Change your organization’s legacy thinking now before it’s too late: It’s time to #ditchthescript

It's time for leaders to #ditchthescript by challenging the legacy strategies, policies and tactics they use to run their businesses.

November 12, 2018

Business leaders are faced with an unprecedented challenge — to become more agile in order to get the most out of the intellectual and social capital within and across their workforces. Progressive organizations are leaving behind single-model, centralized business structures and ditching the script.

Ditching the script

Ditching the script is a call for leaders to rethink legacy approaches to many of the strategies, tactics and policies they have been using to run their businesses. In particular, the ways in which people and work connect — specifically, talent demand and supply dynamics — have shifted so significantly that a declaration to challenge outdated narratives has emerged.

Factors that are changing

The truth is, the skills that are in demand, and the manner in which we develop and consume those skills, has changed. Today’s employers must understand several new market dynamics to effectively determine when to buy, build or borrow talent (and yes, we can add bot, barter and bind if you insist) to effectively execute their business strategies in a way that achieves their operational needs for quality, compliance and value for money.  

Yet too many organizations still operate within the same structures while trying to achieve very different results. For example, they’re limiting their talent pipelines by using full-time roles to solve new workforce challenges, and they’re overlooking alternative delivery models — such as public and private talent communities, partnership agreements, and contingent workers — as viable solutions, as if “permanent” employees are the only way to achieve desired business outcomes.

Forward-thinking employers, on the other hand, treat sought-after technical ingenuity like platinum — a precious and a highly valued commodity, necessary in smaller, specific doses for certain purposes — typically on a project or on-demand basis versus a permanent one.

And talent wants to engage in their work differently. The best and brightest might not believe in the ideal of a “permanent” contract but instead prefer to come in on the front end of a development project and move on to the next opportunity when the most interesting work has been accomplished. As workers of all ages continue to pursue purpose-driven organizations whose missions align with their core values, winning employers will need to embrace psychographic data to modify or even rewrite their employee value propositions to tell a story and inspire all talent types, regardless of how they are engaged.

Balancing growth and experimentation

In this “era of disruption,” General Motors’ chief talent officer and author of “Adaptive Space,” Michael Arena, reminds us that soon, 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies won’t exist in the form they do today. Why? In part, because they struggle to equalize their need to scale with their ability to innovate. Ten to 15 years ago, organizations enjoyed successes at scale, mitigating risk and driving efficiencies through centralized business models, but they struggled to be disruptive in the market. Now, the question has become, how can they do both? The answer is through adaptive space.

Adaptive space

In the coming weeks, you will learn from Michael Arena about the concept of adaptive space and why some organizations are adaptive and others aren’t. In short, successful businesses are made up of three segments: 1) an operational system geared towards efficiency, 2) entrepreneurial pockets that drive innovation, and 3) adaptive spaces that bridge the gap between the two. All three segments require talent with the right skills, characteristics and social capital.

2IR mindset

Think back to the Second Industrial Revolution to understand how organizations can achieve adaptive resourcefulness.

Inspired by a book he co-authored, “Machine Platform Crowd — Harnessing Our Digital Future”, Andrew McAfee, co-director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and associate director of the Center for Digital Business at the MIT Sloan School of Management, reminds me that early adopters of the electric motor achieved zero business value from ditching the steam engine. It wasn’t until Henry Ford (and select others) realized that by redistributing power, and in turn the way that work was being performed, could they maximize the value created through this significant technical evolution. It was through that innovation in organizational and process redesign that exponential value was delivered for the select few who recognized the real market opportunity that came from this technological advancement.  

In short, it wasn’t so much the invention that caused the revolution; it was how it was applied.

Like it took a new approach to maximize the value of the electric motor, it will again require a redistribution of how work is defined to fully take advantage of the technologies, competencies and capital we currently have at our disposal.


In order to remain nimble, market responsive, and talent- and industry-competitive, it’s time for organizations to transform their talent acquisition, retention and development strategies. Leadership is responsible for recognizing the revolution we’re heading into and understanding that, to be successful in business, we need to think differently, whet our appetite for operationalizing agility, and ditch the script.

Check out more from Michael Arena and me as we continue the conversation around ditching the script and rethinking and reimagining approaches to talent, so organizations can continue to push the boundaries of what’s next.

View More Articles