What does the society of the future look like? And how is it going to work? Here we rarely find the answers in today's social models and organizations, which have difficulty both in picturing and transitioning to new societies and systems. By working proactively with governance and changing how operations are organized, the conditions are created for implementing the necessary changes in both society and business.
When, after a long process, decision-makers set goals for an organization, a municipality, a company or even a country, it is easy to think the job is done. Because even though everyone knows that this is when the actual work begins. Doing what is necessary to change working methods, reshape organizations and get everyone to pull in a new direction can feel insurmountable.
“Our institutions often fail to go beyond setting the goals,” says Daniel Bengtsson, futurist and senior project manager in governance, policy and innovation at RISE. “Once they are set, it's up to each party to determine what they can do – or not do. If there are old ways of working that counteract the new goals, there is a high risk that they will never be reached.”
He describes how with today's societal systems it is difficult to seriously frame the question and attempt to get a realistic idea of how the future will be. Today's social models, based on the economic, technological and social processes and objectives of industrialism, therefore persist even if they are not optimal for achieving the goals politicians and companies have often decided to pursue.
“Organizations must have the ability to imagine new societies," says Daniel Bengtsson. “For example, how does a Sweden with net zero emissions look? In reality? Only when we can describe this can we see which steps need to be taken and, at least as importantly, which choices need to be made.”
Rapid changes to be met by slow-moving organizations
In addition to challenges relating to resources, the environment and climate, the public sector, as well as businesses, need to consider how things like a changing population pyramid, artificial intelligence or an evolving security situation will affect society. There rapid changes and new threats, which are to be met by organizations that today are often slow-moving and difficult to adapt.
Bengtsson points to the work being done both in the public sector and in many industries, with roadmaps for achieving set goals. This is the right approach, he says, but often it needs to be better operationalized.
“When RISE is allowed to contribute in the change processes of cities, governing authorities or sometimes companies, we start by examining needs, conditions and strategic challenges in both the short and longer term based on goals and plans,” says Daniel Bengtsson. “Based on this, we provide suggestions on which changes are needed in the organization, and can tailor a support solution. We're seeing that working with as us an independent and third-party entity is valuable. We become a sounding board for various mature ideas for change, and can serve as the spider in the web between different parts of the organization when the employees are in a learning and development phase, as well as in collaboration with other parties.”
It is policy, regulations and behaviour that determine how we can apply technological innovations
Proactive governance provides opportunities for long-term perspective
Daniel Bengtsson describes how steering and governance have often been overlooked, or been something that has been referred to projects. RISE's engagement is instead intended to create permanent new capacities at the organizations they work with. When many changes occur faster than before, proactive governance, or foresight, can provide opportunities to still work with a long-term approach to achieve the established goals.
“One example is our work with the City of Malmö,” says Daniel Bengtsson. “They have a roadmap that really takes a holistic approach to achieving the climate goals. We support planning and implementation. We discuss how and conduct instruction in the organization, see how tools can be used and are involved in coaching, consultation, project management and of course, research. Yet we never leave Malmö's organization. That's where change should happen, and that's where we work.”
Within Governance Innovation Sweden, RISE works with like-minded people to raise awareness of how organizations can change to achieve common goals.
“Sweden has had a lot of focus on technological innovation, and this has made us prominent in this field. But it is policy, regulations and behaviour that determine how we can apply technological innovations. There we can do a lot to attain more self-organized and self-learning structures, with collaboration that is not limited by organizational affiliation or even the goals of one's own organization in a narrower sense. If we are to solve the common social goals, new forms of organization are needed that truly create better conditions for change,” concludes Daniel Bengtsson.