By Jacob Morgan, best-selling author, keynote speaker, futurist, and co-founder of The Future of Work Community.
What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing businesses over the next decade? What business practices have been engrained in our culture that have recently become out of date?
I see big challenges in attracting and retaining talent, innovation, adapting to changes in technology, dealing with the coming skills gap, and just evolving to keep pace with how the workplace is changing. There are many workplace practices that are out of date including the annual performance review, engagement surveys, working 9-5 in a cubicle, and management-based on command and control.
Why do you see those workplace practices as out of date? What do you predict will replace them?
Most organizations have always assumed that if you pay people enough and if they recognize your brand, that they will want to work there. In other words, organizations have always assumed that people NEED to work there, but today that assumption is incorrect. Instead, organizations need to create places where employees actually want to be. This means getting rid of legacy workplace practices. So performance reviews are being replaced by real-time feedback and recognition; working 9-5 is being replaced by working anywhere and anytime; sitting in a cubicle is being replaced by activity-based flexible work spaces; and managing by fear and command and control is being replaced by leaders who coach and mentor their employees.
If you were creating a business from the ground up tomorrow, what would its structure look like? What type of employees would you hire?
Ideally it would be one where employees have as much autonomy and decision-making power as possible. Traditional business hierarchy was all about “climbing the ladder” and “I have to see you to know you’re working.” Today, in a globally connected world, neither of these things makes much sense. It’s unrealistic to assume that a few people at the top of an organization who are the farthest removed from the ground-level work can accurately make decisions for the whole company. Instead, it makes much more sense to empower employees to make decisions in the situations they are involved in. This removes bureaucracy, drives innovation, and creates a better overall experience for employees and customers. Nobody wants to be micromanaged and treated like a cog.
I’d hire employees who have the ability to “learn how to learn” — meaning they are quickly able to adapt to change. I’d also look for solid communication skills, technological fluency, and the ability to bring empathy and vulnerability to the workplace. I’d want people to act like…people.
What advice would you have for non-digital natives who currently operate in an ubiquitously digital work world?
The advice would be the same to anyone regardless of age or generation. Employees have to learn how to learn. Things change and we can no longer rely on organizations or educational institutions for all of our personal and professional development. We have to take these things into our own hands. There’s no sense fighting change.
In your book The Collaborative Organization, you provide in-depth research that points to ways in which employees should better collaborate within an organization. That’s very much what we’re about at Collaborata. How do you see collaboration, even among competitors, as playing a key role in the future of business?
I wrote an article on this for Forbes that looks at the importance of creating innovation ecosystems. In short, organizations have to look beyond their own walls for ideas and innovation. This means collaborating with suppliers, customers, and yes, even competitors.
Innovation used to be something that only came from a few people in a secret department that was locked away in the basement somewhere. We now live in a rapidly changing world where organizations are being challenged and disrupted by new incumbents on a daily basis. Look at what happened to companies like Sears, Tower Records, Blockbuster, and dozens of others. Organizations that tap into innovation ecosystems expand their source of ideas. Starbucks does a great job of this with My Starbucks Idea and P&G does this with Connect & Develop. In both of these examples almost anyone can submit ideas for products, services, and enhancements that help the organization. Oftentimes these are innovations that the company wouldn’t know about or discover on its own.
Do you believe that collaborating with one’s competitors can provide more risk or reward?
When done properly, it absolutely means more reward than risk. Not only that, I’d say it’s really the only way to succeed going forward. No business can operate where teams and departments aren’t working together to solve business problems and identify new opportunities. Collaboration is where ideas and innovation come from!
What do you think are the one or two biggest mistakes of companies when adopting or avoiding new methods of collaboration?
The first is they treat collaboration as an IT project, which it clearly is not. The second is they forget to lead by example. In other words the managers and executives don’t emulate the behavior they want employee to exhibit!
Follow Jacob on twitter @jacobm