This blog is the third part of a series related to my initial blog “What shifts are shaping the opportunity to become remarkable (again),” in which I discussed four megatrends that drive new opportunities to reimagine the core of what we do. In this blog, I will zoom in on the second impact of these shifts: The opportunity to redefine the way work is done.
The very concept of work is being redefined as different generations enter and exit the workforce amidst a rapidly changing technological landscape. Borders are disappearing, and ecosystems will do away with the traditional industry borders. As a result, we have to rethink what it means to be competitive, how partnerships will play a role, and how we have to innovate the value chains in which we operate. The 2020 workplace will be one that’s networked, flexible, integrated, open, and innovative.
Let’s review this along three different lenses: Organization, Technology, and the role of Ecosystems.
Many people think the hierarchical system that we know today is going to disappear because organizations have to become nimbler to remain competitive/relevant. The 1-million-dollar question is then: what will be the right structure?
Accenture recently researched the organization of the future, and 67% of executives agreed that the future workforce would be structured more by projects — work focused on joint goals completed in collaborative teams — than by job function. Companies like Valve Corp, the creator of one of the largest online gaming platforms in the world, already allow their employees to pick and choose the projects they work on based on their interest and skill level in a flat organization, thereby creating hyper-personal workforce experiences.
Harvard believes that by 2020 the manager will no longer be the manager. Organizations will shift into spider webs of interconnected employees, coaches, leaders, and mentors.
Lastly, it’s very likely these organizations will bet on a growing mix of contingent workers as well as freelance employees will soon make up approximately half of the workforce population. This provides employers with the opportunity to pull from a global talent pool to source the skills and expertise when and where they needed, resulting in more flexibility and less risk.
Taking all this into account this could mean the organization of the future will be one that’s more self-guided, quickly configured (around projects), fluid, location independent (virtual), has distributed teams and is composed of a mix of fixed contract and freelancers.
The Institute for the Future gave this a name by coining the label “Superstructed organizations.” To “Superstruct” means to create structures that go beyond the primary forms and processes with which we are familiar. It means to collaborate and play at extreme scales.
Without any doubt, technology will be a crucial component in the process to reimagine how work is done. As discussed in the first blog in this series, going forward anything that can be connected to the internet, will be connected to the internet.
And the impact should not be ignored. A recent McKinsey & Company podcast revealed that organizations which showcased above-average organic growth had two capabilities that stood out relative to their peers who were not growing as fast. One was around data and analytics, which they use to squeeze out incremental growth on the margin, and the second thing was their ability to collaborate cross-functionally to work in an agile method.
In the next five years, we are going to create 20x more information as we have today. By utilizing this data in real time, we’ll have a wealth of new opportunities to identify opportunities and risks faster, and with more precision. This fuels an organizations’ ability to drive not only higher organic growth (top- & bottom line), but also to create more timely, relevant and personalized experiences for both our employees and customers.
Add social technologies to this, and we can drive new forms of production and value creation that only a few years ago we could not even imagine. Here’s how: Amplified by this new level of collective intelligence and tapping resources embedded in social connections with multitudes of others, we can now achieve the kind of scale and reach previously attainable only by very large organizations. In other words: where ideas used to take years to introduce to the market, today this can be done in a fraction of that (days). This ties back to the potential of the ‘Superstructed Organization” discussed above. And this brings us to the third lens: The rise eco-systems.
As sector borders dissolve, new business ecosystems emerge. This means no company can be an island, and success in any market requires that organizations learn to co-create value with other firms. A recent McKinsey podcast summarized this nicely: “In digitally driven future ecosystems, the orchestrators — the operators who own the data and therefore can be the first touchpoint and define what a customer gets and when and how — they will have disproportionate power over the whole value chain. So we are not just seeing value chains merging faster than ever before, but also the shift of value across these value chains is much faster than what we have seen. This creates a huge challenge for any company or organization who is involved in serving clients or distribution, because it requires them to reinvent their strategy at a much faster speed, looking at a much broader horizon than ever before.”
Increased global interconnectivity puts diversity, adaptability, and trust at the center of operations. And the role of trust is not to be underestimated. How many of the companies around us in our value chain do we blindly trust? This aspect is one of the ground principles that drive the popularity of BlockChain: Establishing trust (across the eco-system) without having to trust each other.
How to start?
It might be overwhelming to consider all the options and come out with a strategy that’s right for your organization. No one can rightly state what the world will look like in 2025, but a way to approach it is to break it into pieces and start thinking like a futurist about your organization. Think of scenarios across these five angles:
- Develop a vision of how the future will look when competition comes from other sectors, when instead of individual industries, there will be larger ecosystems. In line with that, envision the scenario whereby the sum of the parts is going to be larger than the parts themselves. What could your future look like as part of a broader ecosystem?
- How can more/more timely insight drive focus and impact: Data analytics will be a crucial piece to remain competitive, so answer some simple questions: In what ways could leverage data to spot opportunities/risks faster. What is the collective data that you need to get access to from yourself, your assets, your partners, your suppliers and your customers?
- Who does the work best: Approach automation carefully. Consider what kind of work is best suited for a human versus machine. Once that’s clear, consider how you could leverage the Freelance market to your advantage for the parts that remain human.
- How do you assign work? The future of work is all about freedom. The freedom to work where and when you want, and the privilege to work on the things that matter. What could you different here? This is a significant opportunity to drive employee engagement. And a higher % of employee engagement means a positive impact on business results.
- only then start thinking about what you should change to your organization and in what priority to accomplish your new future. Selecting the structure that best fits the purpose and desired outcome is the way to go. The idea is to be a living organism.
And please share your experiences how you / your company has already redefined the way work is done. Value inspiration at its best is when it helps create a better world for all of us. That’s a cause worth aiming for. So share!