International Women’s Day today. A day to celebrate the distinctive gifts and challenges women around the world share across all facets of life including the workplace. One of my favourite pieces marking the day is the video posted on my other blog, Maldives Complete. So inspired were we that my wife Lori and I bought the art piece Dhaalu Girl featured in the video from the artist Aishath Aima Mustafa (her first art sale).
The BNET piece ‘Why Men and Women Work Differently’ highlights a few of the differences women present and face. The kind of differences that a Dynamic Working organisation can accommodate so readily. Unfortunately, I find that well-meaning pieces like this simply reinforce cultural and sexist stereotypes. I endorse the article for raising insights as to how people can differ in approaches, but I disapprove of the gender pigeonholing. It is not about respecting “women’s” multi-taking and nurturing. It is about respecting anyone’s multi-tasking and nurturing (I’m actually a pretty accomplished multi-tasker, eg. I exercise, listen to podcasts and organise the garage simultaneously each Saturday).
Respect for ‘diversity’ (and Dynamic Work) is less about ‘men and women’ working differently, and more about how *everybody* works differently. Gender is just one prominent and conventional variable. Diversity programmes which slap on a few female-specific accommodations do a disservice to women in the end as well as to the rest of the staff and the business itself.
I recommend Cash Justin Miller’s “The Advantages of Cultural Diversity in Business” (thank Eileen). ‘Cultural diversity’, as well is not merely ethnic nor geographical differences, but any difference in upbringing, experience, tradition or background. When this level of diversity is respected, the consideration of gender will be a non-issue..
I’m not talking about packing up your office and sailing around the world. Though, frankly, that is entirely feasible too these days. If there is an expert on remote working to even that extreme it is friend and former Microsoft teammate, Matt Dunstan (left above). He not only spearheaded some of the more ambitious initiative in the team to make the workplace and the work style more flexible. His latest expedition is to introduce such dynamic commercial navigation to businesses down under. His new venture is…
“Called 2nd Base, it is designed to give access to a network of work-friendly venues where people can escape the home office and work alongside likeminded people. The service is a new take on co-working in that the guys are not setting up a purpose built office, but instead have negotiated for space and facilities in existing, attractive venues.”
The charter is entirely to Joe Pilizzi’s piece “Why It’s Time to Ditch Your Office” (thanks Adain)…
“Most organizations are set up for how we communicated decades (or more) ago. The reason we had to go into the city is because communication was impossible without face-to-face interaction. For the majority of non-manufacturing or non-retail organizations, this is not the case any longer. For most of us, we can get our job done with as much as a smartphone, with access to email, social media and office interaction. Need to have a meeting? Skype or GoToMeeting are at our disposal in two seconds if a meeting is absolutely necessary. How about Google Hangouts? Instant messaging is at our fingertips. Our IT services are in the cloud. There was a time we needed the office, but for most of us, that time is over.”
Pilizzi enumerates a handy and succinct enumeration of the business benefits to flexible and remote working…
- Better Productivity
- Happier Employees
- Access to Better Talent
- Lack of Overhead
- Get Out of the Past
Dynamic Work all started at Microsoft. It stemmed from a convergence of post-millennial technology and business trends I witnessed from a front-row seat. My examination of all business “dynamic” started with executive briefings at the company as well as some of Microsoft’s own initiatives, and inspired me to embark full-time on the crusade. Despite being lured back to an executive position, I continue to track the topic and even make the occasional post here.
So it was a bit nostalgic to stumble upon this piece presented by former UK colleague now Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft Dave Coplin. A half decade on and the messages are still the same. But the presentation is superbly enhanced by the inimitable RSA animation. A few gems I pulled from Dave’s treatment include…
· “Flexible working is about taking control of how you work”
· “Openness of sharing. Open by default.”
· “The biggest concern about remote working is ‘trust’. And not between boss and staff, but among team members themselves.”
One of the reasons I got lured back into corporate life was that Microsoft had de-prioritised this area (making it harder to partner with my Microsoft-centric network). It is reassuring to see my professional alma mater still evangelising these changes in the workplace.
Armistice Day today celebrates the contributions and sacrifices of men and women in uniform whose own extraordinary experiences bring insight and perspective to our ordinary lives. The crucible of the battlefield tests principles at the extremes that we can apply in more peaceful contexts. Perhaps literal life and death is not on the line, but financial and emotional survival can be at stake facing the challenges of everyday life and business.
One of the seminal works on battlefield insight is Robert Greene’s, 33 Strategies of War. In it he espouses the dynamic approach to flexibility and versatility…
“Understand, in life as in war, nothing ever happens just as you expect it to. People’s response are odd or surprising, your staff commits outrageous acts of stupidity, on and on. If you meet the dynamic situations of life with plans that are rigid, if you think of only holding static positions, if you rely on technology to control any friction that comes your way, you are doomed: events will change faster than you can adjust to them, and chaos will enter the system.”
Everything new is old again.
Yahoo has cemented itself as the now tired veteran of the Digital Age. Perhaps a sign of how far the digital age has come when the early pioneers start to look and behave schlerotically behind the times.
What does Yahoo not know that everyone else does? The new CEO Marissa Mayer claims to be taking a step back in its flexible work practices for the sake of solidarity – “We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”
She has a point. Jamming people together in time and place does manufacture a sort of contrived cohesion. I reminds me of the old trick to get two fighting cats to be at peace…lock them in the bathroom for a few days until then are at peace with each other. Unfortunately, Mayer’s reset is nothing more than a surrender to the lowest form of togetherness. Sort of like puns being the lowest form of humour.
This bold-faced retreat to the sub-basement of corporate cohesion made me reflect on the hierarchy of unity in the organisation world. I do think that some bonds are tighter than others. I would propose the following hierarchy starting at the highest and working down…
1. Purpose – THE WHY: The ‘mission’, the ‘why’. This is what unifies dispersed cells of radical organisations who have never met each other and don’t work together. This is a common theme in the most successful organisations like Apple and Nordstrom. Hugh MacLeod and Mark Earls have explored this concept with great insight and creative eloquence.
2. Obectives – THE WHAT: Even if you don’t have a higher strategic purpose, you can still have a more pragmatic ‘purpose’ typically defined by SMART objectives.
3. Process – THE HOW: At least if you are synchronised in a symphony of aligned process, then you will have a crude form of uniformity. Perhaps brittle and vulnerable, but at least functional to a certain degree.
4. Presence – THE WHERE/WHEN: Sticking two human beings next to each other is the lowest form of integration that exists. Sort of like sticking an Apple and a PC next to each other so you can work on both ‘together’. Yes, it is form of togetherness, but the efficiencies and impact that forced proximity (note: voluntary proximity is a powerful thing) creates is fragile and wafer thin. It is the foundation to such bureaucratic poison as tedious meetings, expensive air travel and relocations, and mind-numbing commutes.
Dynamic Work can take a number different dimensions…time, place, role, contract. But what would you get if you tried to push the envelope on all of these dimensions at once. ‘Dynamic Awesomeness’ according to Vishen Lakhiani of Mindvalley. His TEDxAjman talk “Building the World’s Greatest Workplace” paints a utopian picture not of some pie-in-the-sky thought experiment, but a real, incorporated, profitable, tax-paying business that is pioneering so many dynamic principles at once. And the results are striking.
- Time – “We incorporated flexitime. At MindValley you choose your own working hours. You can choose to spend Monday to take the day off to go watch a movie. And then make up for it on a Sunday. It doesn’t matter to us.”
- Place – “You need to be able to give people the freedom to be able to use this space in any way they want.”
- Role – “We open up the way we run our business to give our employees freedom and power.
- Rewards – “Gamification of work”
Truly ‘awesome’ (a well-worn adjective in their descriptions of work life). A highly recommended TED talk, be prepared to either be inspired or envious.
Out with the old and in with the new…
This media icon says goodbye with a coincidentally an image itself portraying another anachronism of the 21st century…the office building.
A New Year and a new promise of freedom from the shackles of industrial age working practices. Today the on the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, workers stand to gain whole new freedoms of when, where, what and how they work with the surge of Dynamic Work in the world.
In a similar way to which technology like the cotton gin contributed to the emancipation of the American slaves, digital technology today is emancipating the wage slaves of present day. It all sounds like goodness, but history holds valuable lessons that despite the moral rectitude of emancipation, the transition in the aftermath held repercussions that in some respects are still being felt today. Most notably, a major segment of the population was displaced from one economic activity without clear support for transitioning into a new economic role. This displacement led to poverty, disillusionment, confusion and an on-going cycle of a new form of economic oppression.
Today we celebrate the emancipation of the ‘wage slaves’, but already that very same group rightfully is getting uneasy feelings about the new liberated environment they face. Despite the Faustian pact of giving up so much of your life and control to a corporate existence, people have made peace with that trade-off and justifiably fear that an imposed liberation could leave them worse off. One of the most prominent protests against abolition was that the slaves were ‘better off’ than their subsistence existence in Africa (possibly for some) and ‘better off’ than they would be scraping an existence ‘on their own’ in a foreign land (possibly). Despite the utilitarian arguments for the benefits of slavery, above all it is a moral issue the rectification of which is deemed to trump any cost or inconvenience even to those being emancipated.
Still, sometimes Faustian pacts, giving up freedoms and dignities, are preferred paths for individuals. Whether it is Asian labourers aspiring to work in sweat shops, impoverished women plying sex trade or investment bankers working insane hours and stresses (the parallels between the latter two prominently highlighted in the film ‘Pretty Woman’), many people opt in to these painful professions for the rewards and escape at the other end.
The freedoms that new technologies and work practice innovations proclaim must not be lead to a lost generation of workers thrust into new modes of working for which they are not adequately prepared. Despite the critical mass of the Dynamic Work movement, the progress needs to continue being evolutionary and careful in order to avoid painful displacement and costly disillusionment.
Dynamic Work looks to forge ahead strongly in 2012 according to the latest research on top trends reported in Time magazine’s “The Beginning of the End of the 9-to-5 Workday?”…
“The traditional eight-hour workday may soon be the exception rather than the rule. New evidence shows that we’re reaching a tipping point in terms of workplace flexibility, with businesses seeing the wisdom of allowing employees — young ones especially — to work odd hours, telecommute and otherwise tweak the usual 9-to-5 grind. One of the top 12 trends for 2012 as named by the communications firm Euro RSCG Worldwide is that employees in the Gen Y, or millennial, demographic — those born between roughly 1982 and 1993 — are overturning the traditional workday.”
- Gen Y workers won’t accept jobs where they can’t access Facebook.
- Gen Y-ers value workplace flexibility over more money.
- Gen Y workers are always connected to jobs through technology.
Every day the film classic ‘9 to 5’ is looking more and more like a period piece.
Tis the season for year end reviews. And one of the more intriguing collections I have seen is the “Top 10 Trends Presentations for 2013”. A good chance to see how the pundits view the progress of the Dynamic Work trend.
One of my favourite trend-ologists, Mary Meeker, of KPCB, added an entire section to her annual trend review titled “Asset-Light Generation” (slide 59). It is essentially ‘Dynamic Work’ expanded from the professional and corporate environment to a full lifestyle perspective. ‘Dynamic Life’ if you will.
She starts off noting “Asset-Heavy lifestyle consumes space, time and money.” It is a vision of the virtualisation of nearly everything including Music, Video, Housing, Transport, Services, Textbooks, Wallets, and (of course) Employment (see below).