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Future of work: “Mindsets and behaviors must be changed”

Let me scare you for a second. Here’s an article from UVA (Darden) about “becoming a hyper-learning community” (a good idea) and, well, check out this paragraph:

Digital transformations will require a new story about the purpose of an organization, the role of leaders and managers, and the role of human beings in accomplishing that purpose. The whole concept of managing others will have to change in order to produce the highest levels of human performance in concert with smart technology. Command/control and directing others will, in most cases, become obstacles to success. Hierarchy and silos will likewise be obstacles. Coercion, fear, ego, elitism, corporate politics, a zero-sum game mentality and internal competition all inhibit hyper-learning, and they must be eliminated. Mindsets and behaviors must be changed.

Uh oh.

Why “uh oh?”

Look for these words in that paragraph:

  • “the purpose of an organization”
  • “the role of leaders and managers”
  • “command/control”
  • “hierarchy”
  • “silos”
  • “coercion”
  • “fear”
  • “ego”
  • “elitism”
  • “corporate politics”
  • “zero-sum game mentality”

Uh.

Er.

Um.

So.

A lot of these things are work to people. For many, work is about control and very little else.

Hierarchy, silos, ego, coercion, et al? They all protect that notion.

That’s why they exist — and continue to exist.

So this journey will be hard, yes?

Indeed.

But it’s also absolutely necessary because, well, technology is outpacing humans by about 12 light years every month.

That makes automation a very real concern.

It creates a bunch of other concerns too. I won’t burden you with those.

What’s the path through?

First thing I would do is toss out the word “purpose” for all these discussions, OK? Purpose is a suitcase word. It means a million different things to a million different people. When we root work discussions around “purpose,” it destroys clarity and allows the status quo to keep winning.

So: bye bye purpose.

Instead, let’s talk about building work into a real community. That stuff matters. Now, yes, you can argue that community is also a suitcase word. You’d probably be right.

Let me give you an example, then.

Learning is really hard within organizations, seemingly. Very few places seem to do it right.

So what if you created a weekly program — say, on Fridays, when work is often a farce anyway — designed to help people learn from their colleagues?

See, now you’re building a community around learning and growth. And you’re not spending any money.

This is all doable. Really.

Why don’t we do it?

Because we’ve “always done it this way.”

Or because we want the “best practices” of a competitor.

Whatever the reason, it’s pretty stupid.

These are cheap, easy, connected ways to build out your people so they’re empowered with the knowledge to really contribute — instead of checking boxes in their specific silo.

Ah, but the dirty little secret…

… of most managers is, of course, this:

Most people want their employees heads down checking boxes in their specific silo.

Because that means the employee is supposedly:

  • “Productive”
  • “Engaged”
  • “On-Task”
  • “Making the manager look better”
  • (Wait that one didn’t need quotes)
  • “Being managed”

Look at the headline of this post: “Behaviors and mindsets must be changed.”

If you want the future of work in six words, there it fucking is.

We ain’t gonna get through unless we re-contextualize our approach to all this stuff.

No other way to say it.

Ted Bauer

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