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Nancy Giordano Part 1

by Mentors to Executives Worldwide
August 17th 2021
This week we begin a three part discussion with Nancy Giordano about changing our thinking and managing. There are challenges out there in management, now and into the future – are you curious e... More
Welcome back, I'm Kim Baillie, she's Fulyana Orsborn and this is Inside Exec. Today we have a guest with us, that's Nancy Giordano. Nancy joins us from Texas. So good evening Nancy. Thank you. It's very, very hot here. But good to be with you. Well, we won't talk about temperatures because I keep looking down at the temperature here and I thought well we're not going to get frost this morning but it'll be close. It is fun to see the wardrobe difference when you get to have these conversations with people around the world and where we all are at the moment. Nancy is a futurist and I think that that's going to be a fascinating conversation for us to have given that we've got so many people who are rethinking the way they approach their work and the way they approach management and their teams and their organizations. So we might ask at the very outset, just tell us a bit about what it is you're doing and how you're thinking big questions. The way I describe it actually is strategic futurist because I talk to more people who are in the foresight world and more and more growing into that field, which is phenomenal.

I feel like it should be on every board and every leadership team. There should be a resident futurist that's part of it. But that can span from being a foresight professional who spends a lot of time thinking about the statistics or building scenarios to more on my end, which is what I am trying to help organizations and teams and leaders and enterprises better sense and respond to the changes that are happening. I've been doing that for a long time. What we realized is most people are only looking very myopically at the information right in front of them and not seeing how it's connected to other information. Right? There was adjacent on either side. But then also not looking far out about how things were shifting where those trajectories were. The challenge now is that it's happening so much faster. And so there's really an imperative at this moment to really think about that. We should all be futuristic in some way in our work. It is about where we start today, but it's about really being thoughtful and intentional about where we want to end up. In the research that we did specifically had a question in that area. I was interested in your thoughts about the silos and the interdependencies and you used an example which resonated with me which was entertainment and education.

Can you please tell us a bit more about that? Well, I mean, I think again, that thinking has been going on for decades now is that we realized that these things are not discreet from one another. Right? Medicine is not just separated from even from gamification at this point, the governments try to encourage people to take better care of themselves. What are ways that we can do that better? So there's been more and more of this crossover and that's where the TED conferences came from. They recognized in the mid eighties, right. the technology, entertainment and design all actually were impacting each other and we could come and just share more about each other's work. We'll be able to become better at it and understand the opportunities to cross integrate our thinking. But over time, right, TED grew beyond those disciplines, everything else has grown beyond those disciplines. And so the key again is I think to be more curious about what is over here and what can lend new insight to us over there. And part of what I do is coach and encourage you to really develop your own curiosity because what Kim is curious about is different than what I'm curious about even if we have the same job, but that's great because she brings in this whole other piece of thinking to it.

I bring that whole other piece of thinking to it. And that actually enriches the potential and everything from innovation to make sure things stay safe. So I just think getting out of these very narrow ways of thinking. I will also say it becomes now an imperative because as you move into the land of things like artificial intelligence, all these organizations that are built with silos that were designed to keep us safe, decided that things shouldn't touch each other because they would contaminate or confuse or somehow make things less efficient, is actually now becoming a much more risky strategy. It was designed to keep us straight, now it's the thing that makes us less safe and more vulnerable because we need information that crosses the boundaries, right? We need to build ecosystems inside and outside of our organizations that allow us to be able to respond more quickly. So I think that silos are on their way out and integration and coordination and ecosystems are what we are spending a lot more time building. So what you're saying is you're encouraging leaders to think differently, to be more curious and to think bigger and now we've got more things to think about and walk away from the old ways and think forward.

Yes, I'll just step back for a second and say there's a couple of ways that we can look at this right. First, we can describe where we are in the timeline of business and people like to talk about that. We're heading into the fourth Industrial Revolution and I think that's actually a big misnomer. I think we're out of the industrial era and we're moving much more into whether you call the digital era or whatever, I call it the productivity era. We will be exponentially able to do things differently in an era that is digital than we were ever able to do an industrial era. That requires just a whole different way of processing and thinking. This is where I talk about risk and the fact that most of the processes that we've built to keep us safe for industrial processes, when we take them into this productivity revolution now make us more vulnerable. Silos, is one example. Hierarchies is another example, thinking really small and incremental is another example, right? These were things that worked well when we had a slow paced, linear growth rate and now that's not where we are, we're in a much more exponential, much faster, much more integrated way of thinking. So I do think we just need to approach all of this very differently than we have in the past. The other way I think about it is that our work has much more implication than it had.

Like it used to be just us as professionals. Now, we think of us as also humans, you know that we think about talent differently. We're also members of society, we're being increasingly asked to consider our actions from that lens and so that holds a tremendous amount of responsibility but also creates a tremendous moment of impact. You recognize that what you're creating for is not just for the next quarter's earnings, but what you're really trying to do is create sustainable value over decades, if not generations. It's also across time. So that's where the work has become so much more interesting as we recognize its potential over a much greater field. You talked about what was happening in the 80s and for Fulyana and I in the 80s we were involved in a construction organization basically at that stage. They had a new idea which was multidisciplinary team, so that a design team came in with engineers, architects, quantity surveyors, drafting people all in the one team. And it was very very different at that stage. So that was the 80s as well. We could talk about that being a generation now we can do that. Do you see that that's been a generational change in thinking about how we work together?

I think that was actually very forward thinking at the time. So what we're seeing is more of a return to, that's what I saw more, was another thing, probably more in the 90s, but late 80s, early 90s, early 2000s. This was really driven by efficiency where we didn't want things to be integrated and we pulled things apart. Well you're gonna be the specialist over here. I'm going to follow this person, we're gonna waterfall up to that person, gonna waterfall up to this person. And then we have different P N Ls. You know, the whole thing became much more broken into pieces because we thought that that was a much more efficient way to do it. It also prevented them culpability in the sense of well that was their problem, not that was their problem, not my problem, right? I don't want responsibility for everyone else's work because I remember that I actually worked in advertising at the time and we had this whole campaign around orchestration with all the different disciplines and it was really hard to get people to think that way and to share responsibility and all that. What's interesting is that in the book that I recently wrote, one of the examples is from the architecture industry in Canada. They've developed a process called the integrated project delivery. I think it's I. P. D. And it is all that, all about bringing all the key players together and they're finding it's actually much more efficient to do it that way because you have to go back when there's a change order, right, again you're able to sense and respond much more quickly and not have to go all the way back and it's certainly saving money when you do that.

So changing people's thinking to recognize the more that you have people in at the beginning and the way they set that up with a shared sense of values and a real clear sense of what it is we're trying to build toward and how they will recognize that. The right answer when it comes along is actually making the process work, all the ways that we wanted it to in the 90s when we took it apart. Actually realizing it works better if you put it back together. So the other question I had out of that fact was when you talked about the way we are moving now towards more automation, more more things being taken out of our hands. To me, I wondered whether you see that as the developing any inverted commas, craftsman management. So we have those who are really specialist in a certain type of management, a type of not so much a type of industry, but a type of management that is perhaps more people oriented or more systems oriented or oriented in just an area where they can be the craftsman, for want of a better word. That's a fascinating way of thinking about it. I haven't heard that term before and it's really interesting to apply craftsman and management in the same construct that seems very much an oxymoron right there for me, because we usually think of as management as a certain approach in a system that's all designed to root out variability and to ensure efficiency and consistent delivery that is easy to scale.

That has really been, you know, sort of the playbook for management and what I would call leadership over the last 20 years, 30 years of business. And so the fact that you're thinking about this way, I think that craftsman is an interesting term, I'm not sure if I would go there but I do think that there will be so much complexity that we're trying to wrap our brains around, that what, you know, whether it's about a specific technology. So you're an expert on Blockchain and someone else is an expert on the metaverse or special computing and somebody else is an expert on what's happening and the changes in medicine and the fact that we can work together more because we then bring those specialties together. I had a chance to give a talk to a really very significant pharmaceutical company and they were building a center of excellence and bringing all the smartest people together. And the hardest part was learning to trust that even if I wasn't an expert in this, but you were, that I could trust that you would bring enough to the conversation that I could not have to figure it out for myself. I mean we're used to owning all of the information and making the decisions because we holistically understood things and now we have to trust that you know more about something than I know and recognize that that's how the team gets stronger, is a new capacity, but I think we need to develop or undo the ones in the past.

So maybe labeling Craftsman gives us that much more confidence, right? And you spend a lot of time thinking about systems and I spend a lot of time thinking about people management and together we can come up with a better solution. I love that way of thinking on that point. So then what you're saying is stop looking at the risk of saying this is mine and I own it and I don't want to bring anyone else's because they might take the credit or whatever, whatever and they could be two different industries two different companies two different bottom lines. You're saying the benefit of why all the risk you all will succeed better if you get together and use each other skills. Yeah. But we also have to recognize that we are individuals that work inside of systems and if the system doesn't support that, then it actually is a very, very difficult thing to do. So for example, I had a friend who was head of global insights for a huge, you know, one of the most famous beverage companies in the world and he was very much a team contributor, right? He worked in insights. You want to give people a lot of information and was encouraged to inspire them in their work and more bi lateral contributor.

But then when he went to annual review time was all about what his individual performance was. His individual contribution was compensated and incentivized on individuality and his individual performer role. And so if we don't have systems that are congruent with what it is that we're asking people to do in that way, then you're leaving it up to the personality of the individual, and the strength and skill sets of that person and that's a tricky way of doing it. I'll just say it. There was some research that was done in the 70s. It's a long story, but an organizational development person named David Dao did a study on brain and brain reward. And there are some people who are naturally inclined to want to share and connect with others and he called them type a and they want new information and turning people onto it. Then there are other people who would take information, want to just get better and better at what they do and they aren't naturally intrinsically motivated to share. And he felt like the world was dominated by them, like 90 or 95% and very few of us are the other. You want to turn everybody into a couple things that work right when our own individual inclinations and the systems and whether or not they encourage us to show up that way. But yes, I do believe if you look at everything and one of the big models as we think to how to design better for the future, if you look at nature and how other systems, whether it's in the flora and fauna, its the insects and the animals, they somehow figured that out better than we have, right?

They aren't as pro. The big wisdom these days is about trees. I don't know if you guys have seen the hidden life of trees and all the conversations happening around trees, but trees really coordinate with each other. They coordinate with the fungi and they coordinate, you know, everything else that's around them. They don't exist on their own. They could never survive on their own. So the better we get at that thinking and the better we get at the other piece of it, and I know I warned you all, my answers are long because there's so much that are packed into it. But the individual confidence that you are enough, if you don't know all the answers, right? This is where sometimes that stuff I can talk about from the systems level. It's really important that we incentivize that, but it's also on the individual level that we don't fall prey to imposter syndrome and a world in which there's so much changing so fast and there's no way for us to possibly know everything which goes back to the craftsman idea that Kim just mentioned, which is having confidence that if I learned my bit and I know as well as I can and I'm really curious about it, I can plug into other people's work and together we can come up with a solution. But individually, I cannot be enough anymore on my own. And if someone comes in and brings me a new information, that doesn't mean that I'm not good enough.

You are not worthy. You don't know my thing or can contribute. And I think that's a really big opportunity for us to address at this moment right now. On that note, I think we'll take a break in our discussion with Nancy Giordano. Please join us for part two, where we will continue looking at how we should be managing and strategically thinking into the future. But for now I'm Kim Baillie. she's Fulyana Orsborn, we're talking with Nancy Giordano and this is inside Exec.

Nancy Giordano Part 1
Nancy Giordano Part 1
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