Innovation and IT in a VUCA world

I am of that odd generation that lives between Gen X and Millennials. Technology and digital transformation have influenced my life at every turn, I am not young enough to have been born into technology and not old enough that it’s cute that I don’t get it. I’ve been in the eye of a transformation tornado throughout my early life, school and career…

From playing outside to video games.
Text books and fountain pens to word processors.
Film to digital photography.
Print to digital media.
Face to face connections to social media.
File cabinets to servers.
Data centers to the cloud.

And now the office to remote working.

I’m fascinated by the use of technology to accelerate processes, mitigate risk, connect and grow.

Through my work at Think|Stack I have enjoyed connecting with the passionate rebels in the credit union industry who are challenging themselves and the movement to innovate. I love to think about how history has led us to the transformations we are witnessing today.

Gabriel-Alphonse Desjardins, founding father of credit unions, established over 200 Caisses Populaires in his lifetime. During his early years in the newspaper industry he witnessed the rise of pulp papermaking allowing faster publishing and mass distribution and the introduction of telegraph networks to send information – it would’ve seemed like magic seeing that first telegram message arrive from hundreds of miles away!

In his work as a courthouse stenographer he would have seen the introduction of the first stenograph machines and put down a pen to use a machine.

Innovation and technological breakthroughs were world changing in his lifetime from 1854 – 1920.

The bicycle, radio, plastics, flight and let’s not forget cornflakes and the can opener!

He also lived during two pandemics.

I’d like to think this wonderous change and adversity around him fueled the innovative spirit that drove him to build and transform an industry and leave a legacy that has changed all of our lives.

Imagine for a moment explaining our world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity to him. He may argue not much has changed. Innovation may have accelerated but the principles remain the same – embrace and leverage all that is available to you, approach it with childlike amazement or be left behind and unprepared.

This has never been more relevant than right now.

Information technology, “IT” has networked its way into every aspect of our lives. IT is in the hands and minds of our children, our employees, and our customers.

IT is in our cars, homes, businesses, and all systems we touch. IT is even in the words – VolatilITy, ComplexITy and AmbiguITy. (You can imagine my disappointment when UncertainTy didn’t work, although it’s in there somewhere!)

The question is are you letting IT govern you or are you governing it?

In all the noise, we as humans can still hold the upper hand, and through the power of community and team thinking we can bring human-only traits of creativity, imagination, intuition, ethics, and emotion to bear.

People before technology, human centered design – we are the why, IT is the how.

The past few weeks have shown us that in a VUCA world you don’t know what your people and customers might ask or need you to be next year, next week or even tomorrow.

You must build culture, technology infrastructure, and team environments that are flexible and responsive to change and innovation.

If you don’t, your competitors will. The companies that are winning today are built on flexible platforms ready to be nimble and pivot to any global and market conditions.

IT and all of its possibilities may seem chaotic and the current situation overwhelming, but there are ways to seek and find answers.

Many people are practicing meditation right now. One of the disarming things you realize when you close your eyes and try to quiet your mind is that the chaos is actually inside, the outside world changes when you shift your inner state. First look within to set your vision and goals, then look outside to find the support you need to realize them.

Through effective communication, collaboration, and sharing of best practices within your organizations and communities and by allowing diverse thought, you can bring your teams together to first establish who you aspire to be and then harness IT to support and power your visions and plans into reality.

Intentional cultural change takes courage, vulnerability, and empathy, but you are not alone. Throughout your organizations and vendor networks you will find all the resources you need. Everyone you know is at a different stage of their digital transformation journey and everyone is willing to help.

Despite the challenges facing us, it’s an amazing time to be alive and we have an opportunity (and responsibility) to leverage the technologies at our disposal to build a new way of living and working.

Together we can shift Volatility to Stability, Uncertainty to Certainty, Complexity to Simplicity, and Ambiguity to Clarity and that can lead to the growth of our communities, cooperatives, and our HumanITy. Yes, that has IT in it too!

Tim Foley

Tim Foley

Tim’s role is to design and deliver creative alliances, marketing & sales strategies to find the organizations that know technology is driving them and are ready to transform. Web: Details