A few decades ago when the world was rooting itself in what was dubbed the Information Age, there was a widespread expectation that the business landscape was heading towards an era of unprecedented stability. After all, organizations weren’t interested in information for its own sake. Information was just raw material to be amassed, manipulated and shared for the purpose of making better decisions, and ultimately achieving a new era of stabilized success.
Something Happened on the Road to Stability…
However, something unexpected happened on the road from information to stability, and it sideswiped most pundits and philosophers, just as it did organizations that had prepared to spend the next few decades reaping the rewards of their investments and hard work: disruption.
That is, the very same technology and approach that turned organizations into 24/7 data gathering entities, started to unleash transformative change that was anything but stabilizing. Instead, it was surprising or shocking; the former if it was ultimately (and often accidentally) profitable, and the latter if it was costly. Either way, there was nothing stable about it. Although philosophers and pundits promised otherwise, we’ve gone from the Information Age, straight into the Age of Disruption.
Transforming Disruption into Opportunity
There’s no going back (or convenient CTRL-X hotkey), and that means organizations cannot afford to ignore this fundamental shift and “keep calm and carry on.” Doing so will make them easy targets to be sideswiped by disruption – and we’ve already seen this happen in many fields, such as law, finance, IT, professional services, and the list goes on.
The only acceptable direction is forward, and that means organizations need to find safe harbor in the Age of Disruption; not so they brace for impact and cower for cover, but on the contrary, so they position themselves to do something truly astonishing: transform disruption into opportunity.
Principles for the New World of Work
Below, we highlight the principles that organizations must fully and authentically embrace at a cultural level to survive and thrive in the new world of work – one in which disruption is the expectation, not the exception:
- Visibility: silos must come down and “islands of activities” must be connected – or failing that, obliterated from the workplace. Without full 360-degree visibility, teams don’t have the ability to identify opportunities, grasp consequences, or avoid threats.
- Transparency: without transparency, visibility is meaningless and accountability is impossible. Teams have to be trained, empowered and ultimately trusted to access and provide feedback on information that is outside their functional domain, but is relevant in the bigger picture. It’s all hands on deck as far as knowledge capital goes, and everyone must have the opportunity to help: from the intern who started this morning, to the veteran executive who is celebrating 20 years with the organization.
- Speed: many organizations have tried working faster for years; but instead of moving the needle, they’re just much busier – or sometimes even slower because of the amount of re-work required. The way forward is to approach work as a journey rather than an activity; one in which teams focus on moving tasks towards completion vs. back and forth. In a sense, it’s management by objective at the task level.
- Collaboration: In the Information Age, teams communicated. In the Age of Disruption, they have to collaborate, which means that it has to be part of the work journey. In other words, the decision to interact – whether formal or informal, online or offline – has to be made in light of the question: “will it move an activity or task forward to completion?” If the answer is yes, then the interaction must (not should) occur. If the information is no, then leave teams and individuals alone so they can continue being productive.
- Engagement: People are the heart and soul in the new world of work. This isn’t just because engaging people as human beings – and not cogs in a system – is appropriate, moral and ethical. It’s also because the very emergence of the Age of Disruption is an object lesson in what happens when technology is given a free pass and enabled by blind faith. Yes, technology should help us do things we can only dream of doing – and some amazing things we can’t even imagine (just look at medicine). But to find safe harbor and succeed, organizations must recognize that technology exists to empower their people and customers; not the other way around. In other words: if technology isn’t functional, useful, relevant, intuitive, simple and people-centric, it’s part of the problem – not the solution.
The Bottom Line
At Planview AdaptiveWork, we recognized a decade ago that organizations were amassing an unprecedented and frankly incomprehensible amount of information – but were gleaning very little insight, and experiencing less stability. That’s why we designed our progressive project management software for the new world of work: one in which visibility, transparency, speed, collaboration, and engagement are defining characteristics, not optional features.
Indeed, the Age of Disruption is upon us, and it’s going to stick around for at least a few decades. Organizations that make fundamental adjustments to their technology and philosophy will find the safe harbor they need to transform disruption into opportunity, and enjoy remarkable growth and success. Organizations that fail to do so risk crashing against the rocks, and forced to pick up the pieces.
To learn, more check out the following Business to Community article “The Future of Work: Building a Culture of Collaboration.”