Earlier, I posted about five ideas on improving LinkedIn, and now I have come to Microsoft. I use their products every day privately and professionally, and here are some ideas that could make them even better from my perspective:
I have no hopes that Satya Nadella will read this but maybe someone else at Microsoft will listen. Microsoft sure does a lot of awesome things, but here are some ways to become even better.
Every morning on my way to and from work, I listen to smart people talking to other smart people about being human. For example, this morning I listened to Krista Tippett talking to Maria Popova about creating meaning in a digital age. In one of the passages, Maria quotes a conversation she had with Andrew Sullivan:
POPOVA: And then he said, “You know, culture needs stewardship, not disruption.”
TIPPETT: Mm. That’s lovely.
POPOVA: And I was like, “Yes.” But I actually think, yes, we have forsaken stewardship to a large degree, but we need both, always, to move forward.
When I look at Twitter and blogs, there is a ton of material written about ‘digital disruption’, as if that would awaken and guide us. Mostly, I just get tired and think the authors write ‘disruption’ because they have nothing else to say, no more words to use to increase the nuances. Let us look at the definition of ‘disruption’:
noun: forcible separation or division into parts.
noun: disturbance or problems which interrupt an event, activity, or process.
synonyms: disturbance, disordering, disarrangement, disarranging, interference, upset, upsetting, unsettling, confusion, confusing;
So, here we are, listening to all these consultants who think we find pleasure in hearing that our businesses will be “forcible separated” causing unsettling confusion. Again, look at what Maria referred to:
“You know, culture needs stewardship, not disruption.”
Where are the consultants and big thinkers who can show stewardship in how technology will support us? And no, I don’t mean how it can make us more ‘productive’ and create busy-work with yet another gadget, or show us where technologies are placed on Gartner’s hype cycle. I mean how technology can guide us to better businesses and help us lead better lives. Technology is part of our culture today, and it could sure win from more wisdom and less colorful hype with cool hashtags and top managers and consultants telling us what we already know.
Please, the next time you want to write about ‘digital disruption’, think about what you want to tell us. We all know that the world is changing, but please guide us more. Once you know how what you say will help us, write your words and publish.
“The neo-generalist wanderer often has to adapt to contextual shifts and reinvent themselves when circumstances call for it.” (from The Neo-Generalist)
Recently, I finished reading an excellent book called “The Neo-Generalist,” with the Zen-like subtitle “Where You Go Is Who You Are.” Kenneth Mikkelsen and Richard Martin wrote this book – two authors that clearly have wandered between specializations, and learned a lot from it.
The book hits a current issue right on the head: Hiring managers and HR departments still focus most of their efforts on finding specialists. It seems to be the default view for everything. We have an issue here – let’s call in an expert! It is reminiscent of kids’ cartoons – the problems there are always clear, and a specialist can always solve them. As in Paw Patrol – they can dig, fly, stop traffic, pour water on fire, and more, focusing on one thing each to save the city over and over. But, as it turns out, the world is more complicated than that, and our work should follow. Yes, the world still needs specialists, of course. Meanwhile, there is a significant need to highlight the serial specialists/neo-generalists too. People who can draw experience from several different professional areas, and merge them into something new. For many of us, this is how we know we can bring value to the world, and we should nurture this. In one sense, it is like saying yes to the open, childlike curiosity we all have had at some point:
“Throughout our early lives we talk about what we want to be when we grow up. Then middle age hits and there is a slow realisation and gradual acceptance that, actually, we never grow up. The potential, the opportunity, remains to be many things.” (from The Neo-Generalist)
It might be that you have experience from different professional areas, and want to support all your skills and interests. One way of making this understanding more concrete can be to create a simple map of who you are as a neo-generalist. This way of thinking is fully in line with the Personal Knowledge Mastery ideas I have learned from Harold Jarche – throw out half-baked ideas to see where they land. I will start with myself as an example, based on my interests and experiences:
My current job title is “communications manager,” but I have done many other things earlier in my life: technical writing, Ph.D. studies in educational sciences, writing and producing e-learning, taking care of intranets, and focusing on how new technology can help us evolve the workplace based on a healthy culture. If I place them together, it can be a bit easier to see where my different set of skills can take me. I can see how experiences of various disciplines can merge and support each other. And since I have practiced Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM) for years, I also know which people can help and inspire me for each circle. Yes, this is an experiment, but I like the visual idea of mapping the serial specialist areas to see where they land. Start by looking at yourself right now, and then build a map. In a few years, it will probably change. A good thing that might come out of such an exercise is that you find what makes you unique. As Oscar Wilde said:
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
I highly recommend the book The Neo-Generalist. It has grown on me, gives me new ideas every week, and has awakened a childlike curiosity. Thank you, Kenneth and Richard! I look forward to more discussions going forward.
Last week, I was honored to be invited as one of the speakers at Intranätverk. The conference, held a few times a year, attracts people who want to talk about intranets and the digital workplace. My talk was (no surprise here) about culture and the intranet: Digitalization and culture – From flirt to proposal. The culture and the technology can flirt all they want, but we must also make sure they walk hand-in-hand.
At Haldex, we make sure we don’t just talk about our culture and the 5Cs. Among other things, we also make sure our intranet serves as a concrete evidence of them. There, we do a number of things to remind employees that our 5Cs are at the center of what we do:
If Communications is excluded, the workplace can be filled by badly written and overly long PPT files nobody will grasp.
If IT is excluded, people have no access to the tools they need to work effectively.
If Human Resources is excluded, the rest don’t know what to emphasize.
If all play nicely together, we are taking steps to a better workplace tomorrow.
For those who are interested, my full presentation is available at Intranätverk’s Slideshare channel.
The quest to solve central workplace related challenges affect us all to some extent. So far, I have begun this journey by posting things like Building a humane digital workplace, where we ground our work in our culture. I have also read a lot about the digital workplace during the years. Two excellent examples of making the digital workplace more tangible are:
This week, I also stumbled over World Economic Forum’s How to be an intrapreneur. Then it hit me: Maybe this, the change agent drive, is what might make the image more complete? Therefore, I added them all to a Venn diagram, to see if I am on to something or not:
If the above is somewhat correct (this is just a test), the workplaces we are moving towards can help us:
Make or save the company money while tackling a pressing societal issue, using digital tools feeling as natural as those we use privately, based in the strong company culture. Not bad for a day’s job, I think. The quest continues.
Are you a digital workplace consultant? Then please remember that the technology is only part of the solution. But you sometimes sell it to me, as if the technology will save me from all evil. Please remember that, if all the technical gadgets and solutions do not support our culture and strategic goals, it will be close to meaningless.
As an example, today I stumbled upon a recruitment ad for digital workplace consultants. No, I am not looking for a new job, but since I receive a lot of notifications within this professional area, it reached my eyes. It was talking about cloud based solutions, mobility, and more. Those can be gorgeous, of course. But the ad did not emphasize enough the customer’s employees, adoption, or aligning the technology with the client’s culture or strategic goals.
From my perspective, everything starts with WHY here. And where does this ‘why’ reside? In the company culture. And how does a company culture live on over time? Through the humans who work there. Therefore, creating a better workplace requires people who understand people. I don’t care how awesome Office 365 (or any other product) is, if you don’t hear what I say in the first place. As Simon Sinek said: Place the Why in the middle, and then work your way out to How, and What. If you miss the Why (people, culture, values, strategic goals), I don’t care about the What (shiny technical stuff).
Therefore, the next time I see an ad for digital workplace consultants, I hope the technology is only 10%. The other 90% should be about being a good listener, one who can understand businesses, and bridge strategic and human needs to selecting the best gadgets and solutions. Have you sat in long near meaningless meetings with reluctant people introducing technology they don’t feel they need? Great! Have you struggled aligning what you do in your department with the overall goals of the company, but not known if you have a match? Awesome! You can become a digital workplace consultant.
Yes, we need smarter apps, better IT systems, and shiny things that alleviate us. But first of all we need great people who listen and understand us. Therefore, I hope this will be reflected in the digital workplace consultant ads going forward.
Recently, I came across three articles and reports that are describing the future of work:
Going through each of these reports and drawing all necessary conclusions is a big task. But I would like to see if there are any similarities regarding how our future work and workplaces are described.
Let us start with the first to articles above – the ones from Microsoft/Poptech (left-hand side) and Business Insider (right-hand side). To makes things easier, I simply copied their own descriptions into each square below (they of course have all the credits and copyrights):
|The Changing World of Work
“The exponential growth of digital connectivity, devices and information is driving profound changes in the way we work, all around the world. In order to survive in this world, companies need to rethink everything from culture to tools and environments.”
|The corporate ladder could become the “corporate lattice.”
“In the past 25 years, one-quarter of companies have reduced the number of layers of management they have, moving toward a flatter, more grid-like management structure.”
|The Responsive Organization
“Responsiveness is becoming the key to competitiveness in the ever faster moving and interconnected global economy. To succeed, companies need to shift their focus from efficiency of process to effectiveness of outcomes.”
|Artificial intelligence could replace jobs previously held by humans …
“In May, NPR created a digital tool to calculate how likely it is that certain jobs will be taken over by robots 20 years from now. Manual-labor jobs appear to be most at risk, while jobs that require empathy, like social workers and caretakers, are least at risk.”
|Elements of Responsiveness
“In pursuit of adaptivity, companies are decentralizing decision-making and empowering their people with information. This increases engagement and enables continuous learning.”
| … but could also create jobs that didn’t exist before.
“Canton predicts a scenario in which humans and robots work side-by-side in the future, where new jobs could include operating artificial intelligence-based technology and old jobs could be augmented by it.”
|Working Like a Network
“As the world becomes more interconnected, value creation is shifting from the individual to the collective. Resilient, high-empathy teams will drive the best business outcomes.”
Employers could start recruiting labor from a global pool of freelancers instead of traditional, full-time employees.
“It’s cheaper for employers, who have an entire world of workers at their fingertips, to hire freelancers as needed rather than full-time employees, as it doesn’t involve a lengthy hiring process or require them to offer benefits like health insurance or social security.”
|Leadership in Transition
“The role of the leader is changing, yet it’s more important than ever. To create adaptive organizations, leaders need to actively shape an open culture that fosters collaboration and builds trust.”
Retirement could become a thing of the past.
“People are living longer, and the cost of living keeps going up, requiring many to keep working much later in life. Younger generations also aren’t saving money for retirement the way their parents’ generation did, because they can’t afford it.”
|The Social Workplace
“When you can work from anywhere, why go to the office? Human connections and serendipitous encounters matter more than ever. Modern workplace design needs to be intentionally designed to foster collaboration and tacit knowledge exchange.”
Workers may demand more of employers, leading to even more career hopping.
“A “future of work” report from PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts that people will continue shifting away from the one life, one career mentality — an already observable trend among millennials. Workers will follow their passions as they change, and for many that also means changing careers.”
|A Spectrum of Spaces
“Our future workplaces should inspire people to do their best work, both individually and in teams. They will provide a richer variety of spaces to support the full range of human activities and needs.”
Employees could be monitored, and not just at work.
“The PwC report also envisions a world in which employers can monitor and screen their employees at a much more advanced level: “Sensors check their location, performance and health,” the report states. “The monitoring may even stretch into their private lives in an extension of today’s drug tests.””
“Automation is changing the nature of our jobs. While many jobs will be eliminated, automation and intelligence will also help us focus our attention on what matters most, create new forms of value, and allow human creativity to flourish.”
More companies could dissolve traditional offices and headquarters.
“Coworking spaces are becoming more and more popular, not just among freelancers and entrepreneurs but also corporations that can use them to relocate employees. Dissolving the traditional office headquarters would enable companies to hire the best candidates all over the world regardless of proximity to a central company hub.”
Driverless cars could make the morning commute faster and easier.
“Both Price and Dr. Canton imagine a world in which driverless vehicles could eliminate mass transit and transportation jobs, but on the positive side, these cars could potentially eliminate daily commuter traffic, not to mention crashes and fender benders.”
Even if their words are different, we see some major things that are supposed to happen:
This leads us to the third outlook on the future: The Future of Jobs by World Economic Forum (see below). Here we see that Creativity is taking a big leap from number 10 to number 3 between 2015 and 2020. Complex Problem Solving is still number one, and might be enhanced by our AI buddies. And given the networked world we seem to be creating, that is where the Emotional Intelligence at place 6 in 2020 might come in: Robots and computers can only do so much the coming years, and we need to build trust to each other even if we don’t meet physically:
If all the above are correct descriptions of what might happen to our work and workplaces, a lot will happen:
I will continue to elaborate on these ideas, and the above is only a start in creating the mental landscape of the future of work. This post by no means covers all the things necessary to take on the future. But is is a start.
Recently, several people have written, and referred to, articles regarding collaboration and its benefits and drawbacks. Some examples are:
Physical and online meetings seem to be the key to making business nowadays. But too many people attend too many meetings, not getting any “real” work done. There is simply no room or time left for private thoughts on how to advance the business. And a few percent of the staff are collaboration heroes, attending nearly all meetings, but burning out. Something must change, but is there a better way?
Maybe Harold Jarche is on to a solution. See for example “In networks, cooperation trumps collaboration“, he combines the Cynefin and TIMN frameworks and applies it to working:
So, while we have evolved from the Chaotic level up to the Complicated level, many have stopped there. In such cases, the companies are still on this level:
“The market form, the third form of organization to take hold, enables people to excel at openly competitive, free, and fair economic exchanges.” (Materials for Two Theories: TIMN and STA-C by David Ronfeldt – thanks Harold Jarche for the link).
The next step, the Complex stage, is here described as: “The network form, the fourth to mature, serves to connect dispersed groups and individuals so that they may coordinate and act conjointly.” By then, we have also moved from Collaboration to Cooperation. Harold Jarche also explains this in one of his models:
This means that we should focus less only on simply working together in structured and goal-oriented scenarios – collaborating. It is based on old ways of working and forming companies. Yes, we need it and can fine-tune it with Collaboration Managers, but it is not the final stop on the bus ride: Probably, we need to learn how to cooperate via informal and opportunity-driven scenarios, and thereby create more humane digital workplaces. Less two-hour meetings with no agenda. More sharing freely in networks, without expecting others to return your favors. As Harold Jarche says, cooperation makes us human.
How do we create this cooperation in our companies? I have no clear answer yet, but I have seen enough meeting fatigue in too many colleagues over the years. The tools and methods we use at work must now reflect the more open and spontaneous mindset of cooperation. I will explore this further in my own work, and look forward to hearing from others.
This is the sixth post on my journey towards working with a humane digital workplace. It started with “Building a humane digital workplace” (listing the 5 Cs) and was followed up with “Connect“, “Communicate“, “Collaborate“ and “Coach“.
The fifth and final C is Create, and the 30.000 feet overview of our intent with Create is that we:
Over the years, all companies change and create new ways of working. The idea here, is to being in charge of these changes, instead of only letting the outside world demand them from you. And these new, creative ways of working don’t always need to be revolutionary. For example, upgrading to a very well functioning intranet can make paper forms and administrative tasks a distant memory. Virtual teams distributed in time and space can work together, complementing traditional structures. And by introducing tools such as Yammer, we can replace some of the dark silos created by e-mail.
As a customer oriented company, we also constantly see if there are new ways to innovate. Also here, it is not always about revolutionizing everything at once. Rather, we constantly make sure our processes, tools, and skills evolve. Here, I also come back to the people that inspire me to do more and better:
Now, the next step is to make sure we truly bridge the 5 Cs with the ideas from the digital workplace domain. The goal remains: Creating a humane digital workplace, based on our values and culture.
This is the fifth post on my journey towards working with a humane digital workplace. It started with “Building a humane digital workplace” (listing the 5 Cs) and was followed up with “Connect“, “Communicate“ and “Collaborate“.
The fourth of the Cs is Coach, and the 30.000 feet overview of our intent with Coach is:
Coaching has become an industry of its own. This is not the focus of this post. Instead, we should explore how we can coach each other on a daily basis in a global company. Most probably, it is a matter of having the right mindset. As an employee and human being, you can always teach someone else something new. But you can always learn something from a fellow human too. So coaching each other should move in both directions: Knowing when to offer it within your expertise area, and knowing when you should be open for receiving coaching.
Much of this will happen via face-to-face discussions and meetings. Here, coaching falls into the informal learning and the 90% that is not formal learning via the 70:20:10 model. For example, see how Michelle Ockers explores 70:20:10. Many companies spend a lot of money in the formal training area, and feeling rather comfortable using these methods. Informal learning, however, is not about diplomas and certificates. It is about finding sound ways to learn and coach each other via our daily work.
There are of course also digital tools that can assist coaching and social learning. For example, I presented more on this at IntraTeam in Copenhagen, via “The 5 Rs of Social Learning applied to an intranet“. It was my first attempt to apply the ideas of Jane Hart on an intranet. Launching an Enterprise Social Network (ESN) can also be promising. It opens up a company globally, and people can easily coach each other in writing, with badges and more.
At Haldex, we have just migrated the content from the old intranet. With the new year comes great opportunities to level up and take the next steps. By applying the ideas of informal learning and Personal Knowledge Mastery, we can support coaching in great ways the coming years. And of course, by applying the ideas of Working Out Loud, it is much easier to coach each other: Be open about what you need, and others can help you.