Lead with a Bimodal Mindset

In the opening keynote at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2016 analysts discuss why bimodal leadership will be essential to build digital platforms.

Bimodal business, with it’s unique combination of planned and predictable change (Mode 1) and experimental and disruptive change (Mode 2), creates a challenge for CIOs who must ensure unity between two groups with significantly different approaches. The two modes must operate as two sides of the same coin, with one strategy, vision, team, and organization, according to Hung LeHong, vice president and Gartner Fellow in Gartner Research, in the opening keynote at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2016 in Orlando.

Peter Sondergaard, exeuctive vice president of research at Gartner, opened the keynote with a call for CIOs to build the new civilization infrastructure. LeHong and Daryl Plummer, vice president and Gartner Fellow, discussed why the entire enterprise organizational structure must be reshaped for the journey. 

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Eighty percent of organizations have completed a tactical bimodal project, with nearly half of those organizations evolving to make bimodal a strategic decision. Companies are beginning to adopt processes that allow them to fail faster and become more comfortable with bimodal strategies.

Read related article: Breaking Down the Barriers to Bimodal

CIOs need to examine their own mindsets and adjust their leadership techniques to account for bimodal strategies.

“Clear leadership means it’s not only about the technology and the digital platform, but about you as a person, as a professional, as a leader,” said Plummer. “We should ask ourselves ‘What can we learn from the leaders who seem to be able to reinvent themselves over and over again?’”

Gartner analyst Daryl Plummer describes how to lead with experienced hands and a beginner's mind.
Gartner analyst Daryl Plummer describes how to lead with experienced hands and a beginner’s mind.

CIOs need to develop a mindset that takes advantage of the “experienced hands” of Mode 1, but is comfortable exploring the “beginner’s outlook” of Mode 2.

Challenge Your Mindset

Mode 1 uses experience acquired over years in the industry. Mode 2 requires leaders to remain open to new technologies and use cases. This may mean setting aside experience to see new opportunities, which can be a challenge.

“As contradictory as it sounds, having a ‘beginner’s’ mind, daring to let go, takes quite some experience,” said Plummer. “In this new future, when you build it, the most important thing we need to know is how to shed our preconceptions.”

For example the team at Italian train operator, Trenitalia, knew they had to be good at maintenance based on experience, spending about 1.3 billion Euros per year. The experienced hands knew that maintenance kept costs down and train availability high. But the beginner’s mindset viewed the problem differently by questioning why maintenance had to be done on a schedule.

As contradictory as it sounds, having a ‘beginner’s’ mind, daring to let go, takes quite some experience.

The Mode 2 approach implemented predictive maintenance to identify whether the company should replace the entire brake system versus just one component. In Mode 2, the train tells the operators when it needs maintenance, rather than having parts replaced on a schedule. Trenitalia was able to combine experience with a beginner’s mindset to provide a better service for customers and allow the company to run more efficiently. Plus, the new system saved the company 100 million Euros per year.

Read related article: How to Fund Bimodal Innovation

Learn to unlearn

CIOs need to learn how to unlearn and use a combination of established best practices and new ideas. It’s challenging, but CIOs aren’t doing it alone. It’s also necessary to build both a diverse culture and cognitive diversity in the leadership team, said LeHong. This entails hiring data scientists to build algorithms and develop machine learning, alongside digital anthropologists who study people’s natural behaviour in a digital world.

While it may be easier to create a team of members who think alike, it won’t deliver the results.

“Cognitive diversity in a team helps challenge old and established views,” said Plummer. “It pushes for new thinking and that will create breakthrough results.”

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