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How digital assistants hold the keys to the future of mobility

Although self-driving cars will eventually make their way into people’s daily lives, for now, we’re all still driving our way to and from work the old-fashioned way. We’ll probably have to wait another 20 years before we will be able to watch a movie or read a book as a vehicle automatically takes us to our destination. In the meantime, car accidents’ figures are increasing year on year, and our smartphones addiction is a huge part of the problem: a recent study shows that in the US alone 88% of people use their smartphones whilst driving, making these devices one of the possible causes for this alarming figure. Despite laws forbidding such behaviour, it is clear that regulations alone are not really effective.

If technology is the main reason we get distracted while we are on the road, it might be the solution, too. After a long career in mobility companies, my partner and I thought of tapping into voice assistance to help drivers be safer, while still giving them the opportunity of replying to work emails or friends’ calls during their daily car commute. Which is why we created Chris, your next-gen digital co-pilot.

Voice assistants have been around for a while now, but the technology has only really started gathering momentum over the last few years. Until recently, the technologies that lie behind them – machine and deep learning – were not developed enough for them to actually recognise natural language (Natural Language Processing) and provide the correct action the user requested.

However today as the technology has progressed, tech giants such as Apple and Amazon have released their own voice assistants. Initially as softwares integrated within existing devices, such as Siri and Cortana, and then later into smart speakers, such as Google Home and Alexa. However, these softwares are designed for domestic use or are not yet suitable to be used in cars. An example: a smartphone loses the connection the moment a vehicle enters a tunnel, rendering voice assistants unusable multiple times throughout the journey.

The voice assistant we at German Autolabs have created instead was born for this specific purpose: to be your digital assistant while you are behind the wheel. By connecting this smart mobile device to your smartphone, you can safely drive as it performs a number of useful tasks, such as dictating messages or emails, calling your contacts, listening to your favourite album or checking your route — all with total safety in mind.

Chris is suitable for any vehicle no matter how old it is: this means that you can make your car ‘smart’ just by upgrading it with this device. The system also works when there is no coverage, allowing the driver to use it at all times. But we don’t want it to be a simple voice assistant: we are working on innovative features, which will let it understand the general conditions of the passengers. For example, Chris will stop reading an email to the driver if it notices that they are distracted, as well as make sure they don’t fall asleep: it’s a real digital co-driver, the smart-brain of the car.

No matter how long we’ll have to wait to see automated cars in the streets of our cities, this is the direction that the mobility industry is taking: an integration of technologies, from car-to-car connection through artificial intelligence. A revolution which is ultimately being driven by a change in people’s behaviour – a behaviour which is increasingly based on the sharing economy, sustainability and integration of different modes of transport.

After decades of being stuck with the same fuels, materials and technologies, the automotive sector is finally building its own personal path to innovation. Not an easy road for sure, as it takes a while to take the ‘stiffness’ away from any business that’s not used to disruption and rapid change. However, with any luck, undertaking these first steps may be the hardest thing to do. Startups will indeed have a pivotal role in this, as they will provide car manufacturers with the knowledge and skills they currently lack.

As the future is still (mainly) unwritten, it’s also hard to say if the traditional players will keep up with innovation and be the main drivers in the future of mobility, or if startups will reach key positions instead. In a scenario full of uncertainties, there’s one thing we can all be pretty sure of: without further innovation and planning, all main actors in this scenario will find themselves without a voice in the mobility world of tomorrow.

How to prepare for jobs that don’t yet exist

The BBC uses a statistic that 65% of future jobs have yet to be invented. Think about it? UX designer, social media manager, Uber driver, drone operator–these are just a small handful of prominent roles in today’s market that were practically uncharted a decade ago. And the question that follows: “How do we prepare for the unknown?” – is inevitable.

As a starting point, we need to remember that in 2018, digital transformation is a part of every industry – and that technology is here to stay. The thesis of the aforementioned BBC article details how the current education system is antiquated and, as it stands, fails to prepare young people for the realities of the outside world. Gone are the days where schools and colleges are there to teach people a functional job or vocation that will in-turn form a single career for the next half century of that person’s life. Instead, there’s been a paradigm shift in the way millennials and Gen Z approach their careers. Looking ahead, what will make for a successful employee is someone who is agile, fluid and able to adapt their skillset with ease. What young people need to be taught is not traditional knowledge but how to teach themselves independently.

Similarly, when the World Economic Forum polled a group of executives at leading companies on what they thought the most important job skill would be in 2020, the responses were revealing. The ability most commonly cited was complex problem solving, while critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and emotional intelligence also made the top 10.

While certain business and academic institutions are falling behind, many are putting in place innovative programmes to prepare the next generation for success. At Indiana University, the career services team is moving away from internship programmes and towards student consulting projects. In this case, the students will work as part of a team to decode a puzzle or design projects. The result? Students acquire skills specific to that task but also “adjacent” skills, such as problem solving and inter-personal skills.

As well as teaching problem solving, in order to innovate, businesses need to allow the space and freedom for problems to arise in the first place. Thomas J Watson Sr., the founder and ex-CEO of IBM once said, “If you want to succeed, double your failure rate.” We need to learn by doing and create a work environment where employees aren’t afraid to make mistakes. If we aren’t making mistakes, we likely aren’t trying enough new things or pushing our ideas out of our comfort zone. To learn and innovate one needs to remember that a mistake is not a failure, it’s just a way of eliminating what does not work on route to what does.

It’s also crucial for industries and institutes to educate to collaborate, to ensure that the current and next generation workforce have both the tangible digital capabilities and the more lateral problem-solving skills. A 2017 report from the British Chambers of Commerce revealed that more than 75 percent of businesses face a digital skills shortage – this is why upskilling is crucial. A more digitally savvy employee will ultimately be a more productive and valuable employee. And, as an astute article I recently read published by the World Economic Forum hypothesised, a valuable employee need not be the stereotypical cookie-cutter team member: Oxbridge education, top grades, Fortune 500 company history etc. A diverse team is often the most productive, and sometimes it is the renegade employee who struggles to accept rules and the status quo who is also the most innovative.

In short, what is increasingly clear is – to survive in the future – both employees and employers will need to be much more accommodating and more collaborative. And while the job titles and descriptions may change, what remains the same is that those who succeed will be those who are open-minded, resilient and creative.

Slaying the organizational monster

For an organisation like H-FARM, that deals with Human Innovation Culture  (HIC) on a daily basis, it is essential to design a culture that triggers a non-stop ability to explore, discover and innovate — with the aim of constantly challenging the boundaries between what one is and what one does.

Our mission is to foster a positive attitude towards change and innovation, through a streamlined process that combines thought and action. To prove it, we see ourselves as the “beta testers” of the strategies we recommend to our partners and customers.

The way a company (or even a team) is structured has much more relevant implications than just the practical aspects of its organisation and mission effectiveness.

Defining how a team works sets the basis of how the culture within it operates: the values ​​that guide any decision, what needs to be rewarded or improved, the autonomy and sense of responsibility required. This is where the ability to attract, motivate and retain talented people comes from, which for many companies — including ours — is without a shadow of a doubt the most essential aspect of a successful business.

Back to the Origins

Our team is based in a beautiful place, where entrepreneurial spirit feels like a natural element. Most of the people who’ve transited through this place have somehow experienced what it feels like to be part of a startup: that mixture of dream and excitement of doing something unique, as well as the anxiety of having big goals to achieve with limited resources and little time.

Just like every startup at its inception, we had a simple structure that covered three areas: design, technology, story. Each area was led by a manager whose role was to deal with its evolving needs: the expertise we lacked, the competences we had to acquire, the people and the talents we needed to find and onboard.

As we grew, however, we realised that such a structure had limitations. For example, all of the decisions regarding investments in research projects, training and recruiting were taken by a small group of people, the other team members’ potential wasn’t fulfilled: how do you provide a space that helps everyone’s talents to grow? How do you create attractive roles for people you want to onboard?

The main risk here was to stratify positions and decisions, eventually leading to an “organizational monster” that would entangle the way we operate, think, risk, and change. There is worse than ego as an obstacle to evolution.

Redesigning the Organization from Scratch

Even if you’re eager to change, you’ll hardly ever be immediately positioned in the conditions to do so smoothly; a ‘greenfield’ approach is very rare when it comes to redesigning an organization. First, there is a pre-existing structure with set positions and internal balances to deal with.

Finding the right conditions to reset and start from scratch requires everyone to look beyond their role, put their responsibilities back on the table and together reimagine the best way to redistribute them — a hard exercise requiring a great amount of mutual trust.

When it came to rethinking our own organization, these are the principles we followed:

  • Develop autonomy and entrepreneurship;
  • Leverage passions and interests in order to stimulate open-minded  behaviour;
  • Avoid positions and the stratification of roles;
  • Minimize everyone’s ego, without erasing healthy ambition;
  • Encourage collaboration when it comes to competition;
  • Promote personal development paths;

Today, our team is made up of approximately 60 people and we don’t have any pre-set areas or units led by managers or resource managers; we have no internal staff roles for planning, control or HR either. This doesn’t mean that no-one is accountable for such tasks: they are simply equally distributed within the team.

Our team organization is based on two criteria: the project teams follow the initiatives we design and create for our customers, while the crews take care of research and development — and therefore expand our horizons and potential to improve and learn.

Free and Happy Project Managers

Considering our organization from a project perspective, we seem to be very similar to any other service company: akin to a larger-than-life Tetris, people aggregate according to each project’s specific needs.

However, if you look more closely at how the planning is set, you’ll notice a main difference from traditional structures: project teams self-form and self-adjust based on continuous peer-to-peer negotiation. There is no central planning entity: a project manager doesn’t have to scale in order to bring an internal graphic designer or developer in; they have full freedom, within the limits of a shared budget, to involve anyone within the staff they consider useful and suitable.

If a period is very busy, the project manager will negotiate with their peers a plan adjustment that meet the needs of ongoing projects. If no solution is found, the issue scales and is tackled by onboarding new resources or outsourcing a specific activity. An indirect (but not secondary) advantage of this workflow is the fact that it promotes collaboration: the more available a project manager is, the more flexible their colleagues will be.

Empowering Research and Development: the Crews

Things are quite different when it comes to know-how. The training, experimenting and prototyping budget for internal projects is assigned to self-constituted entities working for a whole year on freely proposed topics.

We have simple rules here:

  • At the beginning of each year, anyone, regardless of their role and seniority, can promote the creation of a crew on a topic they consider relevant to research on;
  • In order to make a proposal, you need a team of three people: if you can’t convince at least two colleagues of the value of your project, you’re probably off the mark;
  • The team promoting the crew presents a two-page document proposal which includes the motivation, its connection to our purpose as well as a macro planning, three measurable goals to be achieved within the year and an estimated time and budget;
  • The Teepee (a committee elected by all) is responsible to allocate the R&D budget, choosing which crews to launch;
  • Throughout the year, each crew launches its project and attends conferences or courses using their given budget;
  • At the end of the year, each crew presents the results of its research and dissolves. If there is a good enough reason, a crew can form again in the following year;

Basically, anyone can challenge our boundaries by changing what we do and how we do it: all that is required is the will, the knowledge, and be ability to persuade their peers that it’s worth a try — which is no small thing. There are no limits related to roles nor seniority: this approach is just about having skills, ideas, motivation and leadership.

People, Orientation, Growth

In such a fluid model, where projects are constantly assembled and dismantled and where even research and development is brought forward by one-year teams, it is essential not to lose control on the way. At the beginning of our journey, each area and its manager were responsible for onboarding people, guaranteeing their growth, providing reference models – today, projects and crews only partially fulfill this task. Without any organizational unit or area, we were forced to design new ways that guaranteed these fundamental aspects but in a more modern, free-thinking way.

Everyone here at HIC chooses two persons as points of reference, a mentor and a sponsor, and can replace them whenever they consider it necessary. The mentor helps them to dive into the company’s culture and advise them on general aspects related to work environment. The sponsor, instead, assists them in designing their professional growth path, and provides them with feedback and stimuli.

This idea is not new, but the responsibility of choosing one’s own reference person without having them assigned top-down, empowers each member with agency, producing leading actors and not just a cameos. It also triggers a positive feedback mechanism that benefits the team in its entirety.

What does my LinkedIn Page read?

Knowing how to describe your work and communicate your role is a relevant topic: this applies to both customer and community relationships. There is a strong sense of pride and professionalism in defining your position and mirroring yourself in the organisation you work for.

But how can one do this in a context that has no labels nor set rules? We decided to trust people’s intelligence: anyone can independently define their role (and put it on LinkedIn) following two guidelines. First, it must be a good description of what they do and not include words such as ‘Head’, ‘Manager’ or ‘Director’ — as these titles do nothing but nurture the ego. Second, at least two colleagues must consider it appropriate.

These are the main features of our model. Today, HIC et nunc. At the end of the day, it’s nothing but a work in progress: we constantly acknowledge what works and what doesn’t, and adapt the workflow on the way. Being open to iterative prototyping and aware that there is no perfect solution are essential features of a permanently changing context: our organization is no exception.

Acknowledging this is probably the biggest step forward we have taken so far.

What is IOTA?

IOTA is a Distributed Ledger Technology that delivers many of the same benefits associated with blockchain technologies, such as a shared identity and network-based trust. It creates an immutable ledger of data that is stored across a distributed network. It enables peer-to-peer asset transfer and monetary exchange without central intermediaries.

So far, most cryptocurrencies rest their foundations upon the blockchain, the distributed ledger format that creates records of transactions which are then verified by the entire community. Blockchain is indeed an incredibly useful and forward thinking technology, but as the world of tomorrow becomes flooded with some 50 billion IoT devices, certain characteristics of the blockchain mean that it is less useful than once thought.

Enter, IOTA, a cryptocurrency envisioned for the first time four years ago and conceived with the future in mind. We want our IoT future to be frictionless, and the facilitation of seamless micro-transactions is one of the many ways in which IOTA conquers the rest.

So how is IOTA different to traditional cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin? Whilst Bitcoin uses blockchain architecture, IOTA is based on Tangle – a Directed Acyclic Graph (also know as a DAG). Tangle differs to the blockchain by requiring the sender in a transaction to perform a pseudo-proof-of-work which approves both sides of the transaction. This means that that act of making a transaction and validating one are coupled – removing the need for dedicated miners and making the system fully decentralised. In short, the system’s users are the only actors who are able to affect the system itself, whereas with currencies such as bitcoin, the miners are not using the system but simply facilitating its operation.

IOTA gets rid of the monopoly on resources held by the miners by encouraging users to adopt the mantra “Help others, and other will help you”. Users proof and validate others transactions and, by approving one transaction, they are indirectly approving all that came before. How is this incentivised without monetary rewards? By extending the mantra to view a reward not as a reward but as a way of avoiding punishment by others. “Help others, and the others will help you; however, if you choose not to help others, others will not help you either”, explains Serguei Popov, one of the cofounders of IOTA. How do users know which transactions to vouch for? Through selection algorithms, which are at the heart of Tangle itself, that recommend verification requests that it deems responsible.

This is not the only area in which the decentralised ledger technology fails at decentralisation. Last year, over a period of seven days, data shows that 8 Mining Pools (AntPool, BTC.top, Bixin etc.) accounted for 75% of Bitcoin blocks mined. Such a concentration of power is riddled with risk: if these Mining Pools were all located in one region of the world, and a crackdown/regulations were to take place, the consequences could be dire. That said, bad actors could also easily effect the behaviours of the miners if they are concentrated in such a small number – commandeering a large portion of the system entirely. The chance of either of these possible scenarios occurring in a system that not only champions decentralisation, but also is home to billions of dollars in currency, is simply unacceptable.

In IOTA however, there is no separate mining element. Allowing anyone to become a ‘independent miner’ and mitigating the centralisation problem of blockchain almost entirely. With blockchain, when A sends to B, it is facilitated by the miners (C). With Tangle and IOTA, there are no blocks, thus no mining. Currently, IOTA can record 500-800 transactions per second (compared to blockchain’s 7 per second), and, as the number of users increases, so does the number of network transactions and thus the speed (as opposed to blockchain-based cryptocurrency transactions which decrease in speed the more users there are). More transactions means more verifiers, which also means no limit to the amount of transactions happen at any specific time.

Not only will it continue to grow faster, but unlike Bitcoin (which as it grew in popularity, so too did its transaction fees – now so high that many/most bitcoin services have become impractical), IOTA has no fees, and will forever remain a free, frictionless, transaction. In short, it is much better equipped for future scalability.

Further to this, blockchain-based currencies are unable to survive long if the network partitions. This makes sense as it could lead to a reversal in a large number of transactions, and is simply due to the fact that the transactions must be relayed by nodes connected to the network. IOTA nodes can operate without being connected to the main Tangle, and can connect later to the network if needed.

IOTA doesn’t stop bashing blockchain-based crypto there. If we ever manage to deploy quantum computers, the cryptography of blockchain itself will become immediately outdated. IOTA, on the other hand, uses quantum-resistant cryptographic algorithms. It stands to reason that in the near future there will be hardware which is capable of cracking traditional cryptoalgorithms, so the fact that IOTA is the best (and only) preparatory technology available capable of withstanding these developments, is another clear win for the currency.

Currently, Tangle exits only through IOTA in India. “It has to do the same what Bitcoin and Ethereum are doing – building the ecosystem around the technology in India. People here know about IOTA as a coin to buy and sell,” claims Nigam, so more time and wider deployment is needed to truly understand if this technology is going to succeed. Whatever the case, Popov theorises that: “I don’t think there will be a single crypto system which will dominate all. There will be several of them for different purposes, for example, bitcoin for store of value, and IOTA for IoT. Traditional blockchain approach, however, wouldn’t die,” – let’s wait and see.

The advanced manufacturing challenge

Additive Manufacturing, Advanced Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, R+, Cloud Computing, Big Data and Internet of Things — these technologies “are transforming production processes and business models across different industries”, interesting times lay ahead.

The process that the German government in its Industry 4.0 plan defined as the “computerisation and digitalisation of manufacturing”, is now in full swing. Data of course plays a fundamental role in this plan, as it does in almost every facet of our lives today, and is collected by increasingly-interconnected machines, sensors and workers throughout the product life-cycle. This data is then read and analysed by AI and combined with high precision tools which allow the streamlining, synchronisation and optimisation of the entire industrial process, thus bringing production and sales ever-closer and mitigating unnecessary costs.

The first companies to heavily invest in Advanced Manufacturing were a few of the world’s tech giants who had the economic power and size to easily recoup the costs. In 2012, for example, GE made a $1.5 billion investment in R&D, and it is heavyweight companies such as these (Cisco, IBM and BMW) that have led the way. Leading to many companies following and contributing to a world that is centred on specific solutions to specific needs. This in turn facilitated the creation of hundreds of startups which acted as catalysts of new investments. As CBS Insight reports, in 2016 the digitisation industry attracted around $2.2 billion but, according to the International Data Corporation, in 2018 worldwide spending on Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT, a very promising IoT sub-sector) will amount to $772.5 billion and is expected to reach $1.1 trillion by the year 2021.

Money well spent since, according to a Capgemini report, smart factories could add from $500 billion to $1.5 trillion in added value to the world economy over the next five years. Firms which transform their factories into “smart factories” are seeing a steep rise in both the on-time delivery of the finished products as well as in quality (by thirteen-fold and twelve-fold respectively) compared to the average yearly rate of improvement since 1990. Overall productivity is reported to improve ninefold and labor costs to decrease sevenfold, (also in comparison with the post-1990 yearly rate of growth).

A case in point of how a data-driven culture can bring remarkable boons to a company’s performance is the tire-making giant Pirelli. The group closed 2017 with €5.35 billion in revenue (+7.6% year on year), a spectacular rise in its net profit (+60%) and an equally astonishing reduction of its net financial debt (from €4.9 to €3.2 billion). These results would have been impossible without the help of Advanced Manufacturing, which resulted in a 500 strong unit established in 2016 charged with digitising Pirelli’s operations. “Every tire implies the successful outcome of about one hundred processes with a total of 100,000 information items. As you can easily imagine, the risks of variability within such a complex process generate costs that should be reduced to a minimum”, Richard Allbert, Head of Smart Manufacturing Pirelli, told Morningfuture. Advanced Manufacturing then, is the culmination of numerous processes, and has only recently enabled due to improvements in machine learning, sensors and more.

But it isn’t all peaches and dandelions, and the aforementioned Capgemini report found that only 6% of the manufacturers surveyed are “digital masters” (firms that score high on both dimensions of digital and transformation management intensity). Advanced Manufacturing then, can be hindered due to inner organisational-cultural bottlenecks. Several studies have shown that there is a distinct lack of digital culture both within companies and society at large.

Culturally, a 2016 PWC report pointed out that the absence of a digital culture and adequate training was the top challenge for more companies than any other when it came to the the adoption of Industry 4.0. The same companies were also the ones investing increasing portions of their budgets into IIoT technologies. However the authors go on to state that “Digital IQ emphasises that while investing in the right technologies is important, ultimately success or failure will depend not on specific sensors, algorithms or analytics programs, but on a broader range of people-focused factors”, suggesting that without a human focus, the strategy is shortsighted.

To switch to a data-driven culture a company must have people, especially amongst its upper ranks, who embrace this culture first. A new position, Chief Data Officer, must first be added to the board, and will work closely with the Chief Technology Officer — who may not be happy with the perceived competition. “The reason for their criticism doesn’t come from a mistrust in data, but more from the notion that most CTO’s are unable to see the ROI of becoming data-driven, let alone introducing a new executive member who is fully responsible for data”.

Furthermore, many companies failed to understand that being data-driven doesn’t simply mean amassing data or hiring an army of data analysts, data engineers and data scientists. Before any of this, a strategy is needed. Going back to Pirelli’s success story, “Initially we made many mistakes, the first of which was to accumulate an enormous amount of data to which, however, we could not give any value. Digital alone is not enough, we also want a transformation that creates added value for the company: but if you want to initiate this process then creativity is needed”. Since then, the company has gone on to develop 70 apps. Managers first have to be creative; they have to change their mindset, avoid repetitive schemes and accept the idea that data should determine any decision concerning technology.

But once the mindset problem is solved and a digital strategy has been developed, there is another big issue to face: the skills gap. The skills gap is the space between the skills required to perform a particular job and the number of employees and candidates qualified for the job. This gap is growing at an alarming rate, and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills has found that some employers are experiencing significant difficulties in hiring highly skilled professionals — a worrying 19% of advanced manufacturing employers reported such gaps.

The same is happening in Germany, the most automated country in Europe, where — as MIT Technology Review recently wrote — many experts believe that it won’t be long before German workers will see their skills outdated. Vocational programs aren’t keeping pace with a world economy that is increasingly dependent on AI and robotics. Deutsche Welle reports that the research institute Prognos believes that by 2030, Germany will be lacking around 3 million skilled workers (3.3 million by 2040). The United States is in the same quagmire and, according to a study by Deloitte and the Institute of Manufacturing, around 3.4 million jobs will need to be created over the course of the next decade to accommodate a growing manufacturing demand, 2 million of which will be unfilled due to the skills gap.

Advanced Manufacturing then, is based on technological advances but it cannot be reduced to simply that. Culture counts as much as sensors and devices and a future in Industry 4.0 requires a cultural leap for both companies and governments. Companies have to embrace digital culture, innovate their internal processes and challenge themselves even before obtaining the right hardware, software and experts. It is essential to build a framework in which business can grow by completely rethinking the educational system in order to reduce the growing skills gap.

More importantly, companies must make significant investments to retrain and assist those at risk of losing their jobs. The World Economic Forum wrote that, “As the costs of deploying technology continue to fall, international differentials in labor costs will no longer be a decisive factor in choosing the location of production”. Wages won’t be a decisive factor because manufacturing will be less and less labor intensive: fewer workers will be needed.

The supply chain itself is a melting pot of other difficulties. To fully grasp the advantages of Industry 4.0 — in terms of efficiency, cost reduction and the optimization of process — a company must make significant investments and hope that all of the supply chain’s individual segments (from training to production) work together in sync and guarantee that the rejuvenation effort is successful.

MIT Technology Review posed the most important question: Can all of these new technologies “spread prosperity to the population at large, or will they just concentrate the wealth among entrepreneurs, investors, and some highly skilled tech workers?” Both outcomes are possible, but it is up to the businesses themselves to ensure that they are guaranteeing their employees adequate training to equip them with the skills to remain relevant in the years to come.

Sowing the seeds of a growth mindset

A leopard can’t change its spots. Brain and talent are inborn gifts that are impossible to alter. This belief, almost as old as time, states that many of the limits to our development are set in stone even before we are born. Carol Dweck, a Psychology professor at Stanford University, refuted this by contesting that an individual’s mindset is what really makes the difference, and found that it is one of the most crucial elements in creating a successful business today.

Years of research on motivation and personality as development drivers led Dweck to identify two opposite mindsets: “fixed” and “growth”. Both have key roles in explaining why some individuals and organizations reach their full potential whilst others don’t. Dweck’s work, summed up in her best-selling 2006 book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, started a revolution that, twelve years later, is still the driving force behind one of the strongest trends in Education and Organizational Business.

The idea of “growth-mindset”, now a buzzword in many universities and major companies, teaches us how to break out of the cages in which we imprison ourselves. According to Dweck, a growth-mindset is what makes “people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work – brains and talents are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishments”.

Contrary to this, Dweck describes the existence of a ‘fixed-mindset’. One that emphasizes natural talent over the potential for growth. This, Dweck describes, leads people to become accustomed to their comfort zone and avoid challenges which could grow their outlooks in new ways. A fixed-mindset then, often derails development and can result in a combination of laziness, low self-esteem and fear of failure.

The most important consequence of this is that these mindsets determine not only the ways in which we perceive ourselves, but also those we interact with. Students with a fixed-mindset will probably interpret a disappointing grade as confirmation that a subject is outside of their comprehension. This perception leads to lower expectations, motivation and commitment. Further to this, when someone with social responsibility has a fixed-mindset, the implications can be disastrous: a teacher believing that a student cannot make it will unconsciously transmit their own fatalistic culture onto the student, facilitating failure and fulfilling a sinister self-fulfilling prophesy. It is worthy of note that the same can be said for the relationship between employer to the employees.

Instead, with a growth mindset, almost anything can be achieved through care and dedication. Mistakes are part of this mindset; they are not traumatic experiences to avoid at any cost but an opportunity to be welcomed – failures leads to lessons and any lesson is an opportunity for personal growth. Hard work, not talent, pays off, but Dweck stresses that it should, understandably, only be rewarded if it is facilitates learning and progress.

While some doubts have been raised about Dweck’s research and scientific validity, it has to be said that this approach helps reduce pressure, release tension and can make work-life better – which, in many ways, is just as important as productivity. People who acquire a growth-mindset usually become more aware, more receptive, more confident, more relaxed which in turn positively impacts their private and social lives, relationships, health and career too.

Which is why Dweck’s research is deeply affecting corporate culture and the ways in which complex organizations are managed. Companies have started paying attention to their own cultural mindsets, and have begun to invest in resources that help to instil a growth-mindset – a powerful tool in fostering innovative thinking.

A growth-mindset is crucial for two reasons. First, it helps those at the helm develop a flexible strategy, constantly fine-tune their ideas and spot opportunity where others view threat. The other reason is perhaps less clear, but by no means less meaningful: a company which embraces this kind mindset and instills it into its culture will become more productive – gaining strength as the management extracts a higher value from its employees. In fact, the belief that people can develop hidden talents, thus becoming a more valuable asset for the organization, can change the internal dynamic of a company dramatically.

Managers with a rigid mindset tend to see themselves as outsiders, islands of superiority in a sea of mediocrity, and this shapes the way they treat those below them. Several studies have now revealed how dysfunctional and limited this approach is. These organizations hire based on who the person is, and what level their current skillset is at. In such a ‘culture of talent’ employees are hired based on innate gifts for predefined roles – this restricts workers, boxes them into a limited space and stunts their – and therefore the business’ – growth.

In this scenario, managers rely on a select chosen few whilst others are cast aside. Due to this dynamic, downtrodden employees may simply bow their heads and give up, or even cheat, in order to ensure some form of career progression. But how concrete can an organization be when conformism and sycophancy are encouraged? Furthermore, employers with a fixed-mindset can easily become controlling and abusive after feeling threatened by the achievements of others. Feedback is nonexistent, so people are unable to develop. The result is that disillusionment and distrust prosper, consuming the company from within like a cancer.

Managers with growth-mindsets however, provide much needed support to their employees and get back more in return, thus benefitting the whole organization. These leaders coach the people they work with, appreciate improvement, give feedback and view mistakes as opportunities to learn. They don’t follow a “strategy of exceptionalism” nor think that good resources are exclusive to being sourced from outside, but readily available from within – with the right encouragement, that is.

They help their colleagues see themselves as a part of a project, thus encouraging loyalty and dedication (employees are becoming increasingly fickle) and ensuring positive and creative energies. On side, employees welcome changes, work hard, work better and make a bigger contribution to their company. In particular, Dweck found that those with growth-mindsets are 34% more likely to develop a strong sense of ownership and commitment to their organization than their fixed-mindset peers.

Companies with cultures centered on hard work, merit and dedication are stronger and more innovative. In short, they last. A growth-mindset can help to bear these fruits but it requires constant commitment. It’s not ever-lasting and has to be put into practice every day. Leaders have to ask themselves what kind of mindset is inspiring their decisions and their employees’ behavior.

Every organization has to make sure that it steers itself in the right direction. Microsoft is a good example of a company which imbued growth-mindsets into their own philosophy and one which fuels initiatives which are intrinsic to growth (Hackathons and Talent Talks). However, there are many more ways to foster creativity and innovation and any company can develop solutions that are more suited to their sector.

This is particularly true when it comes to the high-tech goods and services market. Technology is evolving at an unprecedented pace and brands finding themselves in leading positions today can be easily left behind tomorrow. The rise and fall of the Kodak, a company which ignored innovation from within at almost any cost, is a story every manager should bear in mind. Even more, they would better consider that Kodak kept its leadership for decades before tumbling down. Today not even the Big 5 can be sure to last that long.

Therefore it is essential for an organization to sow, nourish and encourage a growth-mindset culture in this period of dramatic industry change. In order to stand up to competition today, organisations must extract ideas and talent from every resource at their disposal. By fostering a growth-mindset culture, solutions to problems can be sourced from within, saving costs, increasing productivity and allowing for better relations between all those inside an organisation. In short, the answers to many of your problems may already be right there in front of you, all that is needed is a new way of looking at things.