Posts Tagged future of work

Winning The Future: A #Badgeless SxSW 2016 Recap

Winning the Future
While I have often gone to Austin for SxSW over the past 9 years to speak about the future with thought leaders from around the world, speaking on the future was literally my purpose this year. While I was #Badgeless again, I was also speaking at two different unofficial events, the W2O Pre-Commerce Summit and Talentnet. While I was ‘working’ constantly from when I arrived on Wednesday through Friday evening, I was still able to get a great sense of the festival itself, how it’s changed and what it’s future looks like — more on that later, or skip down if you are looking for my perspective on SxSW itself.

The Future of… 

I’m finally getting comfortable with being called a futurist instead of giggling at the titular comedy of the role. I’ve definitely put my 10,000+ hours into inventing the future over the course of my life, maybe even 100,000+ hours. Even back in High School I tried to get my manager at Wendy’s to add onion rings to the menu after I cooked some up using ingredients we had on hand.

I could have simply focused on writing and speaking about the future, but I have just as often taken a run at manifesting my visions as a serial entrepreneur and now a social entrepreneur. While I have been early to market often, every single concept has later proven itself valid – from local content networks, to conversational intelligence, to human powered search, to customer experience design, to content marketing, to information appliances, to reinventing comments and more recently to reimagining work.

At the W2O Group’s Pre Commerce Summit, I participated in a panel, literally titled “The future of…”  My role was to focus on organizations and society, which is what I’ve been researching for the last several years. While a few of my comments were apparently controversial, such as my prediction that 50MM jobs will be gone forever within 5 years due to automation, AI and robotics, many were inspiring. When asked what I suggested the audience due to prepare for the future, I took the conversation into a very human direction – to love, self love specifically. You really need to listen/watch…

Facilitated by Mike Edelhart, I was joined by Julie Borlaug of the Borlaug Institute and Kush Parikh, CEO of PayByPhone. I was really blown away by all the great work Julie is doing to end hunger around the world, and more impressed by her practical yet forward thinking approach to this important work. If we were to see more people like her working towards social good, I think most of our problems would be solved by now.

You can view video of the panel here at the 1 hr 28 minute 30 second mark. From the feedback it was one of the better panels of the day.

A full recap of the pre-commerce Summit was posted by my good friend Lionel Menchaca.

#Reorg Everything: My Talentnet Keynote

Reorg EverythingWhat is the Adaptive Economy? Why do we need to #Reorg? What should be our focus? Here’s the premise…

The pace of change isn’t just fast, it’s accelerating. So many things are changing that we can no longer look at a single facet as we did at the dawn of digital and then networked computing. It’s not just the gig economy, the collaborative economy, the on demand economy or the green economy in isolation, it’s all of that and more, requiring a more holistic approach. As Darwin taught us long ago, in this fast changing world, it’s the quickest to adapt that survives.

Fundamentally we must first accept that the market is no longer a battlefield. It’s an ecosystem. Leading and winning in an economy that is oriented around creating the greatest amount of shared value is very different from one in which you are seeking to capture the most amount of profit for the organization and its shareholders. This is why I propose we need to #Reorg everything and serve the market.

How do we do it? By adopting new mindsets, methods and measures, most especially in my view of embracing some form of self management. This requires you to focus on creating alignment across the ecosystem, developing greater agility and creating a culture of accountability. We must also become more proactive and predictive.

The enemy we face today in organization’s, besides fear of change itself, is three fold – budgets, bonuses and bozos. In the real time transparent world in which we live, we need to go beyond the sort of budgeting which requires us to accurately predict future market dynamics.Being more agile enables you to adapt to the market’s needs more easily. With a culture of accountability, you will increase trust such that you will also empower more people to make spending decisions across the organization. This has been proven out and more thoroughly developed through Morningstar and several other participants of the Beyond Budgeting Round Table.

For those with the courage to move towards more of an ecosystem based strategy and operating model, there is a massive opportunity to lead the market and seize the lion’s share of the profits to be had. The more trusted a company becomes, the lower the cost of sales, the higher the likelihood of becoming the employer of choice and the higher the switching costs for partners and customers alike.

So much more to come on this in the weeks/months ahead. I’ve been running towards this future through my software company and it’s latest product Will Someone, a community collaboration tool. I’m furthering that development while going more public with the insights I’ve developed to help build a better future for all, by design.

You can hear more about the Adaptive Economy in this audio + slide deck from my keynote presentation, #Reorg Everything. I presented this for the first time on Friday March 11, 2016 in Austin TX as the keynote for the Talentnet conference in the offices of HomeAway.

We are building on this even further now, taking the work that went into this keynote and starting to write a book on the Adaptive Economy. If you are interested in contributing, have questions or want to talk about it more, please let me know in the comments.

Unofficial SxSW: #Badgeless #FTW

Wherever you went, Obama and Trump were the topics of the day.  Which I’ve been trying to avoid recently. From talking to Lord Chadlington at the W2O Pre Commerce Summit, I discovered that most voters seem to break for the winning candidate in the final 48 hours. So I realized I want to invest my time this election cycle in getting out the vote. All of this talk between here and now is important, but to make the maximum impact, I am changing my focus and I hope you join me.

There were many conversations like this that mattered deeply. Talking with Kyle Ellicot about Wearable IoT World and their new efforts in Asia while hanging out at one of the best venues of SxSW hosted by Heather Meeker Haas and her team at Zendesk; hearing more about the plans for Techfugees from Mike Butcher; getting judged as unworthy for my super casual weekend in Austin style (t-shirt/shorts) twice; hearing more about Anne Greenberg’s ideas in VR; learning about some of the Digital Transformation work my former Deloitte Digital colleagues are doing; pitching a new idea to solve some big problems; and so many more amazing people and projects that can’t all be reflected here.

The big story out of SxSW as you have heard elsewhere is VR everywhere. From Robert Scoble announcing he’s leaving Rackspace to be an EIR at Upload VR to VR experiences seemingly in every major brand activation. One of my favorite unofficial events of this year was the New York Times VR Event programming, where I was able to pick up their Google Cardboard viewers and finally experience journalism in VR. It was truly life changing. In watching their story on the refugee crisis, and standing in the middle of a UN food drop, I felt the future. The amount of empathy you can create by immersing someone virtually into someone else’s shoes is massive.

In fact, when I returned home, I shared that refugee food drop with my Mother in law who was visiting, who was equally blown away. Trouble being, she isn[t going to put the cardboard together and get in a swivel chair to make the most of the 360 degrees, so it’s still a bit too much friction for current fidelity. When Kristie tried it out, she got nauseous…

As I explained often at SxSW, despite these current challenges, I see a huge future for Augmented Reality, beyond the entertainment and experiential potential of Virtual Reality. To get all buzzy, I believe there is a huge opportunity in crafting contextualized collaboration in Augmented Reality with cognitive assistance. Or in other words, Immersive Collaboration. What does it mean? That’s a vision of the future for another day…

SxSW: The Festival & It’s Future

Obviously, having the Obama’s speak at SxSW this year was a big win for the organizers. Even still, people were talking about whether it jumped the shark or not. I think it’s constantly changing and as long as it attracts great people, which it will continue to do for the foreseeable future, it will continue to thrive.

Just prior to SxSW 2016 I spoke about this to a report reporter for this article for AdWeek. While she reflected my quote accurately, it was missing some context. I had also told her that like any event or place or time, your experience is dependent on what you make of it, who you spend time with and what you choose to focus on. What makes it worth while for me is that hundreds of friends and other visionary leaders from around the world fly into Austin for the conference or to be there #Badgeless like me. Unfortunately, until the SxSW leadership makes the conference content more accessible, I am choosing to go #Badgeless and enjoy the city of Austin fully.

What could SxSW do to earn my conference registration fee? Maybe they’d get it with reserved session seating (IMax does it here in SF and most/all theaters in London do it). Maybe they could just sell less tickets and/or shrink the diameter of the geography upon which their venues are spread. I go for the diversity of topics being covered (and the music, the BBQ and again, the people!).

This year I noticed that many of the parties and other events were not as crowded and the lines weren’t as long. I have to attribute this to a density of brand activations, both official and unofficial. There was just so much going on at every time slot you couldn’t possibly get to all of it. I tried a couple of times and was generally unsuccessful each time I tried.

This is where Scott Beale’s early advice to me about getting the most from SxSW still rings true. “Wherever you are be there. Make the most of it. You could be anywhere else, but you are where you are until you are ready to go somewhere else.”

There was also a noticeable changing of the guard, with a whole new generation of SxSW participants on the scene and many of my peers now staying home – some with ‘real jobs’ and some with new babies. I made a few new friends, and deepened some existing relationships. More importantly, I was able to get some validation on my work and now have a few new projects and prospects moving forward.

Conclusion

It seems one of the most surprising things people found with my vision of the future is how human centric it is. Many were taken aback when the key advice I gave to the W2O Group event was to practice more self love, to not tolerate bozos and to fully embrace diversity.  As I discussed the coming destruction of millions of jobs, people were really taken aback when I suggested that the job of the future might just be that of “Citizen”.

It’s clear from the state of the Presidential race here in the U.S. that we are at a major inflection point in history, with the soul of our country and indeed of the world on the whole at stake. It’s one of the reasons I was personally getting so agitated on Facebook and becoming such an ardent supporter of Bernie Sanders, but even he doesn’t fully grasp how we can support the rise of conscious capitalism and move us to a more prosperous future for all people.

I should point out here that I don’t have all the answers either, I do know we have the means if we have the will. I do know that we can let go of what has been to embrace what can be. I am also an ardent believer in finding that whatever we dream we can achieve, so therefore asking the question is it realistic will always result in the answer yes, in time.

Many thought I was pessimistic and peddling doom and gloom when I talked about the fundamental changing nature of work and looming job destruction. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. I am at my heart and in practice an optimist. I believe our future is quite bright, but I also am able to see the curve in the road ahead and want to make sure we prepare for it. Because of the Internet it is a distinct possibility that we will solve many of our collective social challenges.  But also because of the internet, we face some stiff competition. Particularly from entrenched interests and the powerful few who manipulate the system for personal benefit unfettered by a broader concern for their fellow man.

I know deep down in my soul that change happens in an instant despite the glacial pace at which we observe it. Humans can literally do anything we want to do, so why not make the world work as it could for the benefit of all instead of just a few? I know that I am best off when others around me are better off. I know that working together we can make a #BetterWorld intentionally, by design.

The first challenge is one of belief. The second is one of communicating the vision. The third is activating enough people to support new behaviors and beliefs. This is what I have been working on for all my life, but particularly over the last 3 years, first with Alynd and more recently with Will Someone. This is why we are beginning to build out the Rysing Tyde as a community organization to lift all people to their greatest potential in this Adaptive Economy, in this world where work is based on gigs instead of traditional employment.

Winning the future isn’t going to be easy, but as a species, humanity can not only survive, it can truly thrive if we only find our way past our conditioning and socialization to see what can be instead of staying focused on what is. The road ahead is going to be bumpy for most of us, but for those with the courage to make the big shift today, there is a tremendous opportunity at hand.

Chris Heuer is a futurist, a serial entrepreneur and a community organizer. He consults with startups and large organizations that want to behave like startups on strategy, marketing and product development. If you’d like Chris to help your organization navigate its journey into the future, contact him today.

, , , , , , ,

No Comments

The Near and Distant Future of IBM Connect 2016

Opportunity from OGS
Over the past few weeks I’ve been reflecting on my experience from IBM Connect 2016, working to synthesize what I saw, what I think about what IBM presented and how I believe it impacts our future. The conference on the whole was well done, with some changes from years past, a new venue, a new format for some of the sessions and of course some new themes for this new era. While the origins of Connect were based in the ideology of Social Business and attached to the annual Lotusphere conference (i.e. collaboration centric), this theme today is part of a broader one around digital transformation, with more of an emphasis on how technology is enabling businesses to do things differently. In some ways new and in some ways more efficiently and in some ways just better.

My original definition of Social Business was bringing a holistic approach to unifying our thinking about internal and external operations, thinking about the interplay between collaboration and marketing. To this extent there was an emphasis on creating and enabling ‘moments’ – something we have been working on for a while in the Customer Experience Design world and which my friend Brian Solis wrote about deeply in his exceptional new book, X. While I saw these sessions listed in the program, I unfortunately did not make it to any of them so I can’t comment much on that here.  For a bit of fun I did go to a session offered by the IBM Design team which was a workshop on design thinking. Even that session was focused on employees rather than customers. They also had a great design and innovation lab setup where I got to speak directly to the product managers and designers behind the new products being showcased this year and yet to be announces products that may come in the future.

For those of you who know me and my work, you may recall my post on Social Business is Dead, or perhaps the one from my last Connect conference two years ago, Social Business isn’t Dead, It’s just _______ (hint, it’s largely Marketing though the concept is much deeper and more meaningful for those in the know). Regardless of the label or the meme you place on this era, the bottom line is that the pace of change in the market and the world is not only fast, it’s accelerating. As Darwin long ago said, it’s not just survival of the fittest, but about who is the quickest to adapt to a changing environment. This is the truth facing our world, our market and your company’s competitive position in it. Unfortunately, most larger organizations are not endowed with the sort of agility they need to thrive or perhaps even survive under these market conditions. But all hope is not lost here, in fact, it is in my view an even greater opportunity today then at the birth of the internet era for forward thinking organizations with courageous leadership to become market leaders.

IMG_9476

This tone was set early in the opening general session with Jason Silva touting the wonders of science and the potential we have to solve some of the most perplexing problems the world faces today. It was rounded out perfectly in the closing session with Erik Wahl igniting the crowd’s sense of possibility and the inherent power they each have to create, to be beautiful, to be courageous and to make a difference. I’m not using this hyerpbole lightly here. It was truly a great kickoff and close to wrap up a very solid conference. One I hope that IBM continues to host separately from its other conferences and expands upon in new ways.

While some may feel righteous in criticizing the conference for not showing enough of a vision of the future, it is important to remember that this is first and foremost a sales and educational conference, not a peek into a far flung future where every organization is self managing, relying heavily on independent contractors and surrounded with augmented reality. The main focus of IBM Connect this year was backing up Ginny Rometty’s push forward into Cognitive Computing and demonstrating what that concept means in more tangible terms. In this regards, as someone who helped lead strategy on the global deployment of a large Enterprise Social Network, I was very encouraged by what I saw from their Project Toscana.

IBMConnect-Toscana

I wouldn’t quite call Project Toscana a dashboard view of your work, but that is the closest metaphor we have today. In my view it is more of a smart command center that integrates all forms of communications, updates and insights into a more efficiently actionable context. While we were only shown early demos and I didn’t see actual product, I’ve been told by my close friends at IBM that they are indeed using early alpha versions of these products and even have mobile versions in their hands. From what I understand about software development from my own entrepreneurial life, nothing in what they have provided is beyond the realm of possibility so I trust this will be more widely deployed and available in the not too distant future.

What is exponentially more valuable about their approach to collaboration is the deep empathy of the design thinking that is at the core of the new offering. What do I mean by this? Well, not only is the information displayed in contextual clusters of relevant information and urgency of actions required, but Watson is parsing through the information deluge to simplify what I think of as administrative/computing minutiae in dozens of ways which cumulatively add up multiple work weeks of regained productivity for every employee. This is in many ways closely associated with some of the things I have been working on with my Alynd software, though I didn’t quite see what I have been trying to build yet, so I am still optimistic about my chances, though they are getting closer.

How does it enable people to regain so much ‘wasted’ time? How often do you receive a request for the latest version of some document and not quite recall where it is stored? Not only does the software recognize it as a document request, now, using Watson, Project Toscana auto suggests several documents you may wish to include in your reply. This alone would save me, as someone who is not the most organized with my numerous digital files across multiple projects, at least a couple hours per week. Another example is auto suggest replies and auto suggest actions, like approving a request for time off, or for a budget increase.  IBM calls this cognitive collaboration where my friend and colleague Alan Lepofsky refers to this as assisted collaboration (read his excellent recap post on Connect here). Whatever you call it, it is IMHO, finally delivering on the original promises of IT to deliver exponential productivity gains. More importantly, it enables your smartest employees to focus on contributing their real value to the company and not spending their time searching around their computers or reading through poorly worded overly long emails.

Perhaps even one day it will take a long post like this one I just wrote and boil it down to a more concise version enabling you to get a personalized version that emphasize the things you are most interested in learning instead of having to read it all the way through!

While IBM Connect did a great job of demonstrating the art of the possible over the next year, I would love it if IBM would invest in painting a picture of a more mid term future, of what collaboration and marketing will look like in 5-10 years with new organizational structures and the extensions of current trends. If you could see what I’ve been shown, you would be seriously impressed with the great work going on in their research labs being developed by great engineers that never get the benefit of a business focused narrative beyond explaining their functions and features. To this extent I want to propose to my friends at IBM that we invest in producing a video series on the future of work more in the spirit of Corning’s A Day Made of Glass videos. I know the futurists who really have a vision for a #NewWayToWork who would make the perfect team to produce it…

After returning home I joined fellow IBM Futurists Brian Moran and Dion Hinchcliffe for a recap show on Blab which I’ve been slowly working to edit down into component pieces. It’s truly a terrific conversation covering the conference itself, cognitive collaboration, privacy and so much more. If you have any questions about what I saw at the conference, or would like to share your thoughts, please do so in the comments below.

I’ve really been searching for some criticism or constructive feedback to provide, but I have to stretch. I’m not an unadulterated fan boy by any means, but I sincerely believe their long term approach to restructuring their products and their teams, especially now with the placement of Inhi Cho Shu as General Manager of Collaboration Solutions, looks like it is starting to pay off. Of course this hasn’t shown itself well in the financials yet, and I am not a market analyst per se, but I believe it will. They are hiring the right people (like friends Neville Hobson, Julio Fernandez, Alex de Carvalho, Andy Jankowski and others), bringing the right approach with their all star Design team and listening to the market (and people like me). That said, it is still hard to navigate the company to get things done and they still haven’t shaken off the perception of pitching vaporware and lacking details on product announcements, but they are making progress.

My bottom line is that I have found IBM to be full of smart people who care passionately about what they do and are striving to do the right things despite having the weight of a large company structure and an organizational culture that inhibits expedient progress in an increasingly fast moving market. For now, I’m happy to continue my relationship with them and hold onto the hope that my insights will positively influence their direction and the better outcomes we need in the market to advance society towards the #betterworld I have long envisioned.

Want to talk more? Come talk to me next week in Las Vegas while I am there for IBM Interconnect.

Disclosure: I am an IBM Futurist. One of the few who are participants in both their #NewWayToWork and #NewWayToEngage programs. They don’t pay me for this, but they do pay for my travel, take me out to nice dinners and feature me as an expert/futurist in their online media in exchange for my honest unfettered opinions and insights. They did pay to sponsor my Customer Experience podcast series, CXDNow. I also formerly represented Deloitte Consulting on the IBM Social Business Council. This has provided me a level of access to what they are dong today and what they are developing in their research labs.

, , , , , , ,

No Comments

It’s Time for a Forward Thinking Conversation. It’s time for a #ReOrg

Time for a new conversation. Time for a #ReOrgWe live in an amazing time. A time where we are able to not only stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before us, but also where we can be lifted by our peers and give them a boost too.

When we started to broaden the conversation around social media back in 2006, we engaged in a dialog around the principles and practices which we hoped a more social future might bring us over many months. We debated what the proper language should be. We stood our ground. We compromised. We read the writing on the wall and acquiesced when it was clear that something other then our position was winning the day.

The majority of the people who participated in the early social revolution joined not for their egos or their popularity, they joined to make a difference out of a deep seated set of beliefs. They engaged with each other because they believed the power to create change was in our hands. That the difference making we needed in the world was within each of us, and that it was our responsibility to do something with it. We did unconferences, BarCamps, Social Media Camps and Social Media Breakfasts. We joined clubs, we recast societal beliefs about what was possible and we shared too much information about ourselves!

We learned the power of the tools to organize ourselves in support of our causes by building relationships and sharing. We learned that it wasn’t about the number of people who showed up, we learned it was about who showed up and the fact that we cared about similar things, we cared about making the future better, we cared about fixing what was broken with marketing and we cared about advancing similar values. We learned that our words mattered, and that those words transformed by a # could become something, a hashtag, that enabled us to connect with our tribes and our interests.

As I look back now, we had so much right in those early days. It really was about the distribution of power. Which is why I am disappointed that our original intention of fixing our broken systems and transforming the world through social technology has only sprouted as a small seedling of true change inside organizations instead of becoming a fast growing oak. Though surprising, it makes sense that many of the early social media evangelists have moved to other fields and areas of focus, some completely eschewing any professional relationship to social media.  I am certainly not alone in abandoning a previously deep association with social media in search of a new fire to light the revolution. That list is too long to mention, though perhaps you might want to chime in here yourself in the comments to share why you have or haven’t.

What I can tell you from our more recent history is that many of us who saw social as a catalyst for a fundamental transformation to the market and the pillars of society moved into social business. Many are still fighting that fight today, and despite my belief that Social Business is Dead, I applaud these modern Don Quixote’s for continuing the fight, for not giving up and for continuing to create positive change every day. They are indeed the true believers, and while some of them may be unhappy with me for dampening the embers of the smoldering fire instead of pouring on more fuel, I am grateful for their persistence and their valor.

As I said then and as I believe more than ever today, the principles aren’t wrong or misdirected. However, in the war of words that is central to the battle for the soul of our organizations, fighting under the banner of social business is a losing proposition – the modern equivalent to knowledge management. It’s just not winning the hearts, minds and slices of the budgetary pie necessary for our shared vision to become reality as quickly as we need the change to be the reality.

Unfortunately I have come to feel the same way about the “Future of Work” discussion and movement, despite the fact that it is the direction where my social business cohorts have headed. It’s hard to talk about the future of something when you haven’t created a shared vision upon the present that is emerging and what distinctions must be embraced and elevated.

What can we do about it?

So when I look back on how we won the broader debate that launched the social media movement and the wider industry at large, I am now asking you to join me once again in a collective effort for mutual benefit. I am asking for you to take what we have learned, to cash in our social capital and to invest our reputations, our hearts, and our minds into a conversation about what is next. A conversation about what needs to change, about what matters most, about what we want it to be and about how we describe it to others. A conversation about where we are at and where we are going. Perhaps more importantly, I ask you to join me in a conversation about how we prove the value in a measurable and tangible way beyond the ‘duh’ that supported the social media sales pitch.

It’s time for us all to come together and invest ourselves into reimagining and reorganizing our resources and structural models for managing organizations and creating value. It’s time for us to work together to orchestrate a resurgence of visionary innovation that inspires both change agents and this great millennial generation into standing up and speaking out for a better way. To stand against the folly and ignorance inherent in many organizational hierarchies. To join a conversation that will illuminate the dark corners of our work worlds into which our leaders do not currently see, a conversation that will highlight what works and what doesn’t. To stand with the courage of your beliefs again and speak truth to power.

Our institutions are failing us. Education is too expensive, making access to knowledge harder and turning wisdom into a scare resource. Government is  stagnant and putrid, using fear to destroy the common interests that bind us and dividing us in a way that surely signals a Jeffersonian ‘fall’. Our corporations appeal less and less to just about everyone – including their customers, their employees and even their leaders. Many who have achieved some station in life are resting in that space and opting out of the fight, tired of the perennial struggle between doing what’s right and what’s politically expedient. While a wider swath of humanity is self actualizing and realizing their ability to live a life on purpose and not accepting less than what they truly deserve, the system is still working against them on many levels.

Why? Now that’s a better question – because we know better, but too many of us accept it as “just the way things are”. I don’t think we can afford that way of thinking any longer. I’ve spent my life tilting at the windmills, as I know many of you have. If we can’t knock down the broken windmill with our lances of inspiration, I say it’s time for us to build our trojan horse. It’s time for us to come together once again and develop a collective vision for our future and a common language that will define and support that vision. It’s time for a bigger conversation.

There is room for each of us to have a unique take and a unique contribution for which we deserve to earn respect, recognition and incomes. But without working together towards our common vision and connecting the dots in a way that simplifies the inherent complexity of our shared vision for organizational leaders, the institutions themselves may just fail completely before we ever get a chance to save it.

While failure is often a prerequisite of exponential breakthroughs, we need not accept this as a fait accompli. We already recognize many of the challenges and the looming failures, so why not begin to work towards saving us all from the unnecessary pains and waste seems to be an inevitability. We already have a vision of the future of work. We have a vision for what a social business looks like. We have an understanding of how we need to reimagine our organizations to create shared value. We know what is necessary to unleash the fullest potential of the human spirit. So let’s set about doing that now, and doing that together in conversation that advances our field and inspires others to think differently and act differently.

So what are the words that will serve as our campfire around which we will gather for camaraderie and warmth? What is the language of the movement that encapsulates the multiple distinctions and insights that collectively are driving us towards a future free of today’s most commonly accepted defects? I don’t think it’s social business, I don’t think its future of work. I’m open to other suggestions, but for now I’d like to start this conversation focused on what I have consistently heard as the most fundamental change we must realize – a change in organizational structure and governance. A re-imagination of what an organization looks like and a rethinking of what we mean by work.

While we may not yet have adequate language for what we envision, I submit for your consideration that we are talking about a widespread #ReOrg. The reorganization of our mindsets, methods and measures about the organization, about our relationships to them as humans and about the fundamental practice of management as the underlying operating system that governs its behaviors. It’s time to create a more holistic view of how we create value, and especially with a focus on how we can optimize our ability to create shared value that benefits society as a whole instead of just those who have won the war for control.

Yes, it’s time for a #ReOrg. Are you ready? Let’s talk about it.

Join the conversation and add your voice. But don’t just add your voice, engage with others. For every post or insight shared, comment on or engage several others around their point of view. Keep your minds and hearts open. There is no single answer, but I do believe that we have collectively learned enough about what works and what doesn’t for us to discover the shared vision we have that is underlying our individual efforts. So let’s bring that into the light of day and collectively nurture our #ReOrg.

, , , ,

2 Comments

Building Our Future: A Blueprint for Leading in a Connected Society

Note: This post outlines our plan for a video project / documentary we are producing while in Austin next week.

Building Our Future: A Blueprint for Leading in a Connected SoceityMany of you, like myself, have spent the past several years, or decades perhaps, focused on inventing and building our future. Through our own personal experiences, challenges and insights we’ve made decisions about where we wanted to invest our time and energy and what outcomes we wanted to produce. For some, it has been a movement. For others, a family. For others, building a business to solve both small and large problems. For others, its been about manifesting a vision of something never before imagined possible. And for others still, it’s simply been about getting by in an increasingly fast paced, overly complicated and increasingly connected world.

While we are on one hand still fighting poverty, injustice and inequality, we are truly standing at the dawn of an even more incredible future then we might have even imagined just a few years ago. In fact, my Alynd Co-Founder Rawn Shah made the point during our Work Hackers Salon the other night that the Renaissance could be considered a failure due to the limited participation it produced in the upside of the prosperity and knowledge it generated. His point was, can you imagine what we are capable of within our connected society today, where we have access to each other and so many enabling technologies? Indeed, a new age of enlightenment is already underway, but the era ahead of us can be even more spectacular then we can even imagine.

This is why I want to bring people together in painting a picture of what we want our tomorrow to look like and sharing our blueprints for how to build it. The real challenge is, how do we look past how things are and begin to make them how they should be? Can we transform large slow moving conservative organizations or are they beyond hope? With a sense of unease coming from a perception that both corporations and governments are failing humanity, and a market that is seemingly unfair and out of balance, how can we break free from what we have always known to create a better tomorrow? What are the most important things for us to understand? Where should we invest our most precious and limited resource, our time?

So next week in Austin, we will connect and have conversations with the many great people who are leading us towards this future. We will seek to discover more about their own noble pursuits and see if we can determine how we can each find the courage that it takes to lead others into this future with us. While George Bernard Shaw famously said “all progress depends on the unreasonable man”, Building Our Future is not a solitary act, but the collective actions of millions spread around the globe. In the connected society of today, perhaps he would have said “all progress depends on the connected man’s ability to gather others for collective action.”

This is post is an introduction into the idea behind “Building Our Future”, to bring together leading futurists, entrepreneurs, executives, influencers and those who are on the front lines, leading us into a better tomorrow within our deeply connected society. There are of course, many worthy areas for discussion, but we’ve identified a few key topics that we believe to be the macro-trends around which our collective future is being built.

So next week in Austin, from Friday March 7 through Monday March 10, 2014, we are gathering the leaders and the tribes who are already in town for that big interactive conference. We will be hosting round tables on each of these topics (links to come shortly) and interviewing leaders with visions of the future and stories of transformations to share. You can request an interview time slot using this form – be sure to explain what topic you want to address and a little more on your story. For the round tables, we will be using the same format we did for the Social Media Clubhouse in Austin in 2010 – in short, a handful of featured speakers/guests and other subject matter experts in the audience to lob in questions and participate on a more limited basis.

We are still seeking sponsors/investors in this project. Our goal is to collect as much footage as possible while in Austin from conversations with the people who are building our future, so that we might be able to create a long form video/documentary that we can release in a few months. We have different sponsorship levels available from $2,500 to $25,000. Only $10,000 gets you a co-producer credit, a small one hour meet up on Saturday or Sunday and a room at the Echo Studio, which is being held at a beautiful bed and breakfast just off of South Congress about a mile from the convention center.

More info to come on the bigger story behind this idea shortly, but if you have any questions, please feel free to email echostudio@adhocnium.com

Many thanks to Sponsors Echo, Ancestry, Alynd and many other in-kind sponsors for their support of this effort. [disclosures: long time friends with Echo, for who I am producing this event; my wife works at Ancestry.com and Alynd is my new startup we are previewing next Sunday, so it is still just a family affair, though that will change shortly with your help]

, , , , , , ,

No Comments

The Employee Centric Corporation and the Birth of the Employee Agreement

Nurturing a New Idea, The Employee AgreementToday (Friday September 20, 2013) I am in New York City participating in the Work Revolution Summit. While I have many professional and personal reasons for participating, not the least of which is our new Social Business SaaS company Alynd and our desire to fix what is most broken with work, I am here focusing on one big, yet simple idea. That the shift in the balance of power we are experiencing as consumers in our relationships with brands will soon be coming to our work lives and the relationship we have with our employers.

More specifically, I believe it is time for us to go beyond the constructs of the employment agreement and begin to embrace a new vision for an employee centric corporation. A simple, yet profound movement in this direction is the creation of an employee agreement that makes plain the more important aspects of the employee-employer relationship from an employee centric point of view, instead of a liability limiting corporate perspective.

The employee agreement is designed to make visible each employee’s purpose at work, defining who they are, what they can uniquely contribute and what they expect to be doing in the time they devote to the corporate mission. This should not be written in legalese, but in easy to understand, plain English. It should be openly and transparently shared internally with other employees, and in some cases, perhaps even publicly. It should be written in such a manner so that every other employee may not only understand their purpose and motivations, but also understand their strengths and what activities they personally expect to be doing at work each and every day. If you have every participated in a team sport, this may sound familiar to you, it’s what we do to win – work together, aligned towards our common goals in mind, body and soul.

If you are an individual change agent who wants to ignite this part of the Work Revolution but don’t know where to start. Here is something you can start today, right now in fact. The concept of the employee agreement starts out as a simple post to your intranet, employee forum, social network or blog that answers the questions: Who am I? What unique value can I contribute? What is expected of me? and Why am I here?

This isn’t a new concept, it is a new call to action for doing something meaningful about it without requiring permission or systemic change. Bill Jensen, change agent and thought leader on the future of work has long called for a New Work Contract. From his perspective, he sees the new work contract as an asset revolution. Employees (aka humans) aren’t just resources to be managed, but their time, attention, and ideas are assets. With the new work contract, like all assets, employers must respect the intrinsic value of those assets and provide a proper return to their investor.

In Bill Jensen’s “Work 2.0: Ten Year Report”, he found that business is “at war with its workforce”. Executives may not feel that this is the case, but ask any cog in the machine that is a big corporation and they can not only validate this sentiment, but provide story after story from their experience that supports this finding.

It may be hard to remember, but it wasn’t always this way.

In the not too distant past, the corporation served a central and lasting role in people’s lives. At the birth of the industrial era, there were ‘company towns’ built literally to house the employee population near factories and provide for their needs. As recently as the 60’s and 70’s, there was the notion of the ‘company man’, where an employee invested their entire lives working for one company that helped them develop both personally and professionally. They looked after each other with the utmost loyalty. The employees looked forward to getting their watch and their pension plan on retirement, when they could finally relax and move to Florida. More recently, this has become less and less true, while many employees continue to hope for the best.

Over the past few decades, there has become an increasing understanding that we are each CEO’s of our own careers. In the modern world, we each need to take responsibility for our prosperity both professionally and personally. Of course, there is still professional development opportunities in many companies, where they pay for training with important skills, send key employees to conferences to learn the latest techniques of their profession, and may even put them into an executive MBA program – if they have been recognized as being ‘management material’, and are willing to exchange a few more years of their life as part of the reimbursement. Unfortunately, for the average employee, they don’t see these sorts of opportunities for growth. Instead they go through the motions of setting professional development goals when that time of year comes around, telling their managers what they think they want to hear instead of telling them what is really in their hearts and minds.

Indeed, many professionals have taken this advice to heart and left their corporate jobs in pursuit of greener pastures. During the dotcom boom, as with the “forty-niners” of America’s westward expansion, many courageous souls left comfort and security behind to pursue a chance to strike it rich. Over the past few decades, an increasing number of knowledge workers have taken their careers and their futures into their own hands to become independent consultants, to spend more time with their families, to start their own businesses, to begin early retirement, to serve their communities, or to pursue their other dreams.

In short, there has been a great migration of the best and brightest talent away from the corporation. The idea that employees might have jobs for life is now a distant memory. They have lost faith in the corporation as companies and their leaders have proven they don’t really believe ‘that people are their greatest assets.’ Worse, most leaders have created strategies and policies that prove they don’t trust their employees as far as they could throw them. This challenge is perhaps more localized to the US, but the pace of this migration is increasing as more and more talented professionals realize that many of their so-called leaders are incompetent at best and sociopaths at worst.

As corporations have demonstrated their preference for at-will employment, many of their leaders have also clearly said they care more about shareholders and their personal bonuses then they do about the well being of their employees and the markets they serve. This is natural of course, because just like Pavlov’s dog, they will act in the manner in which they are rewarded and avoid the behaviors which cause them pain. Even though competitive strategy guru Michael Porter has pointed out the need to think about prosperity over profitability and shift our focus to creating shared value, it’s not a topic that has reached many boardrooms.

Further to this point, we have read recently that many corporate leaders see people merely as a ‘cost’. To some, they are merely resources, and not recognized as human beings. For too many leaders in the elite towers of power, ‘human resources’ are fungible, easily replaced by less expensive, and less experienced, humans, thus enabling greater profitability (and ensuring their personal bonuses). While people may be equal under the law and god, they are not fungible, each is unique and each brings a unique value to the work they perform, and to the dynamics of their teams. Just ask any manager that has tried to hire a skilled replacement for one of our aforementioned workers that promoted themselves to CEO of their own career.

At the same time we have seen incredible gains in productivity over the last several years. While they are surely driven in part by technological advances and other gains in global market efficiencies, I believe that there is another driver. There is a fear among those who remain in the corporation, who have not yet realized they are their own CEO, that the proverbial axe may fall at any moment, leaving them without an income and without security for themselves and their families. They have less resources, but put in 120% effort in order to keep their jobs, and hopefully get a promotion and/or a raise, which often times simply doesn’t come. Worse, some of these individuals do not have ‘new world skills’ as they have been too busy working as cogs in the machine, sustaining the status quo, and trying to look after their loved ones, their communities and their own personal interests.

These symptoms unfortunately speak to a more fundamental unraveling of the status quo of the socioeconomic foundations of our society that is creating a future that few senior executives are able to comprehend, and to which even fewer will be able to adapt. Meanwhile, individual employees are being forced to adapt to a world of constrained resources and increased expectations. Over the past several years, their personal technology became vastly superior to that provided by their employers. So they started bringing their own devices to work, raising expectations and demands on their IT departments. Douglas Neal and John Taylor of Leading Edge Forum identified this “Consumerization of IT “as an emerging trend over a decade ago, and yet many corporations are still in reactive mode, with many treating it as if it is a foreign and unworkable concept.

Now there is not only more access to thousands of channels of entertainment, but access to more information, from media outlets, from trusted friends and from familiar strangers. All available on demand, in real time. The advancement of our connected society has been reaching into all organizations, of every size, from every sector. Still, few corporations have been quick to embrace the idea of becoming a connected company or deploying social business technologies. Even as their customers, and the dollars they provide as their wellspring of life, demand it of them.

As Dell Hell and many other examples since has shown, this demand is not one to be taken lightly. Corporations have been forced to respond, with few prepared or willing to embrace it as an opportunity, and the majority being reluctant to even consider its impact on operations beyond the use of social media as another marketing and support channel. Even still, brand managers are perplexed with their new roles in a world where they fear that the consumers control their brand, and their jobs by proxy. The truth is that this idea is a misnomer. Consumers don’t control the brand, but they do help shape it, and they have a greater degree of influence on how others perceive the brand then ever before. Ultimately, the corporation controls whether or not they are delivering on their promise and whether or not their marketing and communications efforts are an accurate reflection of the reality of the brand experience. This is what has actually changed. The market will not be deceived through false statement and exaggerated claims in a connected society. In this way, both the consumer and the corporation share control of the brand.

Fundamentally, in the market itself, we have recognized a shift in the balance of power from companies to their customers. If a company, or a disgruntled customer service representative unhappy with their employer, treats a customer poorly, or has a policy that is clearly unfair, that customer is likely to turn to Twitter or Facebook or their blog to complain. Whether they have 5 or 500 or 500,000 followers may indeed change the speed and nature of the response, but increasingly, they may actually get a response that is different than if they had called the company’s customer service line, waited on hold for 30 minutes and gotten nowhere.

While we haven’t seen this shift occur widely in the employer – employee relationship just yet, I contend we stand on that precipice. This is certainly the case in Silicon Valley, where rising salaries, benefits, flexible work schedules and seemingly outrageous perks are the norm. In fact it has gotten so ridiculous that it is nearly impossible for new companies to recruit top programmers in the valley and many are actually considering setting up development in far away cities. Of course, the developing world sees this as an opportunity, with outsourced software development being performed in Russia, China, Poland, Chile, India, Phillipines, and other far flung corners of the globe.

The war for talent is a complicated issue. The need for corporations to win this war is obvious. If you are to compete in a world where invention and intelligence are your best weapons for winning market share and earning the trust and loyalty of customers, it is a war that must be won. Hence the win at all costs approach of the largest companies in the largest markets, and the very visible way in which top talent is disproportionately rewarded.

But it’s not all about perks and cash. For an increasingly growing number of employees, it’s as much if not more about connecting with a deeper purpose in their lives. As with consumers who are making purchase decisions based on how green or socially responsible a company is, employees too are now choosing employers who are more closely aligned to their purpose and their interests. Those who realize they are the CEO’s of their own careers, but who dislike the multitudes of hats they must wear as an independent contractor, are seeking enlightened employers where they can earn a good living while living true to their purpose. Organizations who are realizing this and building organization structures and policies to attract and retain top talent are winning. Dave Gray in his book The Connected Company calls out many examples; among them well known names like Amazon, Semco, Nordstrom, SAS and Whole Foods.

While not all corporations are able to adapt fast enough to this changing world, there are some simple steps that can be taken in the right direction. An invaluable first step is recognizing the importance of purpose at work, and nurturing employees to find and connect with what matters most to them. There is no place where this reality is seen more clearly then at Zappos, where they cultivate individuality by helping employees realize as much happiness and success in their life away from work as they do at work. While many more, like my former employer Deloitte do this through sabbaticals and integrating community service opportunities via paid volunteer programs and pro-bono services, there are other simple ways this can be accomplished.

As mentioned at the onset, there is a very simple step that anyone can take right now towards bringing their purpose to the forefront of their work. It requires no permission, and should not require forgiveness. First, you must do the somewhat harder effort to get clear about what your purpose is, so you feel it as your truth as much as you can intellectualize and rationalize it. Then you merely need to share your purpose with others inside, and potentially even outside of your company. Share it on your internal employee profile, across the enterprise social network, in speeches at all hands meetings, and most especially in more intimate settings with the teams on which you work.

This is something I did personally while working at Deloitte Consulting, and it really felt incredibly liberating. While I can say that it shocked some, it also generated a great deal of trust and respect for my willingness to be transparent, and to be so clear in declaring my purpose for why I was working at the firm. I made it clear and stated plainly that I had taken the job at Deloitte for two reasons. First was a matter of urgency, I took the job to advance their social media and social business efforts because I needed the money. After several years running a non-profit community organization, it was time to find financial security, pay off my debt, and get into a position where I could once again become an entrepreneur.

But money alone was not my purpose, just a reason and an impetus. What moved me to choose Deloitte over several other options was a desire to have a front row seat to the great restructuring that would allow me to understand how large, traditional organizations were adapting to the great restructuring being forced on them by the advent of our connected society and widespread market adoption of social technologies. More importantly perhaps, was getting a chance to help them with that transition, to convince them of the necessity and opportunity. While a few scoffed at these statements and fixated on my stated financial need, those who came to know me, who heard the passion and truth in my voice, realized that it was a deep desire to be part of the change I have long sought to see in the world.

In this way I earned the respect of many, particularly the large millennial work force at Deloitte. Not only for the higher purpose I had communicated, but for my willingness to state it so clearly and openly. Regardless of what your thoughts may be on the recent millennials at work discussion, I can tell you with absolute certainty that what they and all other members of our work force want is to be told the truth. They crave someone who will shoot straight with them and not pretend that a challenge or unpleasant fact is untrue when it clearly is. They also crave leaders who can inspire and support, not managers who will nitpick and obfuscate.

I did more then declare my purpose at work though, I also declared what I did well, and what I did poorly. I made clear who I was, as a human being, as a member of the industry I helped cultivate and as an employee of the firm. It gave me back a great deal of energy I would have normally wasted, because I was able to be myself and not pretend to be what I thought others expected of me – I didn’t waste emotional energy being someone I was not. While in some cases it didn’t necessarily serve my better interests, it freed me to live my truth, to give my best and to find greater meaning everyday. It also kept me connected with that purpose on a regular basis, staying focused on why I was there everyday, enabling me to get through the rough days and really celebrate the great ones.

This experience got me thinking about the nature of the employment agreement, and how it defined the legally necessary aspects of the contract designed to protect my employer, and how little of the employment agreement was designed to serve my interests. In fact, while I negotiated a salary that was to my liking, none of the other terms of that agreement was negotiable. The rest of it, from intellectual property assignments, to sick leave and benefits, was a take or leave it proposition as it is in virtually all large corporations. Now, to be clear, Deloitte has awesome benefits (really) and there was little I would seek to be changed in that regards, so I willingly entered into the agreement with a full understanding of its terms, even the few with which I disagreed. This point is being raised relative to the general nature of the employment agreement itself rather than a complaint with the one I signed.

Ultimately, what I realized was that the shift in the balance of power, the war for talent and the coming changes to the structure of the corporation will necessitate that the employment agreement, and how we enter into it, will change too. While corporations will fight back saying they can’t efficiently manage different contracts with different terms for each of its employees, the current state of compliance by fiat will not survive as it is in the future of work. Soon, I hope, we will reach a tipping point where there is a true balance of power between the employee and employer that is more the norm then the fringe.

The employee agreement expects the employee to fully and deeply answer the questions “Who am I, why am I here and what value can I offer others with my time, experience and ideas?” By making the answer visible to others, and enabling them and their employer to enter into a truly two-way relationship, the employee will not only be better aligned with the company, but also with other employees. In this way, while they are getting their work done and contributing their unique value, they are also able to connect more directly and consciously with their purpose for entering into the agreement, increasing their level of engagement, increasing their value contributed and decreasing their emotional energy wasted.

While the idea of the  employee agreement template I suggest here is a simple one, where we collectively go from here, remains to be seen. In fact, I look forward to your thoughts and comments here so that we might together begin to redefine the employee-employer relationship. If we begin to take these small personal steps, we can all begin to better see our colleagues at work and improve our collaboration with each other. In this way, through these straight forward but powerful questions, we might not only be able to make our work more meaningful, but we might just find a better path to living our lives in alignment with our unique purpose.

, , , , , ,

2 Comments

The #WorkRevolution Has Begun, Literally

, , ,

No Comments


Deprecated: Directive 'allow_call_time_pass_reference' is no longer available in PHP in Unknown on line 0

Deprecated: Directive 'magic_quotes_gpc' is no longer available in PHP in Unknown on line 0