What keeps the C-suite awake at night? It’s a question often asked and in recent years one concern continues to occupy the top spot – the threat of disruption by new digital entrants.

Whether that’s in banking, insurance, energy, telecoms, retail or any other industry, the threat is real.

The public sector is no different. The digital demands of citizens are being shaped every day through their experience as consumers. We expect to be able to carry out routine tasks such as paying bills, booking appointments and a host of other activities through our mobile devices. What’s more, we expect our digital experiences to be fast, frictionless, and right first time. 

The explosion of connected devices is changing how businesses operate. Just look at the seemingly unstoppable march of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and the new kid on the block, 5G. Increased connectivity will mean a radical shift in the relationship between human and machine.  

So, what is the solution? As Head of Consulting for Capita, you would be forgiven for thinking I would say outsourcing and technology are the answer. In truth, technology is only part of the solution as it’s just an enabler. The real secret sauce goes deeper and is more intrinsic. At the crux of helping to deliver real digital change is the type of culture you cultivate, and the environment you operate in. These are the things we’re working hard to establish as part of our new Digital Consulting business at Capita, and there are several elements to this which we believe are key…

Hardwiring a beta mindset

Carol Dweck, a psychologist from Stanford, coined the term “Growth mindset”. She argued individuals who believe their talents can be developed, by working hard, getting feedback from others, and always looking for a better outcome, have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset, who believe their talents are innate gifts. They worry less about looking smart and they put more energy into learning. When an organisation adopts a growth mindset, they empower their employees and find that in turn their employees are more committed, collaborate better and are far more likely to embrace innovation.

At Capita we encourage everyone to have a growth mindset – what we refer to as a ‘Beta’ mindset to reflect that we’re constantly responding to change – by developing the following characteristics in our people:

  • Always learning and not afraid to ‘unlearn’ and ‘relearn’.
  • Intensely curious – constantly asking questions in search of better solutions.
  • ‘Scientific’ in approach – prepared to consistently challenge the status quo and look for evidence that disproves / improves an accepted belief.
  • Comfortable operating in uncertain and volatile environments where ambiguity is part of the day to day way of working.

So, how do you build a Beta mindset? There are three key things we focus on as a team:

  1. First, give people the freedom to think, and then the space to apply that thinking to problems.
  2. Second, build experiments and explore scenarios – certainty is an illusion.
  3. Third, just start!  At some point you have to begin, even when you don’t have all the answers. While not doing anything is always an option, not doing anything out of paralysis is a fast way to nowhere.

Building an open environment

Creating the right environment is essential to encouraging a Beta mindset culture at work. Pulling together a fantastic team of Beta thinkers and then sticking them in a cupboard with laptops is not conducive to great results. At Capita, we’re building lab environments to support project teams working on problems in the right type of open and collaborative spaces.

We’re also working on environments that bring together multiple disciplines to solve problems, from experience designers to data scientists and engineers. Our Govtech Garage opposite the Ministry of Defence in London is one such environment for running Government-related projects.

Encourage systems thinking

In addition to cultivating a Beta mindset and creating the right environment, it is also essential to think about systems.

Not systems in the narrow sense but in the way in which they are interdependent, and how relationships exist across the people, process, technology, and political landscapes in which we are delivering digital change.

Why think in this way? It helps to understand the bigger picture – no product or service is an island. You are forced to solve real problems. It encourages rapid innovation, so you have no choice but to adapt swiftly. The best solution could be one that does not build anything new, or it could be as simple as the right person making a better policy decision and enforcing it consistently.

If we allow ourselves to be comfortable with uncertainty, give ourselves space to think, embrace optionality and interdependencies, and most importantly, create the right environments to encourage this behaviour, then we’re capable of delivering things beyond what we think is possible. And that’s a pretty good place to be.

Thinking about your organisation?