Tag: future prediction

The Workplace of Tomorrow

workplace of tomrrowIs there an ideal workplace?

Despite all of the predictions of a futuristic workplace we all seem to inhabit vastly different offices and factories. So will there ever be a workplace where everything is ideal? What actually will the workplace of tomorrow look and feel like? The answer is probably not because of the compromises that must exist. But it is likely to offer flexibility and empowerment to the people that work within it. Such a place must try to accommodate the requirements of the business (usually in line with commercial stakeholders) and those of employees (and social stakeholders).

These fall into 3 main areas:

1. The organisation, Leaders and Managers
2. Employees
3. Working environment

Roles will change

Leaders and Managers will find their roles changing. They will be the ‘senior citizens’ of the organisation and will no longer exert influence through power and hierarchies. Influence will be through their experience, knowledge, wisdom and vision for the future. These senior citizens may very well have portfolio careers (a term used often by Charles Handy). They may work for more than one organisation. They will exert influence but with less cost than the full time management of old.

Employees are the citizens, still able to contribute knowledge and experience but not to such an extent. Contracts of employment may very well be zero hour i.e. employees will not be contracted for a minimum period of employment per week. Instead, their efforts will be summoned on demand. Perhaps 30 hours one week and 40 the next (or none). This will give businesses flexibility but could also leave employees some freedom to create valuable IPR in their time off as a trade off for the new contracts.

The working environment

The working environment is perhaps the thing that we are currently closest to. Efficiency dictates some sort of hot desking, perhaps hot desking with feeling so that the immediate working environment is not sanitised and can be decorated or personalised. With a distributed workforce, a certain amount of sickness absence and site visits, we no longer need the amount of office space that we did in the past. Making such environments ‘modular’ also means that we can add or subtract capacity easily.

The name of the game in the future is compromise and flexibility on the part of all parties.

The Future of Leadership

The future of Leadership (and also Management) continues to be debated. It is widely recognised that things cannot remain as they are. We are in a challenging era and we need organisations to be more effective (not necessarily efficient), to be better places to work and to be sustainable. Up until now, these have mainly not been attainable apart from in a few organisations. These few do, however, show that what we are all striving for is in fact possible. The question is, how on earth do we get there?

There are professional bodies that see themselves as the custodians of Leadership or Management. Are these the bodies to take things forward? In fact, should there be representative bodies at all? The problem is that we are trying to paint a picture of the future which a) obviously does not exist b) which we wish to be different from the present.

This means that if we use the current knowledge and models from any existing sources then we are likely to be interpolating in order to create the future. Even current management thinking tells us to be wary of this. Surely what we desire is a way of extrapolating from what we already know. Fans of Douglas Adams will only be too aware of how the ‘Infinite Improbability Drive’ was extrapolated from an exceedingly hot steaming cup of coffee in The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy (please read it if you have not already done so). If Douglas Adams had interpolated then he might have just created a frothy Latte rather than an ‘Infinite Improbability Drive’.

So what does this mean for Leadership? In terms of concrete actions, I am not entirely sure. However, to find out I believe that we need to paint a picture of the future which does not have to be complete fantasy. It should, however, not be limited by current thinking. This should maybe focus on organisational structures (or not), behaviours and the ways in which employees communicate as well as the requirements of organisations. The let us consider how we get there.

We should not throw away what we already know. Neither should we accept an interpolated future just because there are aspects that we are unclear about. If there are no Leadership and Management models then let us invent them. If we do not like the language used then let us create new language. Even if we cannot do that, let us experiment and create a prototype of the future which others can borrow or add to.

The danger is that this will be seen as too high a price to pay for creating a brighter future. What price are you and your organisation prepared to pay?

Business Creativity and Innovation – why aren’t more companies taking it seriously?

Business Creativity and Innovation – why aren’t more companies taking it seriously? Let’s face it, most of the economies around the world have been in deep trouble for a couple of years and the problems do not look like they are going to end soon. We have politicians talking about radical reforms, new beginnings and innovative policies and then at the bottom of the chain there is us, the businesses both large and small that the politicians are betting on to help dig us out of the mess.

A lot of companies are making the right noises and I have contact with many who state that they wish to run ‘innovation workshops’, kick off an ‘innovation programme’ or make their business more creative. They all seem to appreciate that taking some action will improve many HR issues such as intrinsic motivation, communications, and decision making to name a few. These businesses all claim to be looking to the future, to determine what the products and services of the future will look like and meet that challenge.

So senior managers, and above, are tackling strategic issues and seeking for the most effective tools to get the job done. Why is it then that when presented by a number of solid proposals that they do not go ahead? Mysteriously something comes up at the last minute, people cannot make the workshop, the cost is too high or best of all something more important has come up! What can be more important than the future of your company?

The worst offenders seem to be large multinational companies with a degree of financial inertia (maybe some cash in the bank and the ability to sit it out and see the competition wither) who elect to ride out the storm rather than steering around it. These companies need to be showing us the way and leading global recovery or else we are just going to be left with a handful of dinosaurs in sectors such as oil and gas, power generation and airlines.

So, my plea is, if the future really matters to your business then take Business Creativity and Innovation seriously and give it the time and funds that it deserves or you may not have a future.

Futures – The future’s bright so how do we get there?

In a previous article some of the benefits of using Futures were outlined. But you would like to know how to benefit from Futures wouldn’t you?

The first stage is a huge information gathering exercise (remember the analogy of a ship’s wake, we need all of this information). At the same time there needs to be some degree of focus. We cannot just generate the answer to the question ‘What does the future look like?’ A more reasonable question might be ‘What does the market for personal computers look like in 2020?’ or ‘What will the requirements for transport infrastructure in Wales be in 2025?’

Once these areas have been identified we then begin to look at the drivers that affect these areas and existing trends that are already apparent. We also look a little further afield and scan the time horizon as far ahead as we can. All the time we gather information, taking care not to filter it too much as the ‘signals’ that we are looking for easily get lost in the ‘noise’ and we never know at the start how much weight (or credibility) to attribute to the information we are gathering.

At this point we have an idea of what we wish to look at and the various factors that might affect it. Now we add the questions, what if oil prices trebled or the population halved, working through a number of scenarios and seeing how this changes the future. Then we throw in the wildcards, who predicted 9/11 in the USA or the bombings in London? Who foresaw the so called credit crunch?

And how can we make this tangible at the end of the exercise? There are two main ways of examining strategy, observing the future from the present and working out how to get there and the most powerful version which is to look back towards the present from the future and describing how we got here. This is where our storytelling skills come into their own and we generate buy in.

We can predict the future up to 30 years ahead in order to inform strategy making and investment decisions for public and private sector bodies by using:

 

    • Information from expert groups
    • Widely available information
    • A number of carefully chosen scenarios
    • Both existing knowledge and by introducing wildcards
    • Storytelling and other creative techniques to facilitate information gathering and generating buy in

 

For further information on how Futures can be used to help your organisation please get in touch now.

 

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