Future redux...work space!


Small request. Think of the name of a company you would like to work in. Go global. Think employer, organisation, or company other than your own current one.

I have asked this question in campfire discussions with groups of students in over thirty locations in different parts of the world, including Delhi, Dubai, Singapore, LA, Chennai, and Shanghai. And again in a host of other larger forums, seminars, conferences with varied non-student participants.

Think of the name of a company you would really like to work in. Almost universally, the responses have always included a few names, the famous G company and the famous A company to begin with.

The request was followed by a Question... What made you pick these names?

The answers were a barrage of words… cool, fun, creative, flexible, open, free, fun, edgy, not-boring, not-traditional, freedom, not-restrictive, fun, innovative, iconic etc and many more in the same genre.

BETTER still... 'There's something about them...' (This is said with a frown and the thumb rubbing the fingertips of the hand… as if feeling the texture of a fine powder).

There were definitely those who claimed ‘my company is like that’ attracting dis-believing looks from those around them. Most of this group clarified that they worked in a start-up, or in a boutique firm, or had just moved to a small company, or jumped in with an entrepreneur.

(And before you ask, let me tell you... yes, the responses were almost identical in both the student AND the non-student forums). (Also, yes of course, there were those who said things like customer-centricity, at-the-fore-front of technology, etc... but these people and comments were a wee small minority).

BEST of all... not many of the respondents actually knew anything much about these companies; facts, financials, or otherwise. Just some snippets, some hearsay, some stories, jokes, my-niece-said she-has-a-friend-who-said… you get the drift! An occasional twist was from those who believed that these companies were from their own countries!

Agreed this is not a scientific experiment but it hints at what people seem to want in an employer of choice ie moving away from the prescriptive, restrictive, boring, rule-bound, tied-down monochromatic view on what constitutes employment and employer. In other words, the freedom to bring ALL of ourselves into work.

What is also fascinating is the number of pointers, all indicating something unsaid, unwritten that seems to fire the imagination of people …we may not know exactly what it is, but we 'sense' it, and are happy imagining that it will give us the freedom to do many more things, in a new way, freely and in an enjoyable manner.

Work spaces to redux... revive the future!

So, what is prompting this move towards neo-enterprise?

Mind how we look at the gaps. Much is said about the gap between demand and supply of talent. But, what if we are looking at talent in the wrong way? There is so much that has been written on the demographic dividend & employability gap. These are hi-level, macro, employer points-of-view. How about we turn this upside down. Look at employability gap differently. What if the gap is in how we are viewing the workforce? What if the real GAP IS IN THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE EMPLOYER AND NOT IN THE EMERGING WORKFORCE? Of course, Skill development outfits need to cater to existing views and needs of employers, but this seems like a half-measure. Another distinct & very real perspective has to be reckoned with (from the other side). Isn’t there a case to build organisations to suit reality, and the capability and aspirations of the emerging work-force? This is the view being endorsed by tidal waves of future employees who are readying to join the workforce and be gainfully employed... and hoping that it will be like they aspired it to be. There is a case to re-understand the workplace… lets change that to WORK SPACE. There is a case to re-understand the workspace & change it around to make the best use of in-coming talent. This failing, there is a very real fear that their frustrations will hurt the business, and even scar society itself. The signs are already there.

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. LIKE! There is so much argument about the how, when, where and why of social media and networking at the workplace. Accept it. This is an interconnected world. Not just virtually but in a deeper sense. Small things have big outcomes and vice versa. Freedom to connect is a hygiene factor. Let’s move on from this discussion, and focus energies on how to put this to better use, not just with external customers but also with internal employees and stake-holders

Technology - catalyst or cataclysmic? People entering the workforce today are digital natives with evolving DNAs. Their lives are built around technology. They use technology differently and demand speed of change to meet their ever evolving needs. Technology, on the one hand, is gallantly rising to meet these needs. Even more impressively, technology is simultaneously raising the bar by anticipating, creating and addressing UNEXPRESSED NEEDS. It does look like unthinkable or imaginable technology is and will be available at the fingertips of people. New rules will matter.

New game, new rules. It appears that as we continue to do what we are doing, making incremental changes and claiming innovation, we could be setting ourselves up for failure. Worse still, evolution passes us by, and sloth-like organisations slow-boil ourselves to extinction. Emerging work-force seems to be sensing a way forward through disruptive MUTATIVE change. Not tweaking or changing the rules or the players but changing the game itself.

What just happened... In recent times, the time between earth shattering inventions has crashed, so has the magnitude and impact of the changes unleashed. We need to revisit the old dictum that change is the only constant. It always was. It is inevitable. Question is, have we accounted for the context we live in, and what the future is bringing.

Always a good time for a reality check, some crystal gazing and ponder over the shape and contours of businesses that have become organisations, and need to become enterprises once again. Move to newer, more relevant models; workspaces in neo-enterprises. Reviving the future.