Work Futures Weekly - The First Week Of The Rest Of My Life

Well, it's a new model for the Work Futures Weekly, anyway.

Beacon NY - 2018-07-21 - As I announced earlier this week, I've made significant changes at Work Futures Daily:

I am putting the Daily behind the paywall, for paid subscribers only. Work Futures Weekly -- a weekend edition -- will be available to non-paid subscribers, but those who want their Daily fix will have to signup as a paying member of the Work Futures community.

I will be mailing out promotional reminders to the non-paid subscribers to entice them to sign up. But this project involves lots of work, so please support it with a subscription.

This is the first Weekly under this new model, so I hope all receiving it enjoy the sampling from this week's Dailies. If you are a non-paying subscriber you might want to consider signing up for a subscription, which currently involves a free month. You can't go wrong!


On Platforming Change

from Platforming Change

In Change the old or build the new?, Lee Bryant muses on the role that technology may play in the difficult work of organizational change, He points out that there are three main models for changing hierarchical organizations into something flatter: a 'benevolent dictator' like Zhang Riumin or Riccardo Semler introduces sweeping change from above, a company hits the wall and the 'surviving pieces' can be smooshed together into something better than before, and a third sort, where change begins from below and 'becomes the new normal'.

Bryant captures the dissociative identity of change agents in these organizations-in-flux, how they can feel like outsiders when tinkering at the DNA of slow-to-move organizations. But his final vision perfectly matches by belief in the role of platforms to paradoxically liberate organizations more organically through technology:

Rather than focussing on changing every aspect of the old organisation, which is sometimes impossible, it often makes sense to build out, connect and map a new organisational infrastructure that is natively digital, networked and service-oriented, rather than just an adjunct to a ‘manual’ process-driven organisation. But this will require a new approach to organisational technology, one that aims to create operating systems that can coordinate work better than hierarchical management, rather than just tired old enterprise software that calcifies and makes permanent the worst aspects of command and control management thinking. 

Yes, platforms that do not just pave the cowpaths, but reanimate and rechannel people's commitment to their work, their connections to each other, to suppliers, partners, and customers: finding place and purpose in the ecosystem that platforms underlie and engender. Platforming change may be the simpler, and more direct trajectory to a new business operating system.

Bryant has some other great links in his post, too.


On Respect, Earned and Owed

from A Long, Long Week

In Do Your Employees Feel Respected?, Kristie Rogers addresses one of the three foundations of work identity and personal drive: respect. (The other two are autonomy and mastery):

My research indicates that employees value two distinct types of respect. Owed respect is accorded equally to all members of a work group or an organization; it meets the universal need to feel included. It’s signaled by civility and an atmosphere suggesting that every member of the group is inherently valuable. In environments with too little owed respect, we typically see Tayloristic overmonitoring and micromanagement, incivility and abuse of power, and a sense that employees are interchangeable. Earned respect recognizes individual employees who display valued qualities or behaviors. It distinguishes employees who have exceeded expectations and, particularly in knowledge work settings, affirms that each employee has unique strengths and talents. Earned respect meets the need to be valued for doing good work. Stealing credit for others’ success and failing to recognize employees’ achievements are signs that it is lacking.

She goes on to make the case that both kinds of respect are necessary, and imbalances create different sorts of problems:

Workplaces with lots of owed respect but little earned respect can make individual achievement a low priority for employees, because they perceive that everyone will be treated the same regardless of performance. That could be the right mix for settings in which goals need to be accomplished as a team, but it risks reducing motivation and accountability. By contrast, workplaces with low owed respect but high earned respect can encourage excessive competition among employees. That may serve a purpose in environments, such as some sales forces, where workers have little interdependence or reason to collaborate. But it could hinder people from sharing critical knowledge about their successes and failures, and it often promotes cutthroat, zero-sum behavior. When they understand these nuances, leaders can craft an environment that is right for their situation—in most cases, one with high levels of both kinds of respect.

One powerful takeaway is the observation that we can choose to see respect as an infinite resource, not one that is limited: it is not a pie where giving a piece to one person leads to less to be shared among others. As she says,

Respect is not finite; it can be given to one employee without shortchanging others. This is true of both owed and earned respect: All members of an organization are entitled to the former, and all employees who meet or surpass performance standards deserve the latter. 


On The Myth of Collaboration

from All The Way Back From China

I've read this piece by Paul Taylor several times, Ending The Myth Of Collaboration, where he amasses research that debunks the sunshine-and-flowers positivity about the benefits of working with others.

Work at MIT found that collaboration — where a bunch of people put their heads together to try to come up with innovative solutions — generally “reduced creativity due to the tendency to incrementally modify known successful designs rather than explore radically different and potentially superior ones.”

Businesses love the idea of this kind of ‘brainstorming’ as it involves a lot of people, is visible, and is seen as a quick route to solving a problem. There’s precious little evidence though that it produces any results.

A meta-analytic review of over 800 teams indicated that individuals are more likely to generate a higher number of original ideas when they don’t interact with others.

As Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic writes ‘brainstorming actually harms creative performance, resulting in a collective performance loss that is the very opposite of synergy.’

We're mostly better off working independently, but as Taylor says, solitude is out of fashion, and the bias toward groupthink can screw-up even the best ideas. So,

any business that values creativity should be considering how it can get better at keeping people apart.

Yes, there are times for bringing people together to jointly work on something, as he enumerates:

  1. Dealing with complex problems that require multiple ‘expert’ opinions.

  2. Getting buy-in. People are more invested in an idea when they were involved in defining the problem.

  3. Dealing with strategic issues. The more fundamental the issue is to the organisations purpose the more essential collaboration becomes.

But not when:

  1. You need to really think about things. This benefits from solitude and purposeful exploration.

  2. You need to be really radical. Truly disruptive thinking happens in very small deviant groups.

  3. You don’t have time. When you have a burning platform or require an immediate decision you’re better off being autocratic than wasting peoples time through ‘involvement theatre’.


Ten Commandments of Liberal Inquiry

from Jet Lagged Like Never Before

Yascha Mounk recently unearthed Bertrand Russel's Ten Commandments of Liberal Inquiry, which I reproduce here:

  1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.

  2. Do not think it worthwhile to produce belief by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.

  3. Never try to discourage thinking, for you are sure to succeed.

  4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.

  5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.

  6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.

  7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

  8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.

  9. Be scrupulously truthful, even when truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.

  10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

Mounk observes,

One of the greatest dangers, as Russell saw it, was that "the man who has any doubts" would be "despised." But liberalism, he argued, "is not so much a creed and a disposition." It involves tolerance for what you believe to be others' errors.

We have a lot to learn from that.


Quote of the Week

from Platforming Change

Work is the master of the modern world.

| Andy Becket, cited by Paul Millerd in Questioning Work: The third rail of the modern world.

Millerd makes some good points in his dissection of the centrality of work to our identities, our scramble to find meaning through work, and our slipping into Josef Pieper's 'total work', where 'human beings are transformed into workers and nothing more'.