Global strategic competition times demand strategic answers, actions and frameworks. Basically, we need a new, efficient, recipe to help, if not guarantee, success in the new international normal, shaping the global ecosystem and its dynamics
Global strategic competition times demand strategic answers, actions and frameworks. Basically, we need a new, efficient, recipe to help, if not guarantee, success in the new international normal, shaping the global ecosystem and its dynamics.
The mindful Global Power Leader is “on mode” all the time, meaning information acquisition, its conveying (image), deciding what to do with it and prepare the team (initiation?—?i.e. training 4.0, timely for 4IR), including if there are actionable items that need fielding (influencing); last but not least, he or she also needs to act in the arena in the way most adequate for the impact sought (interaction).
As you can see, this is a combination between soft and hard skills, analysis and action. In other words, to be an agent of successful change (the status quo is no longer an option) you need to know yourself and the environment well, to know what kind of change you want to produce and how to deliver it within the system.
This is what the 5Is Ecosystem Path for global success in our era is all about. It’s a recipe to #managecompetition, and, the word du jour, win! It’a a disciplined while common sensical “secret sauce”, a guide for those global players wanting to apply something short and hands on, easy to memorise as a framework; it’s also a practical tool to #empowerleaders .
Before getting into the details, a disclaimer: be ready to think differently and keep an open mind, old models are no longer applicable, the world order itself is unravelling and searching for reinvention. In order to have such “Bond”-like skills in your team, you need to start with empowerment. Let’s model this. The average employee or team member knows they have their set of tasks and objectives and they limit themselves to performing along those lines. And it’s not so much that they limit themselves, as that they are limited by how organisations function. A superior concept is that everyone needs to be entrepreneurial.
This, of course, challenges the leadership, the higher echelons. Yet another, more advanced concept is when every person works as if they were a partner?—?and no, this does not translate into ownership by the masses, because nobody thinks anymore in terms of Marxism; if anything, they think in terms of utility maximisation. And then, of course, the stance in which each one behaves like a global influencer that happens to pool together their contributions into one organisation. From this perspective, let’s re-examine what each “I” can mean:
INFORMATION?—?an information worker is a little different than a knowledge worker. The relationship between them is of partial overlap, but whereas the information worker is more of a field agent and is more about inter-personal skills, the knowledge worker is more of an analyst. What you need, however, is a combination of both and more.
Because traditionally the positions described above were about collection, processing and analysis of information, production of knowledge or insights and distribution to the higher echelons or customers. What you need on top of that are also management, strategy, cunning, timing, awareness and cross-domain expertise, so that all these skills combined make a person a strong information machine to rival an AI.
When enabled with such information demi-gods, you can start talking about what kind of information your organisation gets to look at. The most strategic information is usually not offered, but perceived. Let’s break this down. You have tactical and operational information, technological and regulatory, competitive intelligence, and information about your own system and its performance. This is just the bottom of the pyramid, and yet 90% of organisations only operate at this level. Then, you have anticipatory intelligence?—?mostly obtained by mathematical and procedural methodologies and scenarios crafting.
It is still an iterative modelling of potential realities and your insights outcomes can be simulated by others?—?so no luck there, there’s little unique about applying consecrated methodologies. The true information is that which you could liken to dark matter? or love —?you don’t see it, but you feel its presence. If you ever looked at some contracts being awarded and in spate of the best governance around the allocation of those contracts, you can still feel some patterns, or leaning towards some practices, then there’s probably something there.
Same about the information you can perceive from the environment. After everything that is possible has already been tabled, if you have questions that cannot be answers by models and yet you can see the possibilities in your mind like if it was a start chart and all the dots connect?—?that’s information.
So how do you get such demi-gods? Search, find and optimize: that is why the second I comes from INITIATION, which entails much more than regular or classic training. For one, search for people more skilled and smarter than yourself. Second, make sure that you craft a learning organisation in which you learn from each other. Don’t argue over the absolute or relative truth, or who is best, or the perfect precision of data. That’s just models and methodologies that can be learned and adjusted. Get enticed by the surprising and different ways each person thinks, and how and why they may perceive things differently. Incorporate that into your own way of thinking.
If we are talking management, you also need “humane cut-throats”, because somebody needs to make the tough calls, table crazy strategies and objectives, daring approaches, etc. So, in a sense, every person should be able to do that. And each should be able to lead from the front on their own topics and areas of responsibility. How do you call an organisation in which each person aligned behind a leader is capable of taking over if the leader falls?
A union of partners, maybe; for sure a learning organisation. Somewhere in there you should have an innovation (another beautiful I ! ) person?—?someone dedicated to telling you about Star Trek kind of developments when you are still confronted with just regular Earth things. How do you shape such people? You don’t. You can only reveal them out of the crowd and then help them become better based on a shared ambition.
So your recruiting strategy should take elements from Hackathons, DefCons, ethical hacking challenges, etc. Embrace those that disturb or disrupt the way things are?—?incorporate and orient their disturbance or disruption to where you need it, instead of fighting it defensively. Life long learning is key, but there are few masters in disruption, and managing change by you and your team demands learning from all the niche bests.
Welcome to I number 3: IMAGE. Attracting such amazing people, and also not being considered a nutcase by the environment, you will need to convey an image of serene resolution. The easiest way to have a good image is to do at least one thing as if it came from the future; it does not necessarily need to be progressive?—?it just needs to be taken from the “norm” of the mid-century?—?2050, that is.
Then, treat the rest of your activities as if they were your own family?—?this is a simple rule of thumb not to ruin things. Another one would be to assess how you can pull resources out of thin air?—?because nothing spells ‘social entrepreneurship’ more than turning junk into gold; or simply using what is plentiful?—?H2O, photons and magnetism; but maybe talking about perpetuum mobiles is a little early. Simple words like PR and branding are so yesterday. Strategic positioning and messaging is the new cool, because it works: one only communicates effectively in the new age after the first two levels of the ecosystem path have been uploaded, after ticking information and initiation.
Time for I number 4: INFLUENCE. Say you want to make sure something happens in a certain way. Well, the answer is “no, that’s wrong”, because the only certain thing in life is death. And sure, you can make or help a law pass, or outbid someone out of a contract, etc. But bottom line is, you create effects beyond the focus of your attention.
The correct answer to this topic is that your influence needs to be flexible, it shouldn’t be about a single shot, and it should occupy all the aspects that humans can influence?—?resources, time, space, will-interest-attention, society, strategic threat perception. In short, everything short of natural disasters. Probably a better approach is to model (verb) everything into a wider, more complex scheme of things.
Then you can start seeing how everything else can converge and influence a single thing, so instead of pouring money into a lobbying campaign, for example, you just might need to nudge it. Because, ultimately, everything is in a state of flux; and at the intersection of flexible human capital, flexible thinking, and a state of flux of the system, you are practically the embodiment of quantum entanglement.
But getting back to practicalities, you need to be in a constant state of flux and connection with the system. That means, just like in the old days, meeting everyone at the local fair, or pub, or cafe, or club; shaking hands and blessing babies; nurturing communities, ensuring their health, safety and education are provided for. No, it’s not patriarchal; it’s you showing that you care. And, of course, the more you do this internationally, and the more you work with others, the less probable it is that someone will stand against you.
Last while not least, let’s play ball, in the arena: I number 5 goes to INTERACTION(s). For the interactions, you need to count your steps and delegate. Have many people around you act like proxies for you. And on Sundays, have them over for a family BBQ. The smartest people will always appreciate strength of character, doing what you say you will, being committed, and trying to solve problems constructively (dumb people will never forgive you?—?and they will hold a grudge for as long as they live).
A cohort of smart strategic mini-mes is not only a pretorian guard of brand ambassadors but also good energy use. You need to remain sane and fit, global domination can be exhausting, you do not need to interact with everyone everywhere. In order to not loose your humanity and contact with reality, set aside time for family and friends and trusted people; then, try spending equal parts of your time with those who are for real?—?involved, committed, honest?—?and those who are in it just for the business.
Just like in HR, you want to always have a funnel / pipeline of people to bring you fresh ideas, to remind you what is important, to care for the rest of the family when you are not there. As Eisenhower said, plans are useless but planning is indispensable. At a macro scale, every plan is a good plan?—?particularly if you are talking to China, the US and Europe, the sustainable (Russia does not have a successful economic model) strategic operators involved right now in great power competition.
Others … might punch you in the face, but they will appreciate your honesty. The principle is the same as “operating change from within”?—?if you’re inside, you can either do good or bad, but if you’re on the outside, you can only do what the others will let you. Now, let us start competing in a smart sustainable way, I by I. Continue the conversation online with two dedicated hashtags for this series: #managecompetition #empowerleaders
*a strategic communications analyst and consultant. He has advised the prime ministers of Romania and Moldova