The future of work is up for grabs.
Call it the Great Resignation, VUCA, or the black swan world — but the world of work is not what it was two years ago (or, let’s be honest, two months ago!)
While people have been bemoaning the increasing complexity of the workplace for decades, we’re all experiencing the effects of the exponential curve of change Ray Kurzweil predicted back in the 90s.
Most organizations are scrambling to catch up, trying to navigate the seemingly-constant disruptions and new levels of complexity, with unfortunately mixed results.
The bad news is, things are not going to get simpler.
Ambiguity, disruption, and complexity are only likely to increase. And, there’s no SOP, no level of management, or contingency-planning that can keep up with it.
The organizations that survive the ever-more-chaotic world of work aren’t going to be the ones with the best plans.
They’ll be the ones with the best relationship to change.
And Catalysts? They’re the key.
If you’re working in a space where the only constant is change and chaos, you need people on your team who are not only able to cope with it, but who actively love it. You need people who move through the world excited by change, naturally on the spearhead of the change curve, ready to be the earliest of early adopters.
That’s Catalysts all the way — they naturally thrive on a VUCA world, love swimming in ambiguity, and naturally take in information from a broad range of internal and external data sources, making them exceptional at sensing trends and changes before they happen.
These people exist in virtually every organization, but their talents are almost universally under-used — and sometimes even resisted! — because they don’t look like the profile of a “high performer” we’ve been working with for so long.
They move fast. They break shit. And, without the right support, they burn out.
But when you get a Catalyst in an organization that knows how to support them? They’re game-changers — and given half a chance, they’ll turn even the most troubled org around.
How do I find my Catalysts?
(And what do I do with them once I’ve found them?!)
You know a Catalyst when you see one — as we found when profiling this archetype for our book, “the short answer is: it’s a person who takes in lots of information,
sees infinite possibilities, and can’t stop themselves from moving into action.”
They’re those people who are so amazing at solving problems — especially the weird ones — and who can’t help but innovate. And they might annoy the life out of you when they have no interest in playing in a pre-set system!
But learn how to activate these people and give them the support they need, then your job goes from “managing” them to stepping aside and letting them run!
As with most things, activating your Catalysts all starts with a culture of change — which means that the first thing you have to do is think about the level of trust the leadership team is willing to give them.
One of the very worst things you can do is activate all your high-impact, divergent thinking people and then let them loose into a workplace that’s not actually safe for them and their big ideas. Make them fear for their jobs, and they’ll just leave, taking your best talent with them.
So start out by getting very clear on what the leadership team is willing to have happen, the degree of change they can tolerate.
Also, give some thought to how you specifically want to leverage this talent. Think: big, juicy problems. Weird stuff. “Unsolvable” issues. Things that require a high degree of pivoting and out-of-the-box thinking. These types of projects are catnip for Catalysts (in fact, you might even be able to identify some Catalysts by thinking about the people in your org who are routinely drawn to these types of projects!)
From there, it’s all about setting them up for success so they understand how to successfully drive change within your culture. While this is, of course, a super-custom process, it really comes down to making the connection between where you are now, what your cultural context is, what the executive team is willing to take ownership of, and the resources your Catalysts need to make the kind of changes you want.
Bottom line? If you don’t have a cohort of people actively helping you future-proof your org, you’re just not going to last. But activating your Catalysts is a high-impact, org-wide solution.
Let’s be honest — a lot of people really hate this. It sounds like yet another big, sweeping, complicated change.
But this isn’t about burning the house down.
It’s about changing the meaningful things that will get you to your objectives, and leveraging the things that are working.
It’s not change for change’s sake, we’ve all had enough of that. It’s the shortest and surest line to getting what you want, and building an org that doesn’t just survive change — but turns it into a great organizational advantage.
Activating your Catalysts is the most effective way to chaos-proof your org. And we’re the best of the best at identifying, activating, and developing Catalysts –– find out what we can do for you and yours here.