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In his 1963 book Inventing the Future, Dennis Gabor wrote, “The future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented.” Peter Drucker has said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

The new norm for Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) organizations is to invent the future and circumvent the “fallacy box” by attracting faster learners instead of seasoned knowledge workers. In the old days, workers needed to have a skill to be proficient at their job. This was the era of the knowledge worker, which was followed by the era of subject matter experts and influencers.

But in the 4IR, having knowledgeable workers isn’t the goal; instead, flexible mindsets are the gold standard. Companies need people with mindsets geared toward a constant, active, and experimental learning mode, accompanied by an awareness of what’s happening in the external marketplace surrounding their own industry and other industries. If not, they will be easily disrupted. Why?

Innovation is the process of gainfully and quickly commercializing customer success-centric ideas into products and services. To compete, companies need employees to go beyond having skills, knowledge, and expertise and instead cultivate a mindset around active learning and experimentation grounded in market-peripheral awareness (that is, continuously and accurately interpreting their market reality).

This offers businesses the opportunity to achieve unprecedented competitive market plays, including:

  1. Offensive plays allowing companies to invest scarce resources to innovate new products, services, and operating models and push competitors into the fallacy box
  2. Defensive plays safeguarding companies from being surprised (that is, being placed into the fallacy box) by competitors’ innovations.

To commercialize innovation, enterprises must engage in training teams to constantly create new ways of thinking and new learning behaviors.

There are two prevalent learning behaviors.

Reactive learning includes:

  • Learning by doing and seeing what happens
  • Learning by waterfall experimentation

Proactive learning, which is embraced by 4IR companies via agile learning techniques and situational awareness, includes:

  • Face-to-face dialogues, as well as face-to-automated-customer-service-agent (bot) dialogues with customers
  • Simulations of augmented cognition (that is, artificial Intelligence, simulations) and real-time feedback loops to improve organizational awareness and promulgate customer success
  • Incorporation of double-loop learning and challenging assumptions while solving a problem, also known as outcome-based thinking
  • Adoption and use of new technology, ideas, and cultures via online training, such as myTrailhead as well as on-the-job-training
  • Investment in basic research to discover and create new bodies of knowledge
  • K-12 education and college education programs to prepare the future workforce for the company

Reactive learning takes place by following and repeating the sequence of Aware -> Knowledge-> Fallacy-> Aware.

 

Here is an example: Teenagers learning to drive are naturally cautious. However, after months or years of driving, the process becomes second nature, and they can become complacent, potentially risking harm to themselves and others.

It is noteworthy that some processes require the “learning-by-doing” behavior. For example, it is hard to learn how to ride a bicycle or learn how to walk by only reading a book.

Proactive learning takes place by following and repeating the sequence of Aware -> Knowledge -> Aware.

 

What if you wanted to boil an egg and didn’t know how? With a trial-and-error mode, you’d waste several eggs. With a proactive learning mode (for example, ask a friend for advice), you’d likely have success on your first or second try.

The 4IR offers an exponential pace of innovation. Corporations that don’t embrace new learning modes may find themselves stuck in the fallacy box. The rideshare example is a great one — digital-based transportation availability that has replaced rental cars and taxi services, which are still operating in the fallacy box. This is only the start of what exponential innovation will bring.

Organizations wishing to sidestep the fallacy box and to speed up innovation should diligently cultivate new proactive learning cultures and focus on hiring learners (instead of knowers).

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This blog post was written in partnership with Jack Ferraro, Salesforce Expeditions Program Executive.