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Survival in the face of constant change: 4 key traits of transformative organizations

Elias Axelsson Björklund
6 min read
Survival in the face of constant change: 4 key traits of transformative organizations

Transform or Die

The pace of technological change has brought about unprecedented levels of reinvention the world over. We’ve seen fundamental changes in the workforce, the workplace, the customer relationship and in the use of technologies within companies.

I believe we’ve reached a tipping point in today’s capitalism. A different form, social capitalism, is rising. Companies are no longer only assessed on traditional financial metrics related to creating shareholder value at the sake of all others. Instead, they’re increasingly evaluated on the basis of their relationships with their workforce, their customers, their stakeholders and on their impact on society at large. Companies are emerging from being a business-driven company into a social and transformative driven company.

To be successful, businesses need to pick up the pace. They need to react faster to external trends, viewpoints and voices by nurturing positive relationships, not just with customers and employees, but with communities, regulators, environmental organizations and other stakeholders. Harnessing the power of these relationships presents a significant challenge for companies since they must listen closely to all stakeholders, implement corrective actions and act transparently. To achieve this, they must break down traditional silos by promoting active listening, fostering collaboration and dialogue in order to build trust.


Purpose-led organizations: why now?

A resurgence in the populist state, rising income equality, workforce and demographic fluxes and a shift in economic power from West to East are just some of the big hitting trends we’ve witnessed over the past decade. The financial crisis, in particular, made all of us stop to question ourselves. Why are we in business? And can we be trusted with the responsibility? Technology has since picked up the trust mantle as it continues to permeate every aspect of our lives. As a society, we feel the ‘system’ has failed us. We are less trusting than before. We expect business leaders to help fill a void that governments and institutions once did.

Take Larry Fink, BlackRock’s CEO, recent bold move to encourage organizations to find or reconnect with their social purpose. Using social purpose as a stick, not a carrot, investors and investment funds are evaluated on their social conscience. Other successful and progressive brands such as Unilever, Nestle, Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Marks & Spencers and H&M have also been recently recognized for their social purpose by ranking top of the Human Rights Index.

If done well, purpose is a powerful tool. It aligns all your stakeholders and, importantly, your people around a common raison d’etre. Together with listening, it spurs transformation. 


Shifting sands

At the macro level, I see three transformative influences impacting organizations today.

  1. The new power of individuals and teams in companies: The competitive business landscape and forces of digital disruption are driving organizations to be more team-oriented, networked and agile. While these approaches are starting to take hold at a functional level, the C-Suite needs to embrace this new reality and ensure silos and hierarchies are broken down, paving the way for a more networked and team-based organization.
  2. The rising of a new workforce ecosystem: The composition of the traditional workforce is changing dramatically. Few organizations rely solely on salaried employees. In the future, they’ll increasingly tap into an ecosystem of contract, freelance and gig workers. According to a recent report by Deloitte, there are around 77 million (formally identified) freelancers in the world, and that’s growing at an annual double-digit This isn’t without consequences. First, more flexible labor laws, specifically in Europe, will be required. Second, HR leaders and businesses, who are already struggling to optimize their workforce, will need to execute more effective strategies to improve skills, service and agility.
  3. AI, robotics and automation: Emerging technologies have gained a foothold in the workplace. While nothing new (many of these inventions are 50 years old after all!), the speed at which it’s happening is. Though organizations are increasingly using these technologies to automate their existing processes, the true winners will have to rethink their traditional work architecture to maximize the joint value of man and machine. Assigning value is, of course, easier said than done. This is perhaps best illustrated by Elon Musk, a pioneer of AI, who recently admitted Tesla had become too dependent on robots and the role of humans in the production process had been grossly undervalued.  


How to succeed at transformation

As individuals and a society, we’re more connected now than ever. We connect in real-time, our relationships connect in real-time. Things move fast. As professionals and consumers, we want to be heard in the moment.

Building trust by (continually) listening to your people is crucial. And, it needs to be more than just lip-service (which in my experience is sadly often the case). Effective listening is a change agent: forcing you to react, morph or even ditch your strategy depending on what you hear. Organizations and their people are, after all, living organisms, not machines. By recognizing the full potential of your people and their collective intelligence that pervades the organization, you can liberate organizational energy. It allows you to adapt and innovate in response to ups and downs. In other words, transformation is natural in a healthy organization.

Based on my experience and many conversations with executives over the years, here’s four common traits of a transformative organization as I see them.   

  1. Your operational approach: Being reactive or maintaining a holding pattern is no longer enough. You need to radically alter your approach to become a transformative organization. Companies are legal hierarchies with a rigid structure. Transformative organizations, on the other hand, are living organisms, part of an ecosystem. They are virtuously interconnected where people provide, and notably, thrive on distributed intelligence.
  2. Your work processes: Traditional processes need to be flipped on their heads and new processes designed so AI, robots and people can work in harmony. You need to have looser connections, but many more of them, so you can innovate and create transformative processes with your workforce and customers.
  3. Your organizational structure and knowledge: First and foremost, you need to establish a culture of feedback as well as a mechanism for encouraging and capturing valuable insights. This equips the organization with the insight they need to take corrective actions to the benefit of all. At Questback, we have created our “Feedback Center of Excellence” concept as a best practice vehicle for gaining insights and co-creating improvements.
  4. Your technology platform: You need a holistic approach to active listening, creating transparency and building trust with the workforce, customers and Naturally, the more use cases and solutions you have on one platform, the more insights from across the organization you’ll glean. Our Questback Enterprise Feedback Solution provides this level of interconnection and sophistication in one single technology platform.


I passionately believe that trust, credibility and consistency are key ingredients needed for becoming a social and transformative enterprise. They underpin an organization’s ability to foster and nurture relationships across the full spectrum of stakeholders. They cultivate customer loyalty. Most importantly, they make it possible to listen. Only by listening can you unlock the value of your people. You simply can’t hope to become a transformative company without embracing this new reality.

Ask yourself, would you rather just survive or in fact thrive?

At Questback, we live and breathe the power of people every day through our vision: “People matter. Get their insight.” To find out more about we’re helping companies to transform, please get in touch.


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This article was first published By Frank on LinkedIn.



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