People are slow to change. For thousands of years we basically have worked for the same essential things: safety, sustenance, belonging, and meaning. Generally speaking, it is not difficult to understand a person’s overall motivations as we all can relate to each other in this way. But we have seen values evolve faster than people, and now technology even faster than that. As a result, we have seen industries rapidly changing and coping with these advancements.
Despite these tumultuous times, I am a firm believer in values being the spine of your organization. As an organization, you have to decide what your core values are and then everything else will either fall into place or be informed by this initial decision. Of course, it’s much more complicated than that, but I believe that this is how we will reconcile our behavior with these changing times.
Every industry is different, but there is some common ground as we move forward. Husband’s idea of “Wirearchy” (Husband, 2016) is fascinating. The idea is that connectivity should be expanded, and every thread between each node of an organization should be multiplied. This is a departure from the traditional hierarchical organization structure and does away with the silos that might result. But I had trouble understanding how exactly these tenets would manifest in an entrepreneurial or corporate structure. You can’t share everything even if you wanted, and don’t some cases call for some limitations to access? I clicked through his website looking for concrete examples and the only one I could find (without paying for his e-book) was from the blog post on designing flows of purposeful people. In it, he gives 2 examples, the second of which a body of students formed a coalition of networks that began to thrive. They shared knowledge, information, and experiences and in return received sustainability, self-governance and structure. At the same time, I was curious to know how these theories would work in a corporate structure where people have vastly different roles, make decisions that have a wide range of impact, and are beholden to various groups of stakeholders?
Prince (2019) wrote an article that was more illuminating in this respect. Firstly, I an intrigued by her proposal for K-12 education for building well-rounded professionals. It is definitely debatable whether some of those topics were within the scope of formal education or were they more in the family/parenting territory, but I would have certainly loved to have been taught some fo those concepts growing up. But I think that Prince made an excellent point: what better way to deal with rapidly changing environments than to create agile and flexible professionals? Many of the skills discussed in this article are traditionally known as “soft skills”, and recently I have been wondering if they should be rebranded, especially when it comes to leadership.
A problem we have is that people are promoted until they are incompetent. Partly because people expect and work toward promotions, and partly because the skills required to succeed at one level are not necessarily the same as those required to succeed at another. Leaders and managers need to be flexible both emotionally and cognitively. They need to be able to manage personalities, understand motivations, and promote positive culture. In this sense, these “soft skills” that Prince proposes we start teaching earlier and place more emphasis on appears to be something worth looking into.
I think that for this reason, having and promoting diversity is key. You cannot expect everyone to excel at everything, but you do need to build a team that thinks creatively and having people from different backgrounds, experiences, and knowledge are key components to thinking creatively. I have heard the term “soft skill” used condescendingly, and it’s a shame. These are not soft skills, they are tools for connecting, for building relationships, and for leaders.
Husband, J. (2016). Hierarchy to Wirearchy – Designing Flows for Networks of Purposeful People. Referenced from: http://wirearchy.com/2016/09/26/hierarchy-to-wirearchy-designing-flows-for-networks-of-purposeful-people/
Prince, K. (2019). Preparing All Learners for an Uncertain Future of Work. Referenced from: https://www.gettingsmart.com/2019/02/preparing-all-learners-for-an-uncertain-future-of-work/
Weinberger, D. (2014). David Weinberger on the Power of the Internet. Refernced from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPXmEh24KXA