“Our people matter”

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Bullshit is still rife in corporate life in 2018.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the corporate vision and strategy – in particular, for any corporate seeking to ‘transform’ itself over the next few years to ‘disrupt’ itself, lest it be ‘disrupted’.

Bullshit words and phrases obfuscate or euphemise what the company is really seeking to do, and therefore how its people should feel and act.

Words like ‘transform’ or ‘transformation’ are of course euphemisms that typically mean: “make better use of technology so that we can do more with less people”.

Oh, what a difference it would make if corporate CEOs and execs could simply and plainly say this, whilst at the same time reassuring their people that good people – working on the right things – are vital to the the company’s success, and valued accordingly.

Something along these lines, perhaps?:

Our people matter now more than ever.

  • A highly engaged team is critical to our future success
  • That said, we will be aggressively pursuing two things:
    1. Redesigning our business so that our people only do the things it makes sense for them to do.
    2. Redesigning our business to ensure we are delivering the best possible customer experience.
  • Yes, this means that means that robots, automation, digitisation, customer self-service etc. will eventually do many of the things our people do today. It also means that we need to think constantly about what’s best for others, rather than simply what’s best for us.
  • Consequently, we need our people to:
    • Be capable of embracing change – open to upskilling, re-training, and taking on new roles and challenges. Committed to continuous improvement for self, as well as company.
    • Become customer-centric – understand how/why customer experience matters, and be clear what they can do each day to improve it.
  • We will actively help our people to do both of these things. Our future depends on it.

With people at the heart of our business, our strategy is two-fold:

  1. Get better every day at doing the things our company is known for today; and
  2. Actively seek out new things our company could be known for tomorrow.

At some point, your job is likely to move from (1) to (2).
At some point, our customers might know us more for (2) than (1).

But for now, and the foreseeable future, we are committed to giving both aspects of our strategy the level of attention, investment and support that each deserves.

We know it will be a balancing act, but we’re confident that if we continue to put our people first, they’ll help us to get it right.

Boundless curiosity, deep generalism, and other skills for the postnormal era

Stowe Boyd’s recent Work Futures article, “10 work skills for the postnormal era”, is a cracker.

In it, he suggests that the “top 10 skills for 2020” as published in the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report are “at least five years out of date”, and proposes an alternative list of skills for the rapidly and radically changing world of work:

  1. Boundless Curiousity — The most creative people are insatiably curious. They want to know what works and why.
  2. Freestyling — We have to learn to dance with the robots, not run away. However, we still need to make sure that AI is limited enough that it will still be dance-tithable, and not not-runnable-away-from.
  3. Emergent Leadership — Emergent leadership: the ability to steer things in the right direction without the authority to do so, through social competence.
  4. Constructive Uncertainty — The idea of constructive uncertainty is not predicated on eliminating our biases: they are as built into our minds as deeply as language and lust.
  5. Complex Ethics — All thinking touches on our sense of morality and justice. Knowledge is justified belief, so our perspective of the world and our place in it is rooted in our ethical system, whether examined or not.
  6. Deep Generalists — Deep generalists can ferret out the connections that build the complexity into complex systems, and grasp their interplay.
  7. Design Logic — It’s not only about imagining things that we desire, but also undesirable things – cautionary tales that highlight what might happen if we carelessly introduce new technologies into society.
  8. Postnormal Creativity — We should expect that in postnormal times creativity will have a few surprises in store for us.
  9. Posterity, not History, nor Future — While we need to learn from history, we must not be constrained by it, especially in a time where much of what is going on is unprecedented.
  10. Sensemaking — Skills that help us create unique insights critical to decision making.

The skills on this list really resonate with me, and I agree that “Boundless Curiousity” deserves the no. 1 spot.

As I constantly tell my kids – and my clients: you can never be too curious!