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Hitesh Porwal

Certified Executive Coach

12 May2020

Sample the following data about the changing nature of work:

·        The gig economy is for real. Part-time consultants and freelancers are cheaper than full-time staffers

·        By 2030, robots will replace repetitive manual tasks (in fact, robots are already displacing humans in factories)

·        Artificial Intelligence is predicted to become smarter and apply logic to address problems and suggest solutions, rendering many manual jobs redundant in the process

·        Price, availability, and quality have been commoditized in most businesses

·        Blockchain could make accountants, auditors, and other reconciliation-related jobs irrelevant

·        Voice-user interface (VUI) might largely take over clerical and assistance work (read receptionists). Think about Alexa and Google Assistant

·        Supervision will move away from supervising people to processes and systems. Most of it is expected to be done remotely through automated metrics

What does the future look like for a prospective executive?

The majority of the current job profiles will be put under the scanner, mainly the more ‘comfortable’ ones. If you happen to be in any of these jobs, you will be asked to justify why your electronic or digital twin cannot replace you.

Irrespective of the organisation’s size and scale of operations, manual jobs will be limited to roles that require working amid uncertainty and making decisions that machines can’t take. Some other responsibilities that will be in demand include ability to assess human behavior and responding promptly to take first-mover advantage.

Unless you work in any of the capacities stated above, it could be a test to survive and flourish.

Think about it - What is the exact difference between the kind of jobs we see in the market today vis-à-vis the ones that would be there a few years down the line?

The difference lies in the traits you deploy. What I precisely mean is that very soon, a time will come when the only thing that will matter is your ability to leverage the higher faculties (the intellectual reserves) of your mind. Supervisory, analytical and interpersonal skills are already being considered primitive in today’s times, and they will no longer be needed in future, courtesy AI and digitization.

Tapping into one’s intellectual faculties? Isn’t that what every entrepreneur does?

Indeed. Entrepreneurs trust their instinct and back their decisions. They believe they can figure things out when the chips are down. They often don’t rely on rigid, legacy processes, but instead, experiment to assess market demand and cater to it. They are self-driven, and don’t believe in supervision. They learn to work with limited resources, and hence, demonstrate leadership every waking hour of their lives.

Most executives will be expected to demonstrate entrepreneurial skills to gather necessary resources and create innovative, value-driven solutions in their organization. Even if you are a top-level exec cushioned by favorable corporate policies, you will eventually have to come out of your comfort zone. You will have to think like an entrepreneur and imbibe some of their traits:

     You have to FOCUS

One of the most admirable characteristics of an entrepreneur is his focus, despite a multitude of odds stacked against him. How to get the funds in place? How to streamline operations? How to get the venture off the ground? These are questions that are dubious for casting a shadow of uncertainty. This is also the environment where an entrepreneur has to operate, day in and out.

If you have the ultimate objective in mind, that is almost half the battle won. A lack of focus, among other factors, is the reason why 75 out of a 100 start-ups fail. That seems like a formidable number.

Food for thought: You have to cut out the hocus-pocus and focus on achieving the end objective of the organisation. Even if you are in a job, focus will help you dovetail your work with the corporate vision, and let go of areas that don’t need immediate attention. Make sure every step you take is focused on achieving that crucial objective with which the company started.

And remember, you will be expected to achieve that ‘alignment’ as robots won’t be able to do it.

     You have to DISRUPT the old order to offer cutting-edge solutions

Some entrepreneurs take to disruption like a fish takes to water. Disruption is what provides an entrepreneur with his daily fodder for growth and the courage to challenge the status quo. Think about Netflix or a Tesla. Founders of the former, Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph, laid out the disruption playbook when they launched Netflix in 1997.

Today, the brand has gone on to become the world’s leading media services provider.

Elon Musk put his neck out and proved that electric vehicles were undoubtedly a more sustainable alternative to gasoline cars.

Food for thought: Every company will have more takers for the already-established order. For most, any change is uncomfortable and not to be welcomed. This is where your entrepreneurial traits will make you stand out from your unoriginal peers who are happy playing the perennial ‘second fiddle’ to others.

The CEO will reserve a special place for you if you disrupt from within the company. Identify legacy processes and products; replace them with more functional and viable alternatives. That could just be the emergence of the hidden disruptor in you.

     You have to be the AGGREGATOR to leverage your optimum strengths

Successful entrepreneurs will have their aggregator mindset to thank. What I mean by this is the ability to organize multiple stakeholders under the same roof. It is a task easier said than done, considering every vertical within the company is likely to have varying motivation levels. It will thus require tailored incentives to bury their differences.

Food for thought: Look closely, and you will find departments in your company that do not work well in tandem, thereby resulting in strengths not being leveraged optimally. It is here that you must don the entrepreneurial hat. Hone the aggregator skills inside you to encourage teams to look past incongruity and come on board.

The aggregator is the company’s force multiplier.Your influencing skills are critical to developing a symbiotic ecosystem that is characterized by the sharing of knowledge and resources.Take up the challenge, don’t remain just another ‘doer’, because the majority of them will ultimately be robots.

     Don’t squander chances, think about an MVP

This is arguably the quintessential entrepreneur’s trait. It is easy for start-ups to fall in love with their idea; however, whether the concept would strike a chord with potential customers is wrapped in uncertainty and dilemma.

To navigate through this haze, entrepreneurs usually come up with a simplistic version of the fully-loaded product, known as the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), as a trial run to test its demand. If the MVP garners attention, entrepreneurs begin to enhance the product by adding features going ahead.

Food for thought: As tectonic changes hit every organisation, you will have to take up the implementer’s role. You will have to assess an idea’s viability and push through with it. Robots cannot do that. No management will be convinced for a massive spend on the latest pet project of yours unless you have a proven and workable cost-revenue model.

Get your analytical skills to the fore, and come up with an MVP that is utility and cost-effective. At least you’d be better off than making off the cuff calculations and sinking your idea.

     See the bigger picture, embrace the surrounding AMBIGUITY

Entrepreneurs don’t let ambiguity get to them. Their conviction allows them to cut the clutter and look at the overarching objective – for instance, ushering a positive change for society.

Food for thought: As an executive, you will have to perform tasks with no clear brief. You cannot afford to sit on them for a lot will be riding on the decisions you take. One way to come out of a sticky situation is doing what your job demands while keeping stakeholders informed of the developments.

Irrespective of the urgency, the idea is not to get overwhelmed by any situation and think through factors objectively. In the face of ambiguity, maintain your focus and positive outlook and don’t let minor impediments ruin your progress. If your superior is not replying to a particularly important mail, think through the opportunity costs of you finally choosing to not go through with the task.

     You cannot be playing safe all the time, be the RISK-TAKER

Jeff Bezos had once said, “I had to project myself forward to age 80. I didn’t want to be an 80-year old, cataloging a bunch of major regrets of my life.”

Risk-taking ability is the hallmark of great entrepreneurs who have dared to think beyond their means. Think about the wildly successful entrepreneursBill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, the list can go on. What binds them? It is (was) their ability to take measured risks.

Food for thought: If you are working in a large organisation, chances are most of the processes are designed to be risk-averse. Chances are most of the people you are working with shy away from risks. It is crucial that you gradually build your risk appetite by taking calculated risks. This will infuse confidence and open up your mind to novel ideas.

In conclusion

In any organisation operating within a competitive landscape, it is essential for the executives to ultimately become entrepreneurs. An entrepreneurial culture should be inextricably woven into a company’s DNA. And for that to happen, it must begin now for such thinking may not come naturally to most.