by McCree Lake

How new technology is driving real-time behavior change in organizational transformations

Jan 31, 2018
Digital TransformationIT Leadership

Most leaders acknowledge the criticality of culture in achieving organizational agility and transformation yet think of culture as a black box that’s impossible to see or change. While culture and behavior change happen at an individual level, it is now possible to scale these changes with a combination of neuroscience, analytics, and technology capabilities.

Define your organization's culture
Credit: Thinkstock

[Special thanks to contributors Yaarit Silverstone, Diana Barea, Wendy Cohen and Fleur van Meer]

It is not uncommon for leaders shaping complex transformations to focus all their energy on the technology, process, or structural components of the initiative – and then lump all the human-centered dimensions into “change management.”

This one-size-fits-all, checklist-based approach creates considerable risks to the effort and even to the organization.

The pressure to change and the pace of disruption in business will only continue to increase. Three-quarters of leaders are pushing for more digital and customer-centered operating models that focus on delivering value at speed through organizational agility.

At the same time, leaders face a tremendous challenge to structure, manage, and execute culture change at an enterprise level.

This volume and velocity of change strains organizations and people. If leaders are not intentional about managing the human and cultural impacts, organizations risk a workforce that becomes disconnected or dissatisfied and seeks employment elsewhere (even top talent or those who might have otherwise supported change).

Even more troubling, the people that stay can be a drag on organizational engagement and productivity if they have not bought into, and actively embrace, the vision for the change. Therefore, leaders must understand their culture, adapt behaviors and change mindsets to successfully drive transformation and ultimately achieve the intended business outcomes.

Real. Culture. Change.

Culture does not have to be an enigma. It is merely the combined mindsets and behaviors of the people in an organization, and it can be measured, quantified, and changed to achieve transformation objectives. The more significant challenges are articulating the right behaviors and mindsets relative to the norms of a company and making sure that leaders demonstrate the behaviors they want to see, and recognize that the real drivers of change are people at all levels of the company.

Culture change is not brain surgery, but it is rooted in neuroscience! Brain-based, behavior-centric approaches are critical to embed lasting change. If you have ever shopped on a retailer’s website or used a mobile app to order something, you have been digitally “nudged” toward a behavior – whether it is to buy something extra or react to a suggestion for a new drink. Applying this construct to the workforce brings a more concrete way of “knowing and doing” around behavior and mindset shifts. Leaders can leverage analytics to create clarity and insight about what makes a difference in performance within specific segments of employees and leverage tailored interactions and approaches that are customized based on individuals’ histories, perspectives, and behavioral histories. For example, a bank recognized that more interpersonal communication at branches throughout the day led to significant sales performance differentials. The bank was able to target specific activities to drive collaboration and cooperation using these insights.

Technology drives the outcomes

There are two fundamental ways companies can leverage technology to drive change. First, change initiatives have to go beyond program-based, qualitative models to data-driven and adaptive with the ability to customize activities based on individual needs. Advanced analytics create tremendous opportunities for companies to derive insights about their workforces across a host of dimensions. Second, hardwiring behavior change means using digital platforms – moving away from singular training or information-sharing events to individualized and behavior-based approaches that create shared experiences and memories.

  • Analytical Insights: Data can be daunting and complicated – especially when trying to leverage it to understand and adapt organizational practices to optimize the workforce and employee experience. New technologies and workforce imperatives, however, make now the ideal time to leverage the vast amount of internal and external data to explore the capabilities, trends, behaviors, and engagement levels in various segments of a company’s current workforce. Analytical insights can apply to target workforces (e.g., candidates, target populations). Data combined with analytics also creates the ability to derive unique perspectives about how to target specific segments or adaptive organizational practices to support culture change and behavior adoption.
  • Digital Change Platforms: Cognician is an example of a company that’s developed a neuroscience-based platform that creates the kind of customized experiences that help people to learn and adopt new behaviors. Their platform brings together many features that help humans change – breaking down complex constructs into manageable components, leveraging social concepts, providing provocative interfaces, and customizing experiences for individuals. All of these elements combine to create shared and memorable experiences (the kinds that shape the way we humans view the world and are likely to behave in the future).

How will organizations continuously adapt and change in the future?

Bringing analytics and digital platforms together is a powerful new combination in supporting change.

One way to do this is by using a 30-day challenge. Companies can now build 30-day challenges on socially-centered, mobile platforms with target interventions and activities based on analytics and that drive substantive behavior and mindset shifts.

Additionally, new technologies and ideas are emerging that will empower organizations to create compelling and segmented behavior change. For example, artificial intelligence will become a coach and mentor – encouraging people within organizations to be more inclusive, productive, and engaged. Technologies like augmented and virtual reality will allow us to “experience” a new way of working and help mitigate some of the cognitive dissonances that comes with complex change.

HR and business leaders can revolutionize the way their organizations pivot and shift by combining the power of data with these new emerging capabilities in a way that creates holistic, individualized experiences that help people perform at their best.

Starting your change journey

Whether you are just beginning a strategic transformation or think your organization is struggling to adapt to the right set of behaviors and mindsets needed to drive business outcomes, here are a few essential steps to get started with your change journey.

  1. Don’t treat behavior and mindset change as an afterthought or siloed part of significant transformation campaigns. Take the time to define the mindsets and behaviors required for success and embed those into every part of your transformation.
  2. Enable leaders to show their support for the change by demonstrating the behaviors they expect and targeting the culture change for specific segments of the workforce, which provides transparency and engages all levels of the organization.
  3. Make the right investments in analytics and technology capabilities that leverage proven neuroscience-based approaches and enable behavior change initiatives to be embedded and tailored to the company and the transformation.
  4. Ground the principles for change in known approaches but don’t be afraid to prototype to discover new models that can help differentiate the organization and build resilience and agility for future change.

Culture is not a black box; instead, it is the crux of achieving business outcomes associated with substantial investments and digital transformation. In your quest for organizational and operating model agility, remember to leverage neuroscience, analytics, and digital platforms to drive and scale the behavior change that will make all the difference in your success.