Workforce Knowledge is Key to Protecting Infrastructure

Conversations around infrastructure protection remain largely contained to the historically defined 16 critical infrastructure sectors. Yet as hyperconnectivity continues to tighten integration points between people, physical assets, technologies and security solutions, we see the lines blurring between the operational environments inside these sectors.

As we have transitioned from the Second to the Third Wave, the level of innovation has surged in government and business organizations. In this knowledge-driven environment, nascent yet powerful forces like cybersecurity, Internet of Things (IoT), and bio-digital convergence have taken a place in our everyday lexicon. Organizations across virtually every sector have turned their focus to figuring out the opportunities and threats inherent in innovation. In so doing, many have lost sight of a critical factor in sustaining Future Proof® infrastructures.

The development of human capital and ability to handle vast amounts of knowledge may be the central most important factor in successfully innovating for the present and future state of our infrastructure.

We must foster a workforce able to understand, learn, plan, and adapt to the challenges and opportunities in our changing environment, whatever they may be. The ability to process information and act with agility is necessary to taking advantage of the many possibilities of the increasingly connected world. And it is one of the major qualities that demarcate the Knowledge Age as a shift from the constraints of reactive, profit-driven, product focused, hierarchical, desynchronized, and risk averse Second Wave norms. 

The Role of the Workforce in Infrastructure Protection Conversations

Toffler Associates has examined numerous issues germane to the infrastructure protection discussion, including the role of humans in security, the new organizational framework, and the requirements for operational agility. Two overlapping points continue to take center focus – an organization’s ability to innovate (which requires agility and willingness to fail) and the importance of developing a workforce able to learn new systems and flex to constant shifts.

The merging of traditional infrastructure segments presents a huge opportunity to focus on cultivating teams capable of transforming vast amounts of data into solutions for existing and new issues. These individuals can read all forms data in new ways. They are observant within their sector and across its boundaries, enabling them to better predict opportunities and challenges, and develop proactive responses and counter measures to issues threatening innovation. Rather than thinking in a linear fashion, they can see second and third order of effects that models of the past did not emphasize.

From an organizational development standpoint, some leaders may be hard pressed to stop considering their people as ‘human capital’ commodities, put in place to accomplish set tasks. They have to balance compliance and oversight responsibilities with a willingness to let go of outmoded workforce prototypes. To have the freedom to make an impact, every member of the team, regardless of rank or title, should have the opportunity to offer valuable insight to the organization. 

Positioning engaged, empowered professionals across the organization also is vital to security and protection. As they observe, question, process, and disseminate intelligence, team members at every level become threat counter measures. Security transitions from a compartmentalized role in the organization to a part of its culture. In doing so, it becomes exponentially more effective. 

Implications for Tomorrow’s Infrastructure

Our infrastructures are increasingly symbiotic, our workforces are dealing with growing amounts of complex information, and our organizations must embrace knowledge ecosystems that enable decisions and capabilities. Today’s challenge is not in knowing how to create and connect systems. The network is in place. Now, we must figure out how to engage people at every level, in every industry and organization, to advance and secure the most Future Proof® infrastructures.

There is no easy solution. Our organizations are confronting decades old mental models and rigid collective ideologies that inhibit organizational agility. To help you break out of these long-held molds, consider the following questions as you build or refine your human capital strategy.

  • Where do we find – and how do we equip – people who see past paradigms and boundaries, and who challenge processes to make the most of deepening connections? 
  • How do we strip the compliance-based upbringing that forces us to think on a linear basis so we build cultures of people who can think with a systems-based approach? 
  • How do we support organizational cultures of observant individuals and teams?

Regardless of the speed with which technology is advancing and connecting us, humans remain the observers, thinkers, and managers of knowledge. We must never lose sight of the human within the infrastructure domain or we will risk progressing without an agile and protective foundation. 

It is time to prioritize the workforce agility and knowledge gap in organizational and critical infrastructure protection conversations.


About the Authors

Toffler Associates

As a consulting and advisory firm, Toffler Associates delivers strategic advantage to clients around the globe with an unwavering commitment to be the catalyst for change. Both the public and private sectors rely on Toffler Associates’ Future Proof® business consulting service and unique perspective to architect better futures.

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