William Hague said recently, “There’s only one growth strategy: work hard.” Without daring to go near the politics of that statement, I have to say that it would have made more sense to say “work smart.” You can flog your guts out working hard the same old way but if you don’t take into account the changing world and intelligently figure out how to work with it, then you’re likely to exhaust yourself and fail into the bargain. Sorry William.
At the moment, you hear a lot of buzz around ‘social business’ or, before that, ‘Business 2.0′ and similar sounding slogans. The trouble with such ‘paradigm shifts’ is that they all imply a jettisoning of past experience. How stupid is that? And, no, I’m not taking a pop at anyone or any organisation in particular, just making the point that ‘new’ is often complementary to some of the ‘old’.
Some of the ‘old’ is with us, rallying under a new banner. “Organisations are networks of formal and informal relationships.” Geddaway. Of course they are; they always have been. The difference now is that we have software and communication tools to massively improve their effectiveness.
We have the legacy of the first wave of smart working, in particular, “the need to make innovation everyone’s business and to empower workforces to ‘take action that will benefit the customer without layers of bureaucratic approval’.” Lessons learned from the successful pioneers of these working methods are invaluable input to what’s needed now, in this even more uncertain and chaotic world.
We need to build flexible systems with adaptability, integration, disciplined collaboration, innovation and knowledge sharing in mind. This isn’t a lazy set of buzzwords, each is a vital consideration as we invent our way to a better future. I could have added more – discovery, sharing and co-creation, for example. The point is that the networked world really is a network of brains, knowledge and information sources all orchestrated for the collective good. ‘Collective’ in this case has to include customers which, by extension, means suppliers. Otherwise you won’t have any customers when the current turmoil ends.
Turmoil? No, I’ve not made a big deal of the ways in which the world is changing and the challenges we face because I assume you know. But, just in case, try these for size: ageing populations; shifts in global economic power and declining industries. The latter being replaced by new high-value industries such as: bio-tech; electronic gaming; renewable energies; and so on. Adapting to change is not easy but the status quo is no longer a place of refuge.
The future of work is visible. Most of the ingredients exist, even though we’re bound to see more come along. It doesn’t matter; we have enough to act. We can blend the old with the new and connect up to internal and external knowledge flows.
Here’s an example taken from a presentation by Alistair Moffat: NSN, a 60,000 person organisation formed from parts of Nokia Networks and Siemens Communications, faced the challenge of accelerating the emergence of a common culture. It chose to use discussion forums to create The Culture Square, a forum where company‐wide conversations could take place.
People were encouraged to talk freely and anonymously without risking dismissal for saying what they believed.The values and attitudes of the Chief Executive and his desire to nurture an organisational culture consistent with adult-to-adult relationships, where people could disagree without being disagreeable, were core to how the conversations unfolded and, indeed, succeeded. The Culture Square came to represent trust and inclusion., revealing the important issues that people were most concerned about.
Each person involved in innovation and problem-solving can be augmented by the knowledge and capabilities in their network. This is massive. And it’s at our fingertips. Yet what are many businesses doing with social technologies, the potential turbochargers of change? Imposing a blanket ban.
How blinkered is that?
Anne Marie wants you to know that she was aided and abetted by David Tebbutt in the creation of this post.