The Leadership Self

By Drew Jones In his book, Modernity and Self Identity, Anthony Giddens explores the various ways that individuals maintain a cohesive sense of self in a post-modern world. The collapse/disappearance of traditional cultural systems all around us creates uncertainty and anxiety, within which we have fewer and fewer reliable islands where we can call home. He talks about […]

Source: DJ Daily Drip

It Starts with Strategy

By Drew Jones In conversations with fellow organizational consultants, I often hear that their engagements with their clients are, primarily, supportive in nature. That is, they are there to help that company achieve its strategic goals, whatever those might be. Sounds straightforward enough, right? Well, perhaps not. First, many firms (the clients) can be rather confused about what […]

Source: DJ Daily Drip

I Can’t Prove It

Several years ago, at the Transform Innovation Summit at the Mayo Clinic, Roger Martin gave a moving talk about what kills and what drives innovation.  In the talk, which he called a rant, he suggested that the two words- prove and it- when used together, are innovation killers.  He provided several powerful examples in the talk, which I recommend that everyone should watch.

Roger suggests that, because so much of corporate decision making today insists that the outcome of initiatives, projects, ventures be known and provable before they even begin,  it becomes virtually impossible for firms to actually create new and emergent forms of value.  “We would love to do that,” the thinking goes, “but we are too busy and have too many immediate things to do to take such a big risk.”

This is just excuse making.  Which leads to my own rant of the day.  I am convinced, after working with organizations and business school students for many years, that many (perhaps most but I hate to be so negative) corporate decision makers are more interested in maintaining a general sense of order and control over their social universes than they are in actually driving success and excellence in the firms they run. To some extent this makes perfect sense.  None of us likes to be surrounded by chaos and uncertainty.  It would be easier to accept, though, if timid managers acknowledged, truthfully, that these are the grounds of their objections.  The tired, worn-out discourses about risk management and decision “sciences” are harder and harder to believe. Just come out and say it like it is: “I would rather run the company at a suboptimal level of performance than embrace those actions and practices that will make us great.”

I Can’t Prove It

This dynamic/delusion is relevant to the bold initiative that we are launching atConjunctured.   We know, pretty much without much question (though we can’t prove it in the way many corporates insist on), that today’s young knowledge workers aspire to work in environments that emphasize maximum choice and flexibility, doing work that is meaningful and makes the world a better place.  It turns out that this is pretty much what’s going on in the world of coworking.  If you plop coworking into a large corporate organization, what you get is corporate coworking.  While I can’t prove it, I am nearly certain that most of your employees would love to work in a space like the one we have at Conjunctured, and that in this they would be more engaged with their work and their colleagues.

But if that generates too much cosmological chaos, I guess I understand.  If, on the other hand, you want ‘to boldly go’ where your employees want to go, then there are solutions and pioneers out there to help you get there.

Source: Drew Jones Daily Drip

So Much for Science and Rationality

On the opening day (11/7/13) of its IPO, Twitter shares (TWTR) traded up from its offer price of $26/share to $45/share.  By contrast, Facebook (FB) opened (5/12/13) at $42/share and promptly began to train downward for many months.  Facebook has since then been trading up for several months ($47 today), which is indeed good to see.  However, the contrasting stories of the initial IPOs paint an interesting picture.

Twitter is yet to post a profit, and reports around $650 million a year in revenue.  Facebook, by contrast, reports almost $2B a quarter in revenue, and has been profitable for three straight years.  So, if one were to base share price and company potential on numbers and data, Twitter is a fraction of the company that Facebook is.  But so much for science and rationality.

It boils down to investor mood, sentient, and emotion.  Investors were skeptical and still on the sidelines at the time that Facebook went public.  This week, when Twitter went public, investor mood is all champagne and bubbly.  Markets have been up for weeks, the Dow reaching record highs almost daily.  But this does not mean that Twitter has greater potential as a company going forward.

Such is the nature of much decision making in the corporate world. For all of the bluster and infographics about the importance of data and big data, humans are still primarily an emotional species.  We aspire for rationality, but we have to learn it and fake it.  Our default setting, for better or worse, is emotion. Recognizing such a simple thing would save us a lot of time and angst.

Source: Drew Jones Daily Drip

The Lonely Frontier

It is cliche to say, but change is never easy.  The kinds of organizational changes I am advocating in my new book- The Fifth Age of Work- are far from easy.  The comfort of familiarity and tradition should never be underestimated.  Established tradition and known routines make the world easier to understand and navigate.  Yet, established traditions and known routines also bring us some of the most stultifying and inhumane cultural practices in the world- subjugation of women (“well, that’s just our tradition”), slavery, the caste system, etc.

Moving forward into unknown futures and frontiers is always scary.  Just imagine what it felt like for early American pioneers when they left their families in Europe and moved out to the prairies of Nebraska. Willa Cather’s world was stark, beautiful, and lonely.  Frontiers always are.  The world of work and organizations that is emerging is also frightening.  Asking established professionals to significantly change their worlds is challenging, to say the least.

“Hey, I know you  used to have a huge office with a big oak desk and two personal assistants, but now we’ve taken that away and you need to work in the cafe with all of the other folks!”

Naturally, few people will want to do this.  However, we are at the cusp of a new frontier, and the comfort of tradition is no longer a good enough excuse for not embarking on the journey and crossing into the unknown.  It’s what I call the difference between slingshots, which propel in one direction into the future, and boomerangs, which go out a bit and then return to where you started.  No question, people do get hurt by rocks flung by slingshots.  But tradition for the sake of tradition, I contend, hurts many more people.

 

Source: Drew Jones Daily Drip

Guest Post: Thoughts on Corporate Coworking

The following is a guest post from Dennis Tardan, an outspoken and passionate member of the Conjunctured community. We’ve had conversations at length about the ideas inherent within our Corporate Coworking initiative and the dialogue has resonated so much with him that we invited him to share his thoughts here on the blog. Thank you Dennis! 

I am a communication coach.  As I navigate the corporate work environments around the world, I find there to be a distinct drop of energy whenever I walk onto the offices, onto the floors, into the cube farms of my varied clients.  These clients range from the largest corporations on the planet to small and medium-size firms who have created a physical footprint where what they define as “work” is accomplished.

I know this is not the intention.  But it is the reality.  I don’t know how long it takes for the spirit and the energy of the original venture to begin attenuating but I’ve seen it happen over and over.  It drains until there is a general malaise that is to some degree or another soul-sucking.

You hear people talking about “having” to go to work or “working for the weekend” or “so very glad the day is over” and other endless permutations and combinations of TGI whatever.  Some of that is just the wail of the human carp, a hybrid life-form that it is so easy for us to morph into in challenging times.

However, I’ve come to believe some problem is structural and environmental.  The office/open office/cube farm formats that organizations enshrine as work places in an attempt to have some control over the time and energy of their workers, I believe is not conducive to the creativity and collaboration necessary for companies to thrive in the 21st century.

We need better solutions.  Corporate Coworking is one of those ideas that I believe can be applied to many office environments to release pent up creative energy and help workers and management at all levels innovate through increased collaboration and communication.

Historians of the 20th century who study the industrial progress and innovation of the post-World War II boom in the United States understand how much innovation came out of having “water-cooler conversations”.  Over and over, people of different disciplines and levels in the corporate hierarchies would meet at the actual water cooler.  They would chat and informally discuss a problem or challenge they might be having.  Just sharing the situation and getting an outside perspective, time and time again, would lead the sharer to thinking of a solution or a to going in new direction.  Eureka!  They would return to their offices, or drafting boards, or manufacturing floor with an idea that was a game changer.

The “water cooler effect” has been studied and documented.  Now, by integrating the concept of Corporate Coworking into already established work environs, desperately needed creativity, collaboration and innovation can experienced!  Want to know more?  So glad you asked.   Drew Jones, David Walker and Thomas Heatherly are taking their Conjunctured Coworking concept to the corporate world.  The world will never be the same!

If you’re interested in doing a guest blog post on the Conjunctured blog, let us know

What is Leadership Today?

Today my new book- The Fifth Age of Work- has finally arrived.  In the book I outline the various points of convergence between the growing world of freelancers and small businesses, on the one hand, and a rapidly transforming corporate world, on the other.  For firms interested in thriving in the Fifth Age, as opposed to just hanging on to previously fought battles, a new form of leadership will be required.  While I’m not sure exactly what that will look like, I am beginning to cultivate some ideas.

For starters, Gen Y does not do alpha males.  Gone are the days where someone rises to the top because he is tall, in shape, and used to play high school football.  Today, men and women who have hard technical chops (design, engineering, analytics) are the ones who get respect, not the blokes who are good at golf or who kicked ass in the Dale Carnegie program.  Also, a much higher premium is now being placed on collaborative influence over individual influence.  As IBM CEO Ginni Rometty recently said, people are now being valued for what they share, not for what they know.  This may seem like a small and simple point, but I suspect as we go forward this observation will become increasingly profound.

As I said above, I’m not altogether sure where this leadership bus is heading, but I suspect it is heading to some place we haven’t been before. Probably wise to buckle up and keep our eyes open!

Source: Drew Jones Daily Drip

Activity Based Work

macquarie 2 Activity Based Work

Veldhoen + Company, the Dutch workplace consultancy that pioneered Activity Based Work, is one of the most important companies you’ve never heard of.  ABW is, essentially, mass scale corporate coworking. Everyone in the company, including the CEO and other top managers, gets a laptop and a locker for storage.  People choose workspaces that fit the work they are doing that day, not a fixed space that assumes that work everyday is the same.  Sounds radical, but really it is quite simple.

As the folks at Veldhoen say, ABW is about much more that redesigning physical spaces. A major knock-on effect of ABW is cultural transformation. Top management is accessible. No one is hidden behind oak desks and personal assistants.  Many time-consuming meetings are eliminated. Openness and transparency are nourished, and flatter and more egalitarian organizations evolve.

These are all good things, if you value these things. However, if you want to keep power and decision-making authority in the hands of the few, then ABW is probably not for you. In order to find out if ABW is right for your company, maybe you should just ask your employees!