Developing Leaders: Industrial vs Knowledge Age Capabilities

In Rediscovering the Art of Strategic Thinking: Developing 21st-Century Strategic Leaders, Daniel McCauley diagrams important differences in industrial and knowledge age capabilities.  Key to this re-distribution of core capabilities are the shortened tenure of Subject Matter Expert (SME) knowledge and the less certain landscape of risk identification, interdependencies, and knowledge creation and application.

From the world of certainty where “if a problem was encountered, an expert was called in to ‘solve’ it”, the current landscape is one of increased uncertainty and thus collective solution finding.

The mainstream and strategic skills set that now needs to be cultivated in our leaders is a people development parallel to the McKinsey 7-S management model.  These serve as a ‘McCauley’s 7-Cs‘ leadership framework.  It is “a development paradigm that embraces the discomforts of ambiguity, uncertainty, and complexity”.

Critical thinking – Utilising root cause analysis, systems thinking and visual thinking.

Creative thinking – Leveraging the critical thinking tools of systems and visual thinking,  looking for underlying assumptions and patterns, understanding the roles of actors and networks, and taking risks

Contextual thinking – Bringing skilled judgement to analyse facts and situations as part of a complex continuum rather than in isolation

Conceptual thinking – Integrating facts and issues into a conceptual framework and translating this for non specialist audiences, including seeing the world from the viewpoint of other disciplines

Cultural thinking – Seeking to understand the views, beliefs, and norms of other cultures and disciplines

Collaborative thinking – Purposeful and mutual sharing, respect, diversity, and equal participation

Communicative thinking – Understanding various tools and modes of communication and how to frame vision for different audiences

The image below represents McCauley’s comparison of industrial and knowledge age skills.

Today’s central competences are about understanding the context of problems and resolutions, and working collaboratively.  These skills transpose the certainty of industrial age expertise.

While his focus is on the capabilities required of today’s strategic leaders, McCauley’s 7-Cs are broadly applicable for development programs across the work lifespan:

industrial vs knowledge age capabilities