Getting By In A World Without Bosses

The creative consulting firm PSFK has released a report about the future of work. One article immediately caught my eye: Getting By In A World Without Bosses. The article talks about how organisations are becoming more horizontal, particularly with the advent of the so-called digital generation on the work floor. This is a change that I’m waiting for and that I want to work on to make it happen.

I actually find it surprising how closed Europe seems this idea. Generally, our companies are quite rigidly structured. Even worse, public institutions ranks frequently still operate on the seniority principle. And worst of all, the governments hardly show signs of understanding something is changing. The government of the region of Flanders, for example, likes to portray itself as an innovative region. But their New Industrial Policy is based on new factories, typically vertically structured and imposed by management. They do have something about the workforce, too, but the idea is that education should produce the right profiles. That’s just more factory thinking right there: schools as a factory producing workers. They’re basically pushing all the wrong buttons. How many students that are actively building up their web presence and social network would still be interested in studying techniques for repetition afterwards ?  Or would they look forward to being hired by somebody they never heard of, who then churns out commands with little room for discussion ?

No, it’s clear that employee emancipation is key in the following decades. There will be protests against the idea of having employees involved in decision making, just like there were arguments against the idea of having women participate in voting. But in the end, it looks like an unavoidable trend. It will bring competitive advantage to those companies who implement it first and shame to companies who implement it last. And in the end, people will look back, not understanding how it could ever have been different.

Enablers

A lot is becoming possible that we could not achieve before. Technology advances and allows us to work in ways unheard of before. Typically, the innovations allow decentralisation and democratisation. Where organisations were strictly central during the first and second industrial revolution, authority and power has been moving away from the center afterwards. This category discusses technologies and their impacts:

  • Internet and information technology: computers are profoundly changing how we organise ourselves. The impact is extremely wide. From transparent decision making in Indian villages to telecommuting and cloud computing, we can redefine how we want to work with very little limitations in space and time.
  • Third Industrial Revolution: energy production, distribution, and usage is undergoing an unprecedented change that will impact how your organisation functions. Jeremy Rifkin’s book on this topic is a good overview, but as time passes, the impact will be visible in other places as well.

Social impact

Your organisation isn’t working in a void. Like all other organisations, you determine what our society looks like. Ignoring this fact, we all drive our cars to work and complain about traffic jams. In fact, we create the traffic jam by driving our car to work. You can change society by engaging in it. So shape it like what you want the future to be.

  • Factory model: the way we structure our organisations has a detrimental impact on how our society functions. By looking at the structure of your organisation, you can become more flexible and responsive.
  • Improve conditions everywhere: if you really care about your organisation, you care about the details. Just like your board room is a showcase for visitors, your kitchen is a showcase for your employees. And your social and environmental policies are showcases for the world.

Become known

It’s a hard time to be in marketing. More depends on the right marketing or your organisation than ever before. But the standard tactics don’t work any more: adverts in the traditional media are easily ignored. Something new is required. A small hint: shouting harder isn’t the solution.

  • You become what you are: by giving the example, you can inspire others. By inspiring others, you become very marketable.
  • Approach people: don’t shout at the masses, but be personal. Don’t show off an image of who you’d like to be, show yourself. Don’t just sell something, but involve others and make sure they feel that you care.

Know yourself

Many companies invest time and money in aligning the management goals. This leads to lofty mission statements and great sounding pitches for investors. But frequently, the reality in the workplace is very different. Infighting, micromanagement and bottlenecks can cripple an organisation’s efficiency.

This category of topics will cover, amongst others, the following subjects:

  • Our current working model: whether we want it or not, our roots are in the past. The way we currently work has been largely determined by innovations in the nineteenth century. The world is moving on, but it is rewarding to look at the past to understand the problems of the present.
  • Employee emancipation: it is well established that the employees are the core strength of any organisation. But that does not always reflect in the way employees are treated. The best way to improve your organisation, therefore, is to look at how we to move employees to a higher level.
  • Case studies: when you’re thinking about your organisation and how to improve it, you aren’t alone. We will take a look at a number of initiatives by other organisations and their results.