoint people to a phase in the lifecycle. These phases are much more static and people can have the objects pass through it. This means you have people that work on things that are in the beginning of their lifecycle and some people work on things when they are at the end of their lifecycle.
How to deal with the future?
A big challenge within organizations is how to simultaneously deal with current operations and deal with a future that is very different than the current state. The classic example of extinguishing the burning house and building a new one at the same time. It is probably the most fought out battle in organizations these days: sustaining the old generation versus the creating the new generation.
The answer: The Three Horizons Framework designed by Bill Sharpe. It’s a very intuitive framework to think and express yourself about innovation. It adds nuance to innovation efforts. As Bill says it: “The three horizons are about much, much more than simply stretching our thinking to embrace the short, medium and long term. They offer a co-ordinated way of managing innovation, a way of creating transformational change that has a chance of succeeding, a way of dealing with uncertainty and a way of seeing the future in the present.”
First Horizon(H1) — current context and conditions; the focus is managing the current results, and the mindset is that of the operator. H1 projects can be overseen in within a year, solutions are fairly known and the main act is replacement.
Second Horizon(H2) — actions taken in the present to resist change, to adapt to change, or to build on change; the focus is on creating and managing(uhm.. controling) change, and the mindset is that of the entrepreneur. H2 projects run one or two years, solutions need to emerge and the main act is creation.
Third Horizon(H3) — transformative emerging changes, ideas about possible futures, and visions of preferred futures; the focus is on transformation and disruption, and the mindset is that of the visionary. H3 projects are 5 years out. solutions are now known and the main act is resourcing.
How to deal with man versus the machine?
Next to incorporating technology and change into our lives we are also confronted with the machine that is seen as a direct threat to the role of man itself. Machine learning, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics are promising to create digital intelligent entities that can be described as super humans. Maybe they will take over from us, maybe we will merge with them into cyborgs. Anyway technology is providing us with “super powers”. On the other side of the spectrum technology is enabling people. It is democratizing and giving more and more control and influence to the individual. Creativity is rewarded and a new “Renaissance Man” is about to stand up.
In summary technology is basically challenging us towards 2 types of relationships with it:
Mankind can! Technology facilitates us. It provides us with tools. We shape our world. We are the creator. Technology is democratizing. We love technologies and concepts like Blockchain, The Gig economy, Social Media. We act.
Mankind cannot! Technology is improving us. Technology is giving us super powers. We love technologies like A.I. IOT, Robotics. We surrender.
The jury is still out on this one, but for both scenario’s you will find plenty of employees supporting one of the viewpoints.
Multiple truths exist simultaneously
With all the symptoms of today’s workplace, the ideal way to deal with this ambiguity is to allow for all these truths to co-exist inside your organization as long as possible. Truths that on the first look might seem to be opposites of each other. Opposites like:
Old and new
Man and machine
Agile and waterfall
Creation and automation
Platforms and AI
Now and the future
Static and dynamic
Simple and complex
It is my belief that a core quality of the organizations of the future is to hold time and space and to act as a host to all these different truths. The organization in a sense creates a safe space from where the final truth over time will manifest.
The Quantum Venture
I call this type of organization a Quantum Venture(QV), as it creates a quantum superposition in which multiple truths can be contained and the final truth (outcome) is manifested only by time and observation.
Organizations need to map teams to all of these truths. Teams focused on the now and teams focused on the future. Teams focused on facilitating platforms and teams focused on A.I. All working to believing their own truth and yet open for others at the same time. So a QV is able to support multiple belief systems, ecosystems, structures and leadership styles. There is room for waterfall and for agile. For both creative expression and for automation. For short term results and for long term investments.
As promised in one of the first paragraphs of this article I would offer a map that helps ventures navigate through change. So the vessel is the Quantum Venture and the map is the “Digital Universe Map”.
The Digital Universe Map
Just like the brain has a left and a right side the QV allows for creative expression and for logic. So the left brain side and the right brain side of the QV is balanced between short term, mid term and long term. Three perspectives of time that also need to be present. That results in the following map.
With this Digital Universe Map it is possible to navigate through time horizons and through the everlasting conflict between man(platforms, creation) and machine(AI, automation). It is applicable for every business and supports the process of creating an ethical and moral compass for every organization.
Within a QV it is no longer relevant what your product is. The job that needs to be done by a QV is to allow resources and assets to organize themselves through platforms and have the collective creative intelligence and spiritual awareness to be transferred into a digital actor that operates in the contextual relevant domain to which the venture is loyal.
The key activity of a QV is to continuously finetune between the truths and beliefsystems. Towards the end of QV’s lifecycle the final ultimate truth will reveal itself by providing an answer on the final question:
Is the digital actor inside the platform or is the platform inside the digital actor?