When you look at the changes going on in society, and the implications for business, you realize that there are some significant changes going on. This isn’t news: things are moving faster, we’re having less resources available, our competition is more agile, the amount of relevant information is increasing, customers are more aware, the list goes on. Does this mean something fundamental, however?
I want to argue that it does. Not surprisingly for regular readers, I think that the nature of work is changing. The success factor for businesses will be, increasingly, the ability to:
- continually innovate
- conduct useful research
- learn from mistakes
- create new processes
- solve problems
- create new products/services/offerings/markets/businesses
In essence, to do the important work faster. Call it knowledge work, call it concept work, the point is that execution will only be the cost of entry, innovation will be the necessary differentiator. The fact is, our brains are really good at pattern matching, and bad at rote work. Training people to do rote work is a dying enterprise. We should be reserving our brains for making decisions, dealing with ambiguity, and working together to create new understandings. That, increasingly, is the important work. And facilitating that work is job number one.
Now, I recognize that there’s a lot of work and businesses out there that are doing just fine as they are. But that’s not the way to bet. That’s likely to change in a relatively small window. Some have postulated it on the order of 5 years. No matter how cool your innovation is (c.f. the iPad), look how fast competitors come out (within months). That’s not a sufficient barrier to entry. And the work that’s not the important work? Well, that could and should be outsourced or automated. Rote work isn’t how you add value, and create margins.
So, the important question becomes, how do we get the ability to do the important work? And that, my friends, is why the ITA is on a crusade about wirearchy, personal knowledge management, social media, informal learning, and new L&D skills. Because the only way to do the important work is to enable the power of your people. You need to get out of the old hierarchical ‘one thinks for many’ world, and start recognizing the importance of organization culture, of facilitating communication and collaboration, of enabling the necessary elements.
We believe that recognizing the inherent value of individual and collective capability, and honoring it with meaningful work and the best support, makes for more enjoyable and successful organizations. We’re seeing the possibilities, tracking and developing the methods and tools, and helping organizations make the transition. Are you ready to do the important work?