Posts

The Way We Were: Why the Future of Work Will Be So Different

Future Exit Sign 000018627375XSmallWe have just celebrated Memorial Day weekend in the United States. It has been an opportunity to reflect on our good fortune as a country, but more importantly to give thanks for the millions of servicemen and servicewomen who sacrificed their lives to protect us in way too many wars.

But this time of pausing and reflecting also got me thinking about how the working environments where most of us spend most of our waking hours have changed over the past twenty years – and will change even more going forward.

Those of us of a certain age can remember when our families sat down in front of the big box in our living rooms that brought us the 6 o’clock evening news. We shared that experience with our neighbors near and far; most of the country absorbed that information at the same time, and from one or the other of the three major networks that brought us all the television news and entertainment.

And most of us had one telephone somewhere in the front hall or living room; but we only used it for short, functional conversations with our neighbors and nearby relatives (calls were billed by the minute, after all). Once a year we might call a distant grandparent for a short “Happy Birthday” or “Happy Holidays” message; long distance calls were prohibitively expensive and the sound was often tinny and full of static.

In short, we didn’t have much choice in how we got our information or stayed in touch with out-of-town family and friends. Our world was relatively limited.

And the way we worked was very similar. Read more

Reaching Your Destination When You Think You Can’t Get There From Here

This past Saturday my local chapter of the National Speakers Association (Northern California) was graced with the presence and wisdom of two incredible women – Karen Jacobsen and Jessica Pettitt. Their presentations, while very different, both offered powerful life lessons that struck close to home for me.

IMG_3075

My first selfie ( Karen’s on the right)

Today I will focus on Karen Jacobsen’s message; next week I’ll share some equally important insights from Jessica Pettitt.

Karen is an amazingly talented singer, performer, and keynote speaker. Her claim to fame is that the she is the iPhone’s Siri in Australia; her voice is on more than 100 million smartphones and over 300 million GPS units worldwide.

She calls herself “The GPS Girl,” but Karen’s deep passion is helping people “recalculate” their lives and their personal journeys – a far higher calling than helping you find directions for getting to that quaint little Italian restaurant across town. Read more

Designing Your Organization’s Future

It starts with a conversation.

Last Saturday’s cartoon pages here in the United States contained a hidden gem of wisdom. In a simple three-panel cartoon (“Zits” by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman) two teen-aged boys confronted a pithy reality about humanity’s journey through time:

Zits April 18, 2015

Copyright Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman

Jeremy: “Do you think about your future, Pierce?”

Pierce: “I try…but technically every second my future becomes my past.”

Jeremy: “So it’s almost like you have no future.”

Pierce: “That’s what the guidance counselor keeps saying.”

(to see the entire original, go to http://zitscomics.com/comics/april-18-2015/)

As the television sports announcer Jim McKay once said of a star athlete, “His whole future lies ahead of him.” And of course, that’s true for all of us; one of our strongest, and most common, yearnings is to know what lies ahead. What’s around the corner? What’s over the horizon?

Those are interesting questions for us as individuals, but they are essential for organizations. Read more

Driving Strategic Conversations

Eisenhower on planning

(photo: FEMA Mgt. Institute)

“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.”
(Dwight Eisenhower)

All too often as executive teams attempt to develop visions of the future and define strategic plans for growth and profitability, they descend into arguments focused on differing predictions about the economy, or technology, or the workforce.

Or they become distracted by “bright shiny objects” like powerful new technologies (driverless cars, voice recognition, holographic distributed meetings – you know what I mean) that may be fascinating but usually have little to do with their own business.

Like so many other areas of organizational leadership, developing new kinds of conversations and new forms of inquiry about the future are critical components of organizational leadership.

Historically, strategic planning was all about focusing an organization’s attention on a particular marketplace and ensuring that it had the operational capabilities to compete effectively in that market segment. And today most strategic plans continue to make explicit assumptions about future trends, estimated probabilities, and include educated guesses about what’s going to happen.

However, in today’s highly volatile and unpredictable world, assuming any kind of predictability in the marketplace can be fatal. Traditional strategic planning is worse than useless when dealing with the uncertainties of today’s economy. Indeed, I believe that traditional thinking about the future, as if it were actually singular, and knowable, is downright dangerous. Read more

Leading the Living

I’ve been stewing for many years about my personal experiences with Industrial-Age bureaucracies and the way they constrict, and even destroy, human creativity and innovation.

And I know it’s not just me. I’m convinced that the dismal levels of employee engagement (in American organizations at least) that have been reported recently by Gallup (see State of the American Workplace) and widely discussed (“The Costs of Ignoring Employee Engagement,” “Why You Hate Work”) are symptoms of a fundamental misfit between people, work, and current organizational practices.

The latest, and very articulate, commentary on this Very Important Topic appeared last Friday, May 30, in the New York Times (“Why You Hate Work”). If you haven’t seen that article yet, I urge you to go read it and then come back here.

Read more

Listen to Your Mother

Mother Nature, that is.

No, this is not a rant about climate change (although I hope you know how important that is).

Rather, I think it is imperative for us to learn from living systems as we design organizations and determine how to manage them.

I spent most of this past holiday weekend outdoors (it was Memorial Day here in the United States, a time when we honor our military veterans, remember their sacrifices, and give thanks for their service).

We enjoyed wonderful weather, and the inherent beauty of the mountains, streams, forests, and fresh air reminded me of how much we can learn from thinking about the world we are so fortunate to inhabit.

Read more

Rehearsing Tomorrow – It’s No Joke

I’m sure you are on the lookout for silly emails and headlines every April 1 – I am reasonably certain that April Fool’s Day is celebrated almost everywhere around the world.

But my message today is deadly serious. The future is going to happen, whether you are ready for it or not.  The only question about the future you have to face (and we all face it every day) is whether you are ready for it.

And that is an important question whether you are focused on mundane things like what appointments are on your calendar tomorrow, or major life-changing experiences like an interview for a new job or whether to invest millions of dollars in a new product.

As we in the United States await next Monday’s NCAA Championship Basketball Game and the end (finally!) of our annual March Madness, it’s worth thinking about what we can learn from sports teams about how to get ready for the future. Read more

What Will the Future of Work Look Like?

As a self-proclaimed workplace futurist I get asked all the time “What will the future of work really look like?” And it’s an appropriate question to contemplate at the end of the year, which is always filled with both looking back and looking forward.

But rather than pretend that I can tell you anything definitive about the future of work, instead I  want to offer some observations about why predictions of any kind are difficult, and could even be dangerous.

Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.

At home my wife and I have a “simplistic” refrigerator magnet that keeps us on our toes:

Think about it; each of us creates the future one moment at a time, one day at a time, every day.

The future unfolds as a global group exercise in decision-making, learning, and responding to other people and external events. Each day and every event comes into being as a complex combination of natural occurrences, millions of
individual choices, and secondary responses to
what has just happened.

Of course there are many recurring patterns and experiences that we can anticipate reasonably well even 10 or 20 years in advance. The American humorist Mark Twain reportedly once said “History may not repeat itself, but it rhymes.” Read more

The Future of the Workplace

IFMA Spain held a Facilities/Workplace Summit in Madrid on the 3rd of October. The principal organizer of the conferece, Francisco Vazquez Medem, asked me to submit some advance commentary on the future of the workplace (I could not attend in person, as I was participating actively in World Workplace 2013 in Philadelphia).

I sent Francisco and the Madrid attendees this brief video comment, now available on YouTube:

I would love to hear your reactions and further comments. [continue reading...]

A New Look at Adult Learning

“The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” — Alvin Toffler

Reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic aren’t enough anymore. It’s certainly important to be able to read and write – that’s long been a foundation requirement for participation in society. However, the basic ability to read and write isn’t even table stakes for  success in our economy and society any more.

As Alvin Toffler has made clear, what really matters today for anyone who wants to succeed is agility – the ability to change, adapt, learn, unlearn, and relearn.

We talk all the time about how dynamic the world is in the 21st century, and almost every day we come across new technologies, new products, and new “rules” for getting ahead. But I have not seen or heard any serious discussion at all about what we as adults have to do to take full advantage of all those new technologies and new concepts for succeeding (not to ignore the need to completely rethink how we prepare our children for the same thing; that equally important issue will have to wait for another time).

Read more