Ghosts in Change

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I was in an interesting conversation last week with BCG. They reached out to me to learn more about our next generation “gamified learning enterprise solution”. What was interesting about the conversation was not that BCG reached out to us or the fact that the business opportunity was big? The interesting part was they were discussing with me on -

  • How can they help their ITES client (who has more than 1,00,000 employees) re-skill themselves in latest technologies?
  • How can they create a culture of a learning organisation?

The above 2 questions appeared quite contextual to the current times. However the best question was the following one:

  • Can your gamified learning enterprise platform integrate with all the current old tools & systems as our client does not want to shed what they already have?

While my answer was an obvious YES, I was very intrigued by the BCG Principal asking me this question. Somewhere in my subconscious I was expecting them to be challenging their Clients on this thought process that may be holding back their Client Organisation from reimagining both their business & their people capabilities. When I visit clients, I often hear the same question on how our product can work alongside or engage with existing systems. I often say yes, but try to explain that our product replaces most of your current system and does much more. Why would you retain your old system, if you are buying mine? The response I often get is — We just implemented this system 2–3 years ago and it isn’t addressing our problem. So if we were to junk it now, I am not sure how people will perceive it? Also managing another cycle of change is hard. We just want your enterprise platform to run on top of our current system and improve the employee learnability (by acting as an outer cover). We will continue to use the old system as a backend tool.

As a young start-up and a first time entrepreneur I have not been very successful in influencing my clients to think differently. I empathise that they couldn’t bet their entire company system on a new product from a new player in the market. However, when BCG brought the same argument to me, I was intrigued. How could one wear new clothes on top of old ones, just because the previous wasn’t fitting them well? The moot question is not why BCG or Planet Ganges is unable to convince clients on this matter? The question to examine is “the immunity to change mind-set”.

In view of the massive change around us, most Organisations are unlikely to be even a pale shadow of themselves 10 years from now. The pace of change is extremely fast & what has worked for Organisations in the past 10 years isn’t going to work for them in the next 10. Why would HR/Business leaders want their companies to carry the legacy of past tools & systems? These tools are going to not only weigh the organisation down but also not allow its people to acquire precious skills to save the organisation from extinction. Just because I bought an Ambassador car 2 years back, it does justify me driving it for the next 10 years. It may be a new car, but it is dated technology. The same analogy applies to many current old-age learning & talent solutions in the market today.

A few years back a friend of mine told me HR/Talent Solutions are nice to have tools. They are not like Salesforce or CRM that are need to have tools. I begged to differ then & do so even now. If an HR/Talent Solution truly works on creating a learning mindset, it is the biggest need to have solution. Since we are all surrounded by many old-age tools that don’t do that (saving a few), the prejudice remains. However, to address the learning mindset challenge, one needs to get past the “immunity to change mindset” of the leadership first. That appears to be a bigger challenge as of today?

Anand Bhaskar

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PGC is a boutique Management Consulting firm engaged in the business of enabling its clients to transform their Org, Culture & Capabilities.

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