Review: Competing in the New World of Work  

Cyrus A Minwalla | Updated on: Jun 29, 2022
Competing in the New World of Work: How Radical Adaptability Separates the Best from the Rest 
By Keith Ferrazzi, Kian Gohar and Noel Weyrich 
Harvard Business Review Press .
Pages 284 
Price Rs 974

Competing in the New World of Work: How Radical Adaptability Separates the Best from the Rest  By Keith Ferrazzi, Kian Gohar and Noel Weyrich  Harvard Business Review Press . Pages 284  Price Rs 974

In 2020, the future of work became the present of work. The book explains how some agile organizations adapted and thrived even during the pandemic 

On March 11, 2020, when the WHO declared a global pandemic on account of Covid 19, almost all organisations and governments in the world were struck with a level of disruption that few had ever imagined. But not Lockheed Martin Space. In March 2020, when the world was still in denial on the likely consequences of the pandemic, and the US Government declared that there was little to worry about, Lockheed Martin Space was completely prepared to conduct business in a lockdown mode. And, in the same year that decimated the airline and space industry, Lockheed launched 10 satellites exactly on schedule.  How did it foresee and mitigate this global calamity? 

In 2020, Fox Factory, a design and manufacturing company in the USA, had this audacious strategy to double the size of its business to $ 2 billion in 5 years. But almost immediately thereafter, due to the pandemic, it was faced with lockdowns, stretched supply chains coupled with forest fires and social disturbance. By the end of 2020, Fox Factory had achieved a 30 per cent growth at a time when businesses revenues around the globe and in India were reeling because of the pandemic. How did it achieve this? 

Every crisis serves to begin a new era. What have these two and a few other organisations done right in this era of crisis that others have not? 

The Covid pandemic accelerated the transformation of work in a few days than it did over the past 20 years. Organisations have shed antiquated systems and processes. They had gone all-in on digital. Teams settled into new, often better, ways of doing things. But did organisations change enough to stay competitive in the post-pandemic world? Did they fully leverage the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leap forward and grow stronger? Was the environment being shaped to one’s advantage? These questions and more are explained in the book  Competing in the New World of Work by Keith Ferrazzi . 

New York Times bestselling author Keith Ferrazzi is the founder and chairman of Ferrazzi Greenlight. His organisation works to transform many of the largest organisations and governments in the world, shows how to shape organisations and practices to remain competitive in a new, post-pandemic context. Based on an ambitious global research initiative involving changemakers who redefined their strategies, business models, organisational systems, and even their cultures, the book offers a bold new vision for the organisation of the future, reveals the workplace innovations that emerged during the pandemic and defines the new model of leadership — radical adaptability — for sustaining continuous change. 

Consider the job search company Indeed. At the beginning of 2020, the leadership had already anticipated a slowdown but had developed detailed plans to mitigate them. Despite the pandemic, Indeed’s 2020 revenues matched its 2019 results, something that very few businesses can boast of. This is because it adopted certain aspects which, the author describes as central themes for an organisation to succeed in this new era. Some of these include radical adaptability, co-elevation, resilience and foresight. 

Radical Adaptability

The author introduces us to the concept of  Radical Adaptability as the central theme of the book. This prompts an organisation to constantly anticipate change, reinterpret it, and transform through change. The essence of this concept is that it is predictive, proactive, and progressive. The seven states of Radical Adaptability are explained by the author in detail. The concepts of Inclusion, Agility, Resilience, and Foresight are required to build agile work teams. Future proofing the business, Redesign of the workforce and communicating the organisation’s long-term purpose are important aspects for building a radically adaptable organisation. The pandemic has taught us that slow change can leave an organisation behind.  Radical adaptability may well be the survival practice of the modern organisation. 

Co-elevating teams and resilience


Ferrazzi provides research-based methods on how to upskill team leadership throughout the organisation. The author explains that high performing teams go beyond cooperation. The concept of  co-elevating teamwork, wherein team members together create results that raise their capabilities as individuals, is another central aspect of the book. How Fox Factory created co-elevating teams by bringing its two product lines together and thus increased their growth by 30 per cent in two quarters in the pandemic year is an excellent case study. 

The volatile environment of 2020 pushed  employee resilience into the CEO’s agenda. An HR leader told the author, “It’s a good time to be in HR, actually. Finally, our leadership is realising that our people and their energy matter, and that we in HR are finally being turned to for help in critical business issues.” This was echoed by Apple CEO Tim Cook in October 2020 when he gave major credit to Team Resilience for Apple’s financial performance having exceeded expectations. Team Resilience in times of adversity, the author emphasis, is the battery of the organisation that needs to stay charged. Thus, leaders need to invest in the physical and emotional wellbeing of employees using diagnostic tools like surveys, regular check- ins, performance assessments and practices like candor breaks, purple blocks, meditation, mindfulness, counselling, and therapy. 

Develop organisational foresight


In one of the more important chapters in the book, the author describes that radically adaptable teams can look into, and plan for the future. They do this by developing a foresight that proactively detects early signals of disruption and respond quickly to them. The example of Lockheed Martin Space is a case in point. The author explains that foresight starts with risk detection using the STEEP model (sociological, technological, economic, environmental, and political factors) which should be crowd sourced to multiple teams and geographies within the organisation. The organisation then, can plan possible responses and thus ensure business continuity. How Domino’s Pizza emerged as the unlikely business winner in 2020 is an example of foresight in adopting technology and innovation to be the leader in touchless transactions and e-commerce, all which proved incredibly useful during the pandemic. 

Hybrid Model of Work 

The pros and cons of office based or remotely-located teams or operating in a hybrid model (combination of both) is an ongoing debate in the corporate and in social media platforms. This aspect is covered in detail and will interest many organisations. New and modern technologies combined with experience of remote work, offer ways for building a flexible workforce for the future. The six decision dials, as explained by the author, can be applied to any organisation to arrive at a correct decision as to where will the workforce work from. 

Why is it important for CEOs and CXOs to read this seminal work by Ferrazzi, Gohar and Weyrich? While the concepts are easy to grasp and understand, the methodology to implement these in their organisations is the key.  These are mentioned in detail in this book. 

The book offers leaders a road map to catapult their organisations forward, embrace new realities, and grow their business. This must-read book will enable CEOs to develop a strategy to survive similar shocks in the future, be they black swan events or relentless disruption of technological and social change that are now the reality of our times. 

   (Cyrus A Minwalla heads the HR function of one of the Business Groups of Tata Projects Ltd. Prior to joining Tata Projects, he was in the Indian Army) 

Check out the book on Amazon

Published on June 29, 2022
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