Last week there was a re-run of the movie World War Z. Too ridiculous to watch but when I was browsing through the channels I saw the scene about an Israeli secret agent talking about the ‘tenth man’. He was not referring to the novel of Graham Greene but their systematic approach to evaluate threats or challenges. The tenth man was there to ALWAYS question the outcome or solution the other 9 people agreed on. This to make sure they did not miss out on the better alternative. Why am I talking about this?

At WPA I dare to say that we are in the midst, the eye of the storm of work innovation. We read, visit, present, evaluate and criticise nearly everything that has something to do with people and work. We were on the HR TECH in Paris two weeks ago and last week we visited the most sustainable office in the world with 72.000 sensors sensing and analysing all kind of stuff from employees. We have extensive discussions about what culture contributes, how workplace design and environments support or bother work and where DATA gathering leads to and leaves us with regard to privacy. We have clients on 3 continents that have different routes and speeds with regard to work(place) strategies but overall we are sensing 3 trends:

  • Work mobility, Anything that has to do with mobilising work. From working from anywhere to working activity based in offices or elsewhere due to the possibilities;
  • Healthy work, There is a new wave coming that drags every research, trend, etc towards making a case for fitbits, apple health, healthier offices, better food, greener, less stress, better acoustics, etc. etc. etc.
  • Work(force) analytics,  The whole DATA analytics bonanza. From 100 million dollar big data projects to reveal new insights to measuring everything from the workforce, the workplace, etc. by implementing sensors, surveying, IoT (Internet of Things) etc.

All of these phenomena have a lot of good in them and are bringing in the right cases good things to humans, to the body of work and the overall business contribution. We learn, we are more flexible and adaptive and can remain healthier. But when I listened to Josh Bersin from Bersin by Deloitte – saying that since the introduction of the smartphone we have become less productive – It triggered me once more…

What are we trying to pursue? What are we missing? The Shareholder would love to see the most productive employee at the lowest cost. The people (and the government) wants us to remain healthy and free of diseases so we are a strong and growing population. We as individuals want to have the freedom, happiness and self-actualisation. Although we work formally and physically less hours than 50 years ago people still feel that work pressure is high, +33% of British worker do not think their work contributes to anything etc. And now it seems that a lot of the dots above all push towards optimising work for the sake of being even more productive, more managed centrally.

When we started our business 10 years ago we promised ourselves that if things went well we would work as managing directors 4 days and have 3 days off. Basically it never happened. Why? I don’t know. But what interests me as the tenth man is why employees as overall human capital cannot benefit yet so much from automation, robotisation and all the knowledge that makes us do our work easier, happier and more engaged to the organisation (organisation? isn’t that already an old phenomena?).

So who is interested in the alternatives like me? The unorthodox way, the ‘other’ CEO style like Ricardo Semler or that organisation that reaps more benefits from automating themselves and working either less or doing only the essential fun things? Is this utopia or are these the trends that follow in the next decade?

Let’s ‘work’ it out! I want to learn 🙂