Eight Trends Changing Work and Organizations

What does ‘work’ look like in the digital age? And, what does an ‘organization’ look like in the digital age? The starting point for this conversation is: If you were designing work/organizations from scratch today, what would you create? How would it look? Here’s eight design principles for today’s work and organizations…

1 Leadership

Command and control leadership styles have flowed from the military. In a decentralized world, they no longer works. For instance, you can’t control the internet. To be a leader here you need to build trust, respect and reputation. Lighthouse Leadership is a very different way of looking at the world and interacting with people. And, with generational change, the old leadership styles are less tolerated, further prompting new styles.

2 Decentralized

The internet is the defining and all pervasive structure of modern society. Any new organization would reflect this and be decentralized in its design and structure – or at least a fusion of centralized control and decentralized flexibility. There are two basic ways of doing this: Either separate business units that run independently of it’s parent company, like GE. Or you can decentralize the customer experience, like Ebay. This presents significant benefits with regard to building to scale through network effects especially through internet technologies.

3 Connection

Traditional organizations were composed of various elements. Marketing sat over there, sales was here, production down there and management upstairs. No more. The internet and digital technologies dissolves the boundaries between these internal divisions. It also promotes co-operation between suppliers at an unprecedented level and with crowdsourcing the line is blurred between customer and company. Add the ability to connect with people globally and you have a huge opportunity to work in new ways.

4 Social

We can no longer rely on corporations and governments to address social concerns such as climate change, the homeless or poverty. New organizations will focus on fulfilling social needs. Aligning to social causes is the key to branding. And, it’s the lesson learnt from tribes forming on the internet. Corporate Social Responsibility is mere icing on a stale cake. Social Orientation designs the organization to create a profit that is channelled to fulfil the social need. The younger generations won’t be interested without it. And, through social media the means to connecting around events and causes is quicker and easier than ever before.

5 Leisure

The work modes of the Industrial Age reflected the machinery of the time. We did standardized jobs in fixed locations and set blocks of time to produce standardized products marketed in standardized ways. In the Information/Knowledge/Digital Age we can work wherever our brain is and whenever we feel like it on stuff that appeals to us. The customized niche of designing your own work and lifestyle is the promise of the Leisure Age. It’s the Leisure Age not because we are doing nothing, it’s because when we work in our passion/gift our work becomes our pleasure and leisure.

6 Not for Profit

Previously, owning the means to production was the key to making profits. And there was a clear distinction between who owned it and who were the workers who ran it. This line has blurred and possibly evaporated. Now, via the internet the tools of production are in the hands of everyone with access. As a direct result the pursuit of profit changes. Even a so-called not-for-profit organization needs to pursue profit to fund the future. The big difference is the need to make profit to fund a future and then make profit on top of that to feed shareholders. Take away the shareholder level, add the freemium models and the gift economies and all of a sudden the pursuit of profit and ultimately capitalism changes.

7 Conversation

Traditional big-media technologies like TV, newspapers, advertising and PR promoted one-way conversations. The internet and digital technologies have replaced this with two-way conversations. This is a significant shift that requires organizations to be re-designed to listen, initiate, enable and participate in conversations internally and externally with customers and suppliers. This is crucial for getting things done.

8 Design

In an era of dramatic change and global hyper-competition, the need for design, innovation, growth and learning within an organization is crucial. A decentralized structure allows innovation to be embedded in the DNA of the organization through crowdsourcing and micro-business units. Crowdsourcing is also central to brand building as it engages the customer almost to the point of ownership. And, building a design thinking culture and work practices unites internal teams.