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  • Live Enterprise: Answering Disruption with Humanity and Grace with Ade McCormack

    February 08, 2022
  • Ade McCormack, a leading advisor, public speaker and transformation expert discusses the meaning of graceful organization. The discussion also covers digital transformation and disruption.

    Hosted by Jeff Kavanaugh, VP and Head of the Infosys Knowledge Institute.

    “If you're not failing fast enough, you won't be in the game for very long.”

    “If you can develop a culture where people actually care about your organization, they become sensors. They tell you what's happening out there.”

    “A graceful organization is one that is very sensitive to its environment and acts in a way as to improve that environment.”

    “The skill behind grace is to leave the other person feeling a bit better about themselves. And this is how civil society is based.”

    - Ade McCormack


  • 2019 was the last known period of stability for many leaders. We are moving into an unknowable world now. And that's difficult for all of us.
  • When I get involved in advisory projects, I realize that when they're talking about transformation, they're really talking about digitalization. What they don't realise is that it's not about becoming digital though. Technology is very important. It's about transforming the organization from the industrial era in which it was birthed to the digital age, which is increasingly a an unknowable world.
  • My broad advice is to not transform the existing business model, because what you are in danger of doing is unnerving the people and disrupting the cash flows. So the middle ground here is to actually build your own startups or acquire startups. So your new business model is essentially the old business model plan A, plus a plan B, C, D, E, F and G.
  • A graceful organization is one that is very sensitive to its environment and acts in a way as to improve that environment. Generally today it's about improving the condition of the major shareholders, but of course, we need to extend that to society and the planet.
  • Graceful or gracefulness boils down to three things. Emotional intelligence, mental intelligence and physical intelligence. These three things can be very easily built into the organization. Skills get the job done. But it’s impossible to know what skills these people are going to require in a year's time or three years time. So they recruit on traits like creativity, commerciality, resilience, ability to cope and etc. They recruit talent based on their character, based on their vulnerabilities.
  • The definition of talent in this world increasingly means that it is able to do something of value that an algorithm or a robot cannot do. And some of my clients are getting that. So they're seeding the culture with a new type of person. And then this new type of person will raise the bar for everyone.
  • Disruption is not coming to an end as we come to the end of COVID disruption. It is only just taking off its track suit. The world has become unknowable. We need to kind of have 360 awareness and have a sense of what's happening all around us. You can do that by experimentation, by testing the market pressure, or another way of looking at it is rather than having a plan. Imagine what all your potential future destinies might be and start building them now.
  • In graceful organizations everybody respects everybody. And what you end up having is something that's akin to a cognitive gymnasium and people want to get there to do great work with other great people. So you then have a queue of people wanting to join this organization. You might compare a business leader to a nightclub DJ. He or she can't force people into the nightclub and they can't control how long they will stay in the nightclub. But if they get the music right, people will be queuing to get in and they'll stay all night.

Show Notes

  • 00:00

    Jeff introduces himself and Ade

  • 00:54

    What challenges were top of mind for clients in 2021?

  • 02:21

    Is that something that you think is a good thing or are you trying to tug them out of that reversion and maybe move forward?

  • 03:48

    What do you see as this emerging middle ground where not legacy, I’ll call them established large companies they can hold onto and that may be used as an asset while they're competing with these digital stars?

  • 05:11

    You use a word called grace and graceful organization. Obviously that sounds peaceful and wonderful, but what's it actually mean and how can someone make sense of that and adapt for themselves?

  • 09:48

    What are some examples that you've seen from your clients where they've made a step from acknowledging this being aware of the need to do this, and what have they put in place, or maybe what have they made better that was already in place as a first step towards this?

  • 12:05

    And can we talk about this concept of readiness and is it a precursor to actually transforming? What is readiness and why is it important?

  • 16:52

    What are success indicators for this graceful organization? What are some concrete things that you should look for or actions people can take?

About Ade McCormack

A leading advisor, public speaker and transformation expert

Ade McCormack

Ade McCormack is a former technologist who today is focused on helping organisations turn disruption into value. He has worked in around forty countries across many sectors. He has lectured at MIT Sloan School of Management on digital leadership and currently works with Cambridge University on their executive education programmes. He also works with public sector leaders in respect of societal transformation.

Ade is a former Financial Times columnist. He has written six books on digital matters. His work focuses around creating people-centric super-resilient organisations. His blog is a recognised source of forward-thinking perspectives.