Bill JensenEvery now and then you have the opportunity to talk with someone who really touches your life. Bill Jensen is that type of person. You can tell right away when hearing his ideas that he is up to big stuff! His passion, hopes and dreams for the future are refreshing and cutting edge. Grounded in a solid foundation from years of experience, coupled with the years of research that he has done, makes Bill Jensen an expert when it comes to change management and corporate innovation. That is why we at Global Learning are so excited to partner with Bill and his company The Jensen Group. In the following interview you will get an up close and personal look at Bill Jensen’s inspirations, and some of the influences for his latest book titled “Future Strong,” along with why it was so important for him to partner with Global Learning at this time, with regards to the assessment tool that we have created and how our Futureproofing.Today is helping to further Bill’s transformational message.”

Bill started out his professional career with a degree in Design, the skills from which he has carried with him throughout his consulting career, giving him the unique and progressive perspective he has about change management today. This design influence is “not design in the sense of making things pretty,” he explained. It is more along the lines of what is referred to as Design Thinking. Design Thinking is all about working backwards. “A process in which everything is designed backwards starting with the needs of the individual.” He uses this model in consulting to “help big companies go through change by focusing on each individual, while at the same time helping senior teams see what’s necessary from the perspective of each individual.”  He went on to explain that all of his books, all of his research, and everything that he does comes from the perspective of working backwards, while asking two very important questions; “how can I do more to help each individual be the best version of themselves? And how can I make it easier for them to be their best?”

When asked what gave Bill the inspiration to write “Future Strong,” he explained how over the recent years he had noticed more and more people talking about the Future of Work, and that there were three different dominant perspectives that he saw. That first was that the “majority of what people were talking about was how technology was going to change everything, and it is,” he explained. “It is going to completely disrupt almost everything we do.” On the flip side of the coin, he said, there are the humanists. “Those who are saying that with regards to technology, we have to also be in touch with our humanity, we have to know how to connect with people. And then if you think of it as three circles intersecting, then the last circle is, “I don’t have time for all this stuff, I have shit that I’ve got to get done today, so you guys talk about the future of work, and I’ll be ready for it when I’m ready.” From there Bill took a closer look to see what was missing from the conversation. “I looked for what people weren’t talking about. And what fascinated me the most was how we were all being told how volatile the world is right now, you know with all the acronyms that everybody is using. It’s chaotic and it’s changing. But no one was really talking about; what are choices that we need to make to be prepared, for a new future where technology is going to drive ourselves, and robots and automation and big data is going to run a lot more? What are the tough choices that senior executives need to be making now?” These fundamental questions are what really drove the study forward to really look at the choices we need to make NOW, in order to be Future Strong.

From there Bill went on to tell me about the extensive research that went into “Future Strong” and how it came together through a two-part process. First came The Future of Work Study, which was a collaborative effort that Bill crowd sourced with a group of about twenty people from around the world, who helped him to do interviews, conduct surveys and look at the findings. He explains how

I owed it to our small community to create something that was about us, that every individual who contributed could own. So that came back as The Future of Work Study, and then I had my personal views based on what we had found there, and I wanted to put my point of view in there, based on my insights. So I took the group research and then I wrote the book based on what I took away from that research. So while the research report was factual and data driven, the book that came out of it is really about what I think needs to happen from it.”

For the research part of the project, Bill and his team interviewed and surveyed over 7,000 individuals from all around the globe. The interviews were qualitative, and involved asking deep questions and having rolling conversations, while the surveys were based more on looking for certain data points, once they had gotten some themes out of the interviews. One of the main points from the research that really stood out to Bill and his team was that so many people were “telling them how frustrated they were with the people issues, and how they were doing more and more for their companies, and getting less and less for themselves.”

When hearing this Bill and his team began asking people one very important question, and that was “can you achieve your dreams where you currently work?” The results for that question first came back with only 29% of the respondents saying yes. But then when they cut the data again and eliminated senior executives, Silicon Valley and start up type companies, looking only at the mainstream work force, they found that only 10% of the workers felt that they could achieve their dreams where they currently worked.

He commented that, “what that means is that things really need to shift if we are going to keep the best of the best at our companies. We need to have more approaches towards work, were people can achieve their dreams.”

Bill went on to explain, that most of the Millennials that they interviewed gave the same feed back. “That the way that people view engagement and all these current themes that most senior execs look at, are wrong.  They’re not appropriate.” And that when it comes to most Millennials, “they are going to look at companies in the same way that they use a software app. They’re going to use it, they’re going to love it, not just if they’re happy using it, but if it helps them achieve their personal goals and dreams.” In that regard “Millennials are looking at companies as a vehicle to achieve their dreams and goals, better than they could have if they went to work for some other company, or if they started their own company.” Bill proceeded to say that there are so many opportunities to freelance right now, that from a Millennial’s perspective they feel that “if they are going to go to work for your company, they are going to do it because you have a better system, a better approach, and a better network, for helping them to achieve their dreams and goals.

So when it comes to being Future Strong Bill said, “yes be committed to something bigger than yourself, sacrifice for a whole, for something that’s bigger than you, but don’t sacrifice too much and here are some traps and how not to get caught in them. And that one of the main choices we need to be looking at right now is ‘what are the sacrifices and hardships that we want to make, that will ensure OUR strong future, not just the companies that we’re working for.’ Because most people are being asked to sacrifice too much for the company and they don’t get enough gain back.”

When I asked Bill what some of the major changes were that he had witnessed in the consulting business, in the 30 years since he founded his company The Jensen Group, he went on to share with me that the biggest lesson that he had learned, was one simple lesson. “That there’s a massive difference, almost always between what clients want and what they need. And that the hardest work of consulting is getting the clients to understand, embrace, and act on what they need, which is probably different from what they want.” He went on to say that the upside of this, because of where things are going, is that he sees a lot more leaders who are open to discussions now. “That thirty years ago it was very top down, it was very directive.” He sees a lot more leaders trying to be much more inclusive today. “The biggest challenge however, or the downside is that they, and all of us, all suffer from ADD.” He explained how he does not use that framework lightly at all, and that Microsoft just recently conducted a study that revealed that we all have the attention span now of a goldfish. So he said “the biggest challenge we’re facing even with leaders that get it, that want to do the right thing, for the right reason, is the attention span. Everything needs to be broken up. Its not just like consultants say ‘we need to be more future focused and we need to stop worrying about next quarter.’ It’s not just that, it’s about getting the attention of the leaders for more than five minutes, and getting them to get involved in deep conversations.” So the paradox is, because of the empowerment that’s gone on in the last 30 years, most leaders, most good leaders he’s found are very open to really listening to people. “The challenge is that even in the best-case scenario, we have the attention span of a gnat.”

When I asked Bill what some of his hopes for the future of business were he responded that; “It’s a lot closer to a 50/50 partnership, where both parties recognize that they need each other. But it’s not the way it looks now. Fifty percent isn’t just about engagement, or are you happy, or do you have nice benefits, or are you happy with your teammates. The fifty percent needs to be the same as any marriage, or business partnership, or any good relationship. It means that fifty percent is about one half of the relationship, the business, while the other fifty percent is about the workforce. And they work together to create something that benefits both sides, EQUALLY.” Bill emphasized how here lies the key, that they both have to benefit EQUALY. He went on to point out that the “current relationships between companies and the workforce, still absolutely sucks, and that it is still way too company-centric. But that it’s not just about “singing Kumbaya together and we all like each other. It’s about every single detail.”

When it comes performance management, the way that it is done now, is that fifty percent is about “how are you the employee, helping the company achieve its goals, and we’re going to evaluate you on that. On the flip side, that other fifty percent needs to be about the employee evaluating whether that company is helping that individual achieve his or her goals. That is the true meaning of 50/50.”So while most “corporate infrastructures are currently way too corporate centered, our iphones and our androids are focused around OUR needs. So corporate infrastructure, the tools, and the processes we use to get work done, need to be fifty percent tailored to the individual. So that it becomes about ‘the way I want to get information, the way I want it to look, and the way I want to work through the process.’ It needs to be fifty percent about the individual.” He went on to explain that we already have the technological capability to start tailoring more and more to each individual’s needs, but that what “we are missing is the Leadership, Will and Courage.” So for Bill Jensen, his dream for the Future is “for every individual to be Future Strong, and that hopefully people can achieve that with their current company. But if they can’t they can use the book to leave their current company and become Future Strong some place else. As it stands right now, companies are not moving fast enough, therefore they need to start protecting their futures NOW.”

A big part of applying Bill’s ideas and really helping individuals as well as companies to become Future Strong is through the assessment tool that Global Learning has created to go hand and hand with his book. When asked why it was so important to partner with Global Learning with regards to this assessment tool, Bill described how “Global Learning was really able to bring the capability to build a tool with the academic and the corporate research that he lacked.” He explained how he has built assessment tools in the past but not with regards to an on-line tool, and not with the depth that Global Learning has. He said that “in this way corporate learning really provides all the depth and rigor that is needed when designing an assessment like this, and that he couldn’t have imagined a more perfect partner to do it with.” Bill then went on to talk about the real value and alignment that has come from this partnership between The Jensen Group and Global Learning. That while Bill brings with him all the knowledge that he has acquired from what he has studied for over a quarter of a century, with over a million different interviews and surveys, focusing greatly on each individual’s needs within a company. Global Learning brings their expertise, which has really focused on the individual but from the company’s perspective, and from the team’s perspective. And that by combining these two perspectives, it “makes for the perfect sweet spot between the individual and the team/organizational perspectives.”

Bill went on to talk about where he sees Global Learning’s Futureproofing.Today in the marketplace, and how his partnership with Global Learning really emulates “Future Strong.” He explained how at his core he “wishes that everybody was more intent on learning about themselves and truly knowing themselves as much as they need to, but that with this he also accepts that not everybody will do this.” That is why the assessment tool that has been created by Global Learning with their Futureproofing.Today is so practical.  “It comes in two parts so that it is easily accessible to each individual, whether they are a casual viewer who wants to get a quick view at where they stand with regards to being Future Strong, or whether they want a more in-depth assessment.” So the free tool allows them to dip in quickly, compare themselves to the data and get out. The second part of the tool is designed for the individual who wishes to get a more in-depth analysis of how they compare to their team and how they fit in with their company. The wonderful thing about the partnership between Global Learning and I is the great amount of depth we are able to provide. Most companies are providing support within the context of the company, but individual coaching and mentoring, even if they are providing as much as they can, it’s still not enough. So the partnership with Global Learning allows us to look at each individual’s strengths and weakness from a truly holistic perspective.”

Breanna Rothe

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