Purpose Centricity In The Fifth Industrial Revolution

Can purpose, culture and strategy have equal seats at the breakfast table?

As organisations continue to drive their digitalisation agenda, we find ourselves on the cusp of the Fifth Industrial Revolution (5IR) which is characterised as new connectivity and purpose between human, machines, and technology. This revolution focuses on the personalisation of every human engagement on every front. The fourth industrial revolution (4IR) and 5IR will work in parallel, with 5IR defining trust, ethics and impact of the technology developed within 4IR. Kamen Govender and Sharika Singh at Letsema explore how purpose, culture and strategy must play an equal role in accelerating any type of digital transformation.

The dawn of 5IR

Advanced technologies from 4IR such as AI, big data and cloud computing will remain with machines increasingly automating repetitive and monotonous tasks. This allows the workforce to focus on using human-centric capabilities such as conscious thinking, creativity, innovation, analytical and critical thinking, complex problem-solving and decision making, as well as emotional intelligence, leadership and influence.

The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2025, more than 97 million new job roles may emerge globally. From a South African perspective, research suggests that up to 1.7 million, new technology-enabled jobs could be created by 2030. However, these jobs require higher levels of education with varied skill sets and competencies, so a new shift in learning is required to develop a future-fit workforce that can enable economic and societal growth and development.

Learning in the digital age must become more human-centric with an adaptive teaching model. The learning pedagogy must be intentional, underpinned by neuroscience, outcomes-driven, and based on skills and competency rather than fixed requirements, cater for a range of generations and be digitally enabled.

Is SA ready for 5IR?

Letsema’s Next Gen Operations (NGO) practice recently published its 2022 annual market study focusing on the state of digitalisation in South Africa. It is no surprise that in 2021, digitalisation was a top 2 priority for 65% of organisations, and a top 5 priority for 90% of the participating organisations. Interestingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has been an accelerator for digital transformation as it prompted a rapid shift in mindsets towards new ways of working.

Findings suggest that 42% of respondents identified skills and competency as the key barriers to implementing digital strategies. The study also indicated financial constraints, culture and mindset were placed in second and third positions respectively. Clearly the biggest challenge for digital evolution is not the technology, but rather insufficient investment in the development of a robust future fit workforce and culture.,

While in some instances operating models and technology roadmaps are developed rapidly, the key elements of digital capability, competency and capacity are often underestimated. With the limited capability, competency and capacity shortages coupled with fixed mindsets, and inadequate investments across digital competency/talent development programmes, it is no surprise that South Africa is lagging in the Fourth and Fifth Industrial Revolution.

Is it time for purpose, culture, and strategy to have equal seats of higher intention at the breakfast table?

The answer is yes!

Developing a 5IR Fit Framework

Adopting a holistic approach to building a 5IR ready organisation the following five neurological levels should be considered. When implemented correctly these levels will uplift the workforce.

Defining the purpose in the organisation. 5IR rehumanises and repurposes life and work. This means leadership should be tasked to re-evaluate their vision statements, interrogate why the company exists, and the higher purpose attached to it, for the now and the future.
Defining the identity of the organisation underpins its mission and individual roles, including the clarification of locus of control across a multiverse stakeholder landscape. The organic cascading from purpose to mission is critical in defining what winning means to guide strategic decisions.
Understanding the beliefs. Unknowingly, many of us operate in pilot mode, unaware of our belief systems and the impact it has on our performance and current success rate. During 5IR, questioning our belief systems respectfully allows the organisation to enable rather than limit. Addressing limiting belief systems should not be taken lightly as it gives the employee permission to change the narrative that serves them and the higher purpose of themselves and the company. Most important is that company leadership should take time to introspect their belief systems as it has a direct impact on motivation across the workforce and company performance.
Personalising the company values and behaviours linked to the values. The values-led organisation ensures collaborative dialogue about its core values by defining and communicating the values that motivate its purpose and work. The values-led organisation deploys its values as an anchor through which to:
Develop SMART goals and objectives
Identify priorities and allocate resources strategically
Disciplined progress monitoring
Alignment of behaviours as individual and team
Enable a strong foundation for decision making
Defining the capabilities and competencies required for the execution of the strategic objectives. The development and maintenance of an active learning culture is a necessity. The human mind and its ability to adopt a growth mindset as a contributor to reinvention has historically been underestimated. Application and continuation of a growth mindset is a critical component within 5IR and must include all employees.

Collaboration between entrepreneurs, corporates, universities, and other stakeholders are increasingly becoming more important in the way forward. Multi-stakeholder initiatives have the strongest influence on creating and improving our digital and human competencies. Negotiated partnerships based on purpose and intention between the public and the private sectors is critical to develop an ecosystem that is not only fit for 5IR, but still presses forward to ensure 4IR remains a focus.

Creating a future for tomorrow starts with building a strong foundation today.

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