Assimilating the interconnected, volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous—iVUCA—demands of our current socio-economic environment can trigger considerable stress in our work and workplaces. The upside of these potentially more stressful experiences is we are witnessing a significant transformation in how we work.
Just as work transformed in the Industrial Age (1760) from hand tools to power-driven machines, the advent of information and communication digital technologies evolved mechanistic work into knowledge work. In just 25 years, the Information Age (late 20th century) supplanted what had existed for over 200 years, and also began to erode increasingly archaic ways of working. With the arrival of the Innovation Age (2015 +), new norms and paradigms for the “being and doing” of work are solidifying as outlined below.
Exiting an industrial model of leadership, managing and organizing has meant relinquishing command and control behaviours for both corporations and unions. Their traditional bureaucratic organizational cultures worked during times of low complexity and slow change. Today’s rapid-rate of change requires corporations to match within themselves the degree of complexity and variety they experience in their outer environment.
To survive and thrive in the Innovation Age, organizations can no longer delude themselves by thinking they can predict and control the future. Rather, an adaptive organization senses and responds to the emerging circumstances in real time. Simply put, if you wish to give your customers an exceptional experience and keep them around for their next purchase, there is no longer time to send a request up the management channels and wait for a reply. Front line workers as well as C-suite executives need their work to be designed in a way that facilitates the customers’ need to be responded to in the moment.
Of course, this rapid response capability means giving employees the right and responsibility to be creative problem solvers and decision makers and to respect their choices. Isn’t this what we have all been waiting for and even sought in our lifetime of employment opportunities? The primary reason I began consulting was my discovery that organizations of the day extinguished creativity, and I knew my spirit would die if I subjected myself to their dehumanizing rules by becoming an employee.
From my 30-year perspective as an organization transformation consultant to almost every kind of workplace, we are indeed entering a golden era of work. The opportunity to make meaningful contributions to company and society are more and more available to us. And I see more and more people choosing their right to humane, innovative, meaningful work.