As one of the world’s leading futurists, April Rinne helps leaders and organizations face change head-on. She has a unique gift for identifying key shifts early amid chaos and disruption and translating them to help leaders understand what’s on the horizon and, most importantly, how their business fits into it.
April has worked with such leading companies as Airbnb, Nike, Intuit, and the World Bank as well as several well-known startups, companies, non-profits, think tanks, and government agencies. Across industries and sectors, she says, often the same set of challenges arise.
“For as much as we like to talk about ‘managing’ change and uncertainty,” April writes in an article for Harvard Business Review, “we are not very good at simply ‘being’ with these things.” In other words, we struggle with “not knowing” and this hinders our ability to thrive in a world of constant flux.
April tackles this challenge by helping her clients — and audiences as a keynote speaker — expand their limited change management focus to a change mindset. This better positions all of us for success, no matter what lies ahead, April says.
From Change Management to Change Mindset
The pandemic revealed the shortcomings of traditional change management tools and systems, April writes. The concept of change management dates back to the early 1900s and evolved to include a myriad of processes, systems, and spreadsheets designed to give us a false sense of control.
Moving forward, April says, we need to redesign this system to align it with the world as it is rather than what we want it to be — one of human omnipotence. The fault in most change management strategies, she continues, is that they exclude a key factor that impacts our response to uncertainty.
“Our ability to manage change hinges on our ability to manage ourselves, including our fears and anxieties,” April writes. We have to purposefully develop our mental muscles for uncertainty; no spreadsheet can do that for us.
Exercise: Developing Your Mental Muscles for Uncertainty
April suggested the following thought exercise to help leaders and their teams stop fear and anxiety from impacting their business decisions:
Think about a change-related challenge you currently face: Perhaps it’s how to maintain culture and loyalty in a hybrid world, or how to prepare for ongoing climate disruption. Or maybe you’re launching a new project or navigating an upcoming leadership succession.
Next, rather than jumping straight to “What do I do about this?” ask yourself, “Am I approaching this from a place of hope or fear? What is driving me? What is my orientation to this change? And how might my orientation differ from my teammates or direct reports?”
When leaders and their teams are open about their fears, anxieties, thought processes, etc., not only does this build camaraderie and strengthen team culture, it also tends to greatly improve decision making, April writes. A change mindset should drive change management, not the other way around.
From “What Is” to “What If”
A consistent stumbling block for most businesses comes from trying to predict the future, April writes, because there is no “one” future. There are several and the quest to find “the” answer blinds us to the many possible solutions and scenarios out there.
Leaders can counteract this by engaging with a process April likes to call “scenario planning” or “scenario mapping”. This tool helps teams and organizations imagine what could happen, helping them shift from “what is” to “what if”.
Exercise: Scenario Mapping
For the next problem your company faces, April suggests you try a scenario map. She writes:
Scenario maps are typically drawn with two axes that represent two key variables of uncertainty. For example, perhaps you are concerned about the effect of automation on organizational culture. Your X axis could be automation (depicted as a spectrum from automation that replaces human talent to automation that augments it) and your Y axis could be culture (depicted as a spectrum from weak, toxic, and/or low-trust cultures to attuned, inclusive, and high-trust cultures). Once you’ve drawn this map, you’ll have four quadrants, and you can start filling these out with potential scenarios together as a team.
Engaging in this exercise allows your team to contemplate all the different ways the future could play out and prepare accordingly, April writes. It’s key to building your team’s future-thinking muscle and fostering that change mindset.
April explores this further in her bestselling book, Flux: 8 Superpowers for Thriving in Constant Change, and accompanying keynotes. She shows how to build your tolerance of the unknown and strengthen your mindset to thrive in change and uncertainty.
Contact us to learn more about April and how, as a change navigator, she can help your organization flourish in the future of work.