December 23, 2016
by Karim Bibawi
Why it’s the first step in digital transformation and three principles for success.
At GE’s recent Minds + Machines conference, GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt said, “Winning has a common face—the win goes to those who are productive, innovative, competitive, adaptive, and resilient…people who are willing to solve problems…who are willing to try new things every day.”
To achieve Immelt’s winning recipe while also entering the whirling vortex of the biggest industrial transformation in history, companies should begin with transforming their organizational culture. Companies today, regardless of region or industry, must think and act differently if they want to disrupt, rather than be disrupted. I had the opportunity to discuss organizational culture during a Minds + Machines panel titled “Leading at the Cultural Edge.”
Perceptions from the conference and from PwC’s own transformation have led to three principles to consider amid a rapidly accelerating industrial internet of things (IIoT) environment that is reshaping the world:
- Create multidisciplinary teams: Companies that seek to transform into thriving digital businesses recognize that silos no longer work. Multidisciplinary teams are now the lifeblood of successful businesses. In today’s fast-paced digital economy, silos create redundancy, stifle idea sharing, and detract from business objectives. PwC’s own recent digital transformation ushered in a new approach called the BXT method (Business, Experience, Technology). The BXT method breaks down silos to harness the power of perspective—to help our clients drive digital transformation. Diverse perspectives pave the way for disruptive ideas and sometimes uncomfortable change—both are critical to avoid stagnation. Inclusion creates a sense of pride where innovation and productivity flourish. During one recent IIoT strategy engagement, we helped a client form an IIoT/innovation group. We spent considerable time ensuring that the group had the right cross section of talent and perspectives. Another industrial manufacturing client overhauled its talent strategy as it moved toward a next-generation mix of workers. The mix now includes employees who can design and build IIoT products as well as data scientists who can analyze output. Creating a physical space that fosters creativity is important. For instance, PwC’s Experience Centers bring together designers, strategists, user experience professionals, technologists, and even tax professionals to assess complex business problems and create game-changing solutions. As you consider how to adapt your culture, the power of perspective is key.
- Strike a mind + machine balance to boost productivity: As companies undergo significant transformation in the IIoT era, Immelt suggests that they refocus their workforces around rebooting productivity and doing it fast. The need for greater productivity transcends industries and regions—whether the company is a utilities company seeking to increase generation asset efficiency; an oil and gas company striving to improve upstream operations; or an industrial company looking to enhance manufacturing and the supply chain. Immelt argues that the growth of industrial productivity has gone from 4 percent per annum between 1990 and 2010 to an average of 1 percent per annum between 2011 and 2015. While technology platforms like Predix can help generate new levels of productivity, companies must strike a better mind-machine balance to extract value. Executives should flip the perception of minds versus machines to one of minds + machines (an apropos name for the conference!). When the workforce treats machines as allies, minds and machines can augment each other and productivity can soar.
- Cultivate your intrapreneurs: Success in the IIoT era starts with the individual. While each company has its own behavioral patterns, a seed of entrepreneurship is within every person. Leaders should foster this spirit to drive innovation and speed—creating an environment where there is a willingness to fail fast, adjust, and move forward. In addition to an entrepreneurial mindset, large companies also need intrapreneurs. Intrapreneurs have the innovation and calculated risk-taking mindsets that spark disruptive ideas and create new businesses that support the long-term vision. Intrapreneurs know how to leverage their companies’ assets and brands; sell new and complex ideas to decision-makers; and challenge cultural norms within risk parameters. Larger companies that combine the power of intrapreneurship and innovation with their resources and horsepower are those that spur industry-level transformation.
In addition to nurturing the entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial spirit from within, companies also must plug in to the broader innovation ecosystem. In this way, companies can identify and support powerful new ideas from external sources and help quickly scale the winning ones. An example is PwC’s new accelerator program with Techstars, which brings IIoT leaders together with innovative emerging startups for a three-month, mentorship-driven accelerator program. Additionally, GE Ventures provides access to a global network of GE expertise and resources. They partner and invest in great ideas within software, healthcare, energy, and advanced manufacturing.
“The industrial internet represents a transformation, not a task,” according to Immelt. Those who seize the next generation of technology and productivity will be those who look inward, reshape their cultures, and transform themselves.
I’d like to hear about innovative ways that you are reshaping your culture and some of the challenges you’ve encountered. Follow me on Twitter @KBibawi.