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Will The Future (Of Work) Hold Humans?

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Will The Future (Of Work) Hold Humans?

Loads of foolishness happens in many industries these days when it comes to discussing the future of work. Everyone can tell in their heart of hearts that the wind of change is blowing strong as carrying on like it’s 1996 is simply not sustainable when it comes to creating what is expected as outcomes by consumers if not stakeholders.

That doesn’t mean everyone is ready or willing to embrace the change. For evident reasons I write and speak about a lot, accepting change is necessary and executing is rarely joyous and straightforward and it puts people on the defensive so deep it’s paralysing. This is of course not something that can be fixed overnight and the process of acceptance and then true alignment will take as long as it takes for those on the back foot to be convinced they can lower their heel and step on safe, solid ground.

In other words, businesses everywhere will have to make their dedication to the new ways of work crystal clear and demonstrate over and again that they sincerely mean it before employees will be willing to really change ways which they have been familiar with for tens of years.

Starting with managers and leaders who have to leave all they learned in business school at the door and manage without the clarity of “command and control”, to project managers and knowledge workers who now have to think and feel Agile and lean and to generally anyone who now has to leave their knowledge, their skills and even their sitting comfort zone for the pop-up/cross-functional/swat teams, everyone has to accept that from hereon the game is new.

Here are some of the things we were all rewarded for traditionally:

Knowledge and expertise — hard skills over having empathy, purpose and a growth mindset — the skills which machines are starting to become infinitely better than humans at;

Being a “decisive” leader — controlling and commanding in lieu of being a servant leader and collaborating;

Sequential thinking — slow analysis versus speed and MVPing;

Getting approval — obtaining internal sign-off as a final act in a project versus depending on customer feedback;

Obeying — execution over curiosity, dialogue, creativity, learning and failing;

Individualism — “Keeping one’s job” and “looking good” over building things like a real team;

Always doing things perfectly — performance appraisals penalising failure and mistakes in lieu of encouraging them;

Being “professional” — projecting a persona versus bringing your entire self to work;

Being “dependable” — perceived stability and predictability over flexibility;

Being “agreeable” -aka “a team player” — mindlessness nodding to support management directives in lieu of having the courage to open dialogue and foster creative conflict;

Showing up — presence in lieu of passionate, purposeful engagement.

Not one of those useful in the new ways of work.

Not. One.

What’s urgently needed is a whole new perspective. A new way of thinking on what it is that is required -and ultimately rewarded- human qualities previously never before found in a work environment: passion, curiosity, flexibility, empathy, ability to learn rapidly, a fetish for continuous learning, taking genuine pleasure in helping others, openness, willingness to fail, look bad or appear “weak” to name but a few. It’s a monumental task. If we all stopped what we’re doing today and focused on nothing but this fundamental new perspective and it would still be quite the task. No one says it’s easy, just that it’s necessary and urgent.

So it any wonder there is so much extreme resistance? That so many execs ask, in a bid to temporise it and delay the inevitable “yeah but do these new methods really work?” Do you know what may not “work”? Spells. Prayers. Not ways of work! It’s not about magic potions but the fact that technology has run so far ahead it left anyone who doesn’t understand how to employ it fast in the direct service of the consumer who now demands excellence well behind and that gap is widening with every mindless 2 hours requirements design meeting, with every unexamined initiative, with every strategy exercise that rests on the same pillars of management not leadership, with every day we carry on like this is ignorable and it may just all go away.

If you read me often and you find you skimmed or scrolled or sighed and had an “ah this again” sigh and mini eye-roll at this today, please don’t. I’m willing to be the designated clown that repeats this ad nausea because we can’t get tired of hearing it before everyone who can, comes along. So yes, it’s old news to you, but look around you. Is your organisation fully lean? Are people doing #Agile from the heart and mind? Is everyone using critical thinking and staying open and flexible? Are you winning? Unless you answer a resounding “yes” to those and the rest of uncomfortable ones then we have work to do. You and me. And everyone else too because none of this really goes without saying and the future of work is not guaranteed to include humans unless we sort this part.

Related: Everybody Is A Technologist

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