The Century of Teams
“In the past century society privileged individual leadership in all areas: in business, science, academia, politics, in all fields of human activity, geniuses were sought to solve everything.
In the 21st century we have understood that things go well when teams are assembled, combining the efforts, professionalism, experience and good intentions of many people.”
The world has become too complex to rely on individuals alone to solve ever-changing problems. Organizations need to tap the collective knowledge of their individuals and revolve around networks of teams to succeed in the current environment.
1. Context: Megatrends, Technological Disruption and Exponential Change
According to Frost and Sullivan, a megatrend is a large, social, economic, political, environmental or technological change that is slow to form. Once in place, megatrends influence a wide range of activities, processes and perceptions, both in government and in society, possibly for decades. They are the underlying forces that drive trends.
Megatrends inform the required transformation, strategic choices and capabilities that organizations needed to survive and thrive in the future.
PWC group them into five – globalization, demographic changes, urbanization, technology changes and climate change and sustainability
The Institute for the Future, a California based research centre specializing in long-term forecasting, identified six drivers that will disrupt and reshape the workforce landscape:
Extreme longevity: Increasing global lifespans will change the nature of careers and learning
Rise of smart machines and systems: Workplace automation will nudge human workers out of rote, repetitive tasks
Computational world: Massive increases in sensors and processing power will make the world a programmable system
New media ecology: New communication tools will require new media literacies beyond text
Super structured organizations: Social technologies will drive new forms of production and value creation
Globally connected world: Increased global interconnectivity will put diversity and adaptability at the centre of organizational operations
The institute identified the 10 skills for the future workforce:
Sensemaking: Ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed
Social intelligence: Ability to connect to others deeply and directly, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions
Novel & Adaptive thinking: Proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based
Cross-Cultural Competency: Ability to operate in different cultural settings
Computational thinking: Ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning
New Media Literacy: Ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication
Transdisciplinary: Literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines
Design Mindset: Ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes
Cognitive Load Management: Ability to discriminate and filter information for importance, and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques
Virtual Collaboration: Ability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team
The concept that technological change occurs at an exponential rate was first introduced by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, who in 1965 predicted that every year the number of components per integrated circuit would double.
Advancements in digital electronics are strongly linked to Moore's law: quality-adjusted microprocessor prices, memory capacity, sensors, and even the number and size of pixels in digital cameras.
Digital electronics have contributed to world economic growth in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
Moore's law describes a driving force of technological and social change, productivity, and economic growth
Jean-Philippe Couturier, at InovenAltenor - a consulting firm specialized in future technology trends - identified six technological advancements that will significantly disrupt the world:
These trends with the exponential rate of technological advancements will significantly change the way we live; accelerating us to a faster pace than the human race has ever imagined.
Futurist Ray Kurzweil puts it this way: “For the vast majority of human existence, it was safe to assume that the world in which you died would look pretty much the same as the one in which you were born. But that is no longer the case and pretty soon humans won't even die at all”.
We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate)," wrote Kurzweil in 2001.
Just think about how much change we have witnessed in the past 10 years—wireless internet, smartphones, Uber, Facebook and Twitter—and then try to imagine how vastly different things will be in 2026, or even 2100.
2. Impact on Organizations
No matter if it’s the evolution of megatrends, technology disruption or exponential change it is clear that businesses cannot be successful with an organizational model of hierarchy, command and control designed 100 years ago.
Other models such as the Matrix organizations of the 70s and 80s failed as they conceived organizations as a set of pyramidal boxes filled with individuals that performed tasks, rather than focusing on dynamic uindividual-basedse of individuals and teams to serve customer needs.
It’s no surprise that in Deloitte’s last Business Leaders’ survey, they placed organization redesign as their number one priority to respond to disruptions in the marketplace.
The study identified that some Companies are decentralizing authority, moving toward product- and customer-centric organizations, and forming dynamic networks of highly empowered teams that communicate and coordinate activities in unique and powerful ways.
This is giving rise to a new model of organization based on a “network of teams” with a high degree of empowerment, strong communication, and rapid information flow.
These organizations, which utilize principles based on Stanley McChrystal's book, Team of Teams, have several fundamental components:
Move people into customer-, product-, or market- and mission-focused teams, led by team leaders who are experts in their domain (not “professional managers”).
Empower teams to set their own goals and make their own decisions within the context of an overarching strategy or business plan, reversing the traditional structure of goal and performance management.
Replace silos with information and operations centres to share integrated information and identify connections between team activities and desired results.
Organize these teams around mission, product, market, or integrated customer needs rather than a business function.
Teach and encourage people to work across teams, using techniques like “liaison officers” like the US military, “hackathons,” open office spaces that promote collaboration as Apple Inc. and Cleveland Clinic, and job rotation to give teams a common understanding of each other.
Enable people to move from team to team as needed—similar to the way experts come together on Hollywood movie sets or in global consulting firms—and then ensure that people have a home to return to once a team-based project is done. This changes the concept of a “job description” to that of a “mission specialist” or “technical specialist.”
Shift senior leaders into roles focused on planning, strategy, vision, culture, and cross-team communication.