Clay Shirky said it best, “Abundance breaks more things than scarcity.”
By now, it’s well-known that startups with new business models have used an abundance mindset to dislodge long-established incumbents. For example, Uber is doing it to the taxi industry; Airbnb to lodging; PivotDesk to office-space; Storefront to retail-space; and Sherpaa to healthcare. In each of these examples, adopting a scarcity-based business-model in the first place wasn’t a mistake; it was the way things were. The scarcity was real because although there was actual abundance, that abundance wasn’t “tappable” any other way than through the incumbents.
Technology changes things. The internet and social media created openings for Uber, Airbnb, and others by enabling them to connect directly with, and unlock, latent abundance. Likewise, technology is now challenging traditional models for human engagement. Scarcity-based, subject-matter-expert-based models (such as the task force and management consulting models) used to be the go-to approach for strategic planning and solving top challenges. Those models have thrived because there has been a long-held belief that only the scarce experts have the ability to figure things out and develop great strategies.
But today, new technologies and approaches enable organizations to bring the rich (but previously latent) abundance of talent to bear on just about anything. If you’ve made use of crowdsourcing, then you’re already on this path in a limited way. Now, start to think of the new promise as thoughtsourcing, in which the crowd is the talent in, around, and even beyond your organization, and the tasks can now be of a much higher-order: “thinking” tasks like strategy development.
The Scarcity-Based Model for Strategic Planning: The Hub and Spoke
Generally speaking, this is how the scarcity-based models work:
- Set up a hub-and-spoke structure with the experts at the hub and your people on the spokes;
- Bring your people in to meet with the hub, so their knowledge and perspectives can be extracted through interviews;
- Then, rely on the the experts at the hub to apply their brains, experiences, and expert knowledge to the task of cracking the challenge for you.
- You have a great strategy. But you also have very little buy-in, alignment, and mobilization outside of the hub.
This hub-and-spoke model is no longer viable for today’s business challenges. Now that things are changing so fast and the demands on your people to act fast intensifies every quarter, this model is too slow, too expensive, and too one-way to produce the results your organization needs.
There’s an Alternative: Many to Many
The reality is that in and around the organization, you do have an abundance of talent who can collectively do better at strategic planning and solving than the traditional model has done. That talent has always been there in abundance, but it’s been latent and locked up.
To leverage all that talent, your organization must abandon the hub-and-spoke as the engagement model for solving big problems and setting strategy, and adopt a many-to-many model instead. People engage far better when they are connected to each other; conversations are far more rich and revealing than interviews; people act and change when they have co-created the way forward instead of having it handed to them. That’s the promise of many-to-many.
Your job is to lead and catalyze the mindset shift from “talent is scarce” to “talent is abundant.” Tapping into that previously latent talent will produce amazing results and is a much better fit with your HR agenda. After all:
- Who knows the past and present of the organization better than your people?
- Who is better suited to navigate, traverse, and ultimately overcome the siloes?
- Who is being impacted by whatever change is underway? Who is experiencing the failures and successes in the face of that change?
- Who knows the customer, product, and competition better than your people?
- Who collectively cover all the necessary personality types, thinking styles, and team roles to bring about breakthroughs?
- Who most needs to reach shared understanding?
Stand by no longer as project after project gets outsourced to traditional models, and as project after project fails because there’s too little adoption, uptake, belief, understanding, and change that results. Get excited about the promise of ‘thoughtsourcing’ as the next evolution of crowdsourcing and a far better alternative to outsourcing. Rally the troops, be the herald of the changes that are both coming and here already—the shift from a talent-scarcity mindset to a talent-abundance mindset—that will put your organization on the path to solving just about anything fast.