June 15th, 2017

Exponential Thinking Key to Meeting Disruption Challenge, Says Josh Camire; MMC Young Professionals’ Global Forum 2017

Posted at 7:14 AM ET

Josh Camire, Managing Director of ExO Advisors, opened his presentation with the alarming prediction that 40 percent of today’s Fortune 500 companies will cease to exist in 10 years - primarily due to technological disruption.

“We have all of this amazing technology,” he explained, “but what do we do with it and how do we support it? Those industries which do not adapt will end up on the scrap heap.”

“So how can we save ourselves from extinction and not end up in a place of irrelevance?” he asked delegates. “You are here today seeking knowledge and trying to understand what capabilities and technologies are available to you. You cannot work alone - you need to be supportive and collaborate.”

Processes and frameworks are also essential to maintaining relevance in this new technological age. “Even playgrounds have fences,” he said. “Processes and systems are what help you get where you are going by introducing greater structure, practice, clarity and understanding.”

According to the International Data Corporation, by 2020 some four billion people will be online; there will be USD 4 trillion in revenue opportunities; there will be over 25 million apps; 25 billion embedded and intelligent systems and 50 trillion gigabytes of data.

Quoting Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum in his book “The Fourth Industrial Revolution,” he said: “The changes are so profound that, from the perspective of human history, there has never been a time of greater promise or potential peril…This is the entrance into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

Camire added, “We need to constantly remind ourselves that all these new technologies are primarily tools made by people for people. Our civilization is dependent upon our ability to adapt, to collaborate, to learn and to teach. And it is on you as leaders of the future to make this happen - so no pressure.”

Camire highlighted examples of artificial intelligence (AI) being used for the benefit of humanity, but warned that such advanced capabilities need to be monitored closely. “Technology has evolved beyond these wonderful creations and now requires a level of empathy, vulnerability, moral and ethical guidance.”

He continued: “It needs parental supervision and guidance. This Fourth Industrial Revolution will require a new breed of innovative leader with a deeper level of mindfulness.”

At this point, he introduced his concept of the Exponential Organization - a framework designed to help companies to adapt to and harness new technologies like AI. “It is trying to put guidelines around this new environment and introducing you to some attributes that you might be able to use within your organization to help you keep pace.”

To illustrate the construct of the exponential organization, Camire used the image of a brain. The left part of the brain is devoted to ideas, including components such as: interfaces, dashboards, experimentation, autonomy and social. The right side of the brain is devoted to scale, with capabilities such as staff-on-demand, community and crowd, algorithms and leveraged assets.

“What I want to show you,” he explained, “is how we can use these different levers and attributes to set-up an organization and effect change.”

The over-arching concept of the framework, he said, is the “Massive Transformative Purpose” (MTP). “The MTP is uniquely yours. It is highly aspirational. It is neither narrow nor technology-specific. It is aimed at heart and mind, and is declared with sincerity and confidence.” Camire shared that these are techniques that have been proven in his own work with Fortune 500 companies and global innovators.

Strong example of MTPs include Google’s “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible” and TED’s “ideas worth spreading”.

Focusing on the right side of the brain, he looked at the idea of staff-on-demand. “This is the notion that you can leverage relevant skills and personnel outside of your organization. This enables you to meet changing needs and ensure that your expertise is always up-to-date.”

Community and crowd introduces the notion that you can amplify collaboration by working with colleagues in common work spaces. “It is about bringing together expertise from a range of different areas,” he said. “If for example, you wanted to conduct an advertising campaign you used to have to bring in people from many different sectors. Now you can have them all in the one place to create a collaborative environment.”

Leveraged assets, he explained, is the idea that we no longer need to own the assets that we rely upon but can source these externally - for example, the Cloud.

Switching to the left side of the brain, he considered the value of interfaces. Highlighting examples such as the App Store and Slack, he said: “These are all user-friendly visual platforms that you use every day which empower users with a convenient, self-service model that connects them in real-time with complex systems.”

He also explored the idea of autonomy. Introducing the term “holacracy,” he explained that this is a new operating system for organizations. “It distributes the organization out so that everyone at every level has a role, but that role only exists as long as it needs to. So if you come up with an issue, you will take on the role of resolving that issue, and once resolved then the team will dissipate before re-emerging to tackle a new issue. It is about taking power to the edges of the company rather than having top-down control.”

While these attributes are integral to helping an organization effect change, Camire warned that virtually all companies have a built-in immune system which is resistant to change. “If you attempt to disrupt a large organization, that organizational immune system will attack you. It is built to resist change using KPIs and five-year plans.”

To combat this, companies need to build a fertile culture. “By using the concepts of culture you can help synchronize the left and right parts of the brain - the ideas and the scale - and help these concepts take root.”

Key components in this fertile culture include: effective communication; the establishment of a universal vision; creating an optimum work/life balance; training and mentoring and managing expectation.

“Building culture will disrupt the organizational immune system,” he added. “It will create fertile ground… and allow innovation to take root.”

In his closing remarks, he said: “It is the interplay between improvisation and experimentation combined with the frameworks, structure and practice that will enable leaders to guide their organizations towards a culture of innovation and a world of exponential possibilities.”

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Josh Camire, Managing Director of ExO Advisors, addressing delegates at the MMC Young Professionals’ Global Forum. He is based in San Francisco, California.

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