Leading Edge Forum News

Why businesses need to develop a Matrix Mindset

Glen Robinson, Emerging Technology Director and Distinguished Engineer at Leading Edge Forum, examines new ways of working and explores the concept of the Matrix Mindset

Digital technology is a pervasive force that impacts every part of our existence. It will be embedded in everything – our bodies, our houses, the cities and world we live in – all with the capability to augment our daily lives. A key component of this will be a synergistic combination of cloud and AI, part of what LEF defines as “The Matrix”, creating an intelligent, pervasive infrastructure that will increasingly be able to perform just about everything that companies and individuals can do, and many they cannot. This future has consequences for our evolution as individuals, businesses, governments and nations, but creates opportunities too. 

New ways of working

As technology evolves it creates new sources of value, while new practices (ways of working) emerge, new business models are created, and new operating models develop to serve them. For many years, LEF has used the value disciplines model, which suggests an organisation’s operating model can serve only one of three strategic outcomes: operational efficiency, customer intimacy or product leadership.

Since then, things have changed.

The best way to describe this shift is decentralisation. In operationally efficient and customer-intimate operating models, businesses typically have a large central IT function, run by a CIO reliant on command-and-control authority. It is heavily siloed, hierarchical and functionally aligned. But today, innovation has shifted to the digital platform. The business expects IT to deliver technology innovation as well as supporting day-to-day business activities, and a central IT function is not naturally innovative.

The door swings both ways

Whilst this transformation has obvious impacts on IT, the rest of the business also has to adjust and transform. It’s no longer acceptable to abdicate responsibility for technology decisions to the IT department. The Matrix Mindset is a way of thinking that we believe everyone needs to understand, even at a basic level, to help them work effectively in modern, digitally enabled companies. We define a Matrix Mindset as the eight competencies listed below.


We believe that these first three capabilities are needed to help drive the following five. You cannot skip them, but must embed them in your people and business before you can focus on capabilities four to eight:

  1. Continual learning. It seems obvious, but without a fanatical focus on continual learning by both the organization and the individuals within it, then the game is pretty much lost before it has begun, because the other capabilities all require continual focus, improvement and understanding.
  2. Situational awareness. Individuals with a high degree of situational awareness have a firm grasp of their users’ needs, the value chain needed to deliver those needs, their role in that value chain, and the inertias as well as the opportunities for strategic gameplay that the landscape affords. High degrees of situational awareness lead to intelligent decisions and the ability to be highly responsive to threats, as well as to execute strategic gameplay.
  3. Outside-in. This is a mindset in which organizations and individuals are open to looking outside of their own four walls for the capabilities they need to innovate. Routine use of public clouds, open source/data/standards/ markets and external talent marketplaces are all good examples.​


Leaders are people who set the bar through personal example – they are the embodiment of how others should behave. Everyone should consider themselves to be a leader. Great leaders have an awesome ability to build trust with those around them and facilitate effective collaboration.

  1. Earning trust. This is earned through empowering others to deliver, and delivering on your commitments, whilst being transparent, honest and consistent at all times. You need to pursue this actively with your co- workers as well as customers and partners.
  2. Collaboration. Hand-in-hand with trust, collaboration is a skill that needs to be constantly monitored and improved. It should not be left to ‘just happen’ and evolve organically. Collaboration is much broader than communication; it involves more than just written or spoken words, and needs to deal with issues, problems and bad news as well as constructive cooperation.


Once the foundational and leadership capabilities are in place and being constantly developed,
you can start to embed an appreciation of the fundamentals of technology – how it evolves, the options today and trends for the future, and its impact on risk and value.

  1. Evolution. The effect of evolution on living organisms is well documented and widely understood; how technology evolves is also well documented and freely available, yet it seems to be poorly understood. The opportunities offered by emerging technologies are either overlooked or blocked by many forms of inertia. Understanding evolution helps people understand why change is hard, and what can be done to overcome the issues.
  2. Risk. Everyday life is becoming more and more digital, yet few of us ever think about the risks we are exposing ourselves to, and what we can do to reduce this risk. Everyone needs to take steps to become more digitally secure and mindful.
  3. Economics. It’s everyone’s responsibility to understand the financial implications of their decisions. Business functions are now expected to make decisions in a more data-driven way rather than simply relying on gut feel and experience. As the world of technology becomes more decentralized and democratized, business functions increasingly consume technology directly and would benefit from the ability to develop insight from data to guide their decisions. It’s rare to find these skills, let alone a mindset that encourages them to act this way.

Get the mindset

Technology is such a fundamental part of how we all work and live today, that it is no longer acceptable to abdicate all technological innovation to IT.  Those within the business context need to understand the impact of potential technology choices, so they can work alongside IT to build a better technology enabled future. Having a Matrix Mindset is the key to unlocking the benefits for the whole business as it faces this transformational challenge.

You can read more about the matrix mindset in the Leading Edge Forum report

The matrix mindset




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