What really is the future of work?
Entrepreneur and inventor, Sir James Dyson, saw the inefficiency of a conventional vacuum cleaner. Yet, when he pitched his idea of a bagless vacuum cleaner to his leadership peers, one responded, “if this concept is so good, then why aren’t Hoover or Electrolux already doing this?”
Dyson’s breakthrough eventually came 10 years after he first pitched his idea.
Whilst some businesses quickly embrace being bold and thinking creatively, others appear blind or resistant to their potential. Too often they default to what they ‘know’. Mitigating risk becomes more important to them than encouraging their employees to uncover and exploit opportunities not yet considered.
To thrive in a world evolving faster than ever this is going to have to change. The best businesses are already teaching us how we will need to think, act and do work differently.
Below are my perspectives on how I believe we will begin to think about and deliver this new way.
Every product we design should delight customers with simplicity.
This is what great businesses like Canva and Wise have in common. Their customer platforms are so simple to use that a creation or transaction can be undertaken in seconds. Their product offerings are manifested in providing an easy, frictionless, experience. So why does such consumer convenience still feel like such a rarity?
Great businesses have already worked out that to stay great their employees must spend more time walking in the shoes of their customers. They ignore vanity metrics and instead fixate on creating a simple user experience.
They resist the temptation of thinking reactively, of hoping for immediate sales bumps or desperately scrambling for more ‘likes’. Instead, they are building products and experiences that slide easily into our lives and stay there.
The future of how we work must be intimately centred on both the customer and employee experience. This isn’t a new phenomenon - it’s called design thinking. A user-centred approach to problem solving.
But, how many people in your business truly understand how your product actually adds value, and why people would buy it?
Every employee should be encouraged to think like an entrepreneur.
The most successful companies aren’t those that strive to make "the best product", instead they fixate on understanding the customer problem that they are trying to solve (think DropBox).
They obsess about solving that problem by creating a product experience their customers cannot live without. Successful companies solve a problem so well, their users can't remember what they did without that product in their lives.
In one of my previous articles; ‘Is there really going to be a new normal – or is this a time of opportunity for your business?’ I was critical of corporate machines that are often paralysed by silos and levels of hierarchy, which tragically suppress creative thinking and the ability to get an idea airborne.
Some corporates, however, are brilliant. One large corporate, based in Oregon with a Global headcount of 75,000, continues to demonstrate entrepreneurial brilliance. NIKE have been innovating for years.
They used to just make running shoes, yet they now rapidly unleash opportunities with technology. Their running apps encourage us to ditch the couch, engage in step counting and find like-minded connections to compete on their addictive Android apps. All these things add ongoing value to their core business, running shoes.
Animal spirits evolve at NIKE. They run toward politically sensitive issues and unleash bold marketing campaigns that reach and inspire new audiences, creating a whole ecosystem of customers around their products. They take risks, but their success speaks for itself.
Great businesses will scrap traditional thinking.
The underlying reason why workplaces are more innovative than others, is their culture. The future of work must provide employees with environments, experiences and platforms where new ideas are sprung from diverse and cross-functional teams of thinkers, watchers, and listeners.
None of that will be possible if traits like group think, cognitive discontent, blame cultures and fixed mindsets continue to dominate. These traits are often the root cause for complacency and business failure today. It needs to be ‘OK’ for leaders to admit that they don’t have all the answers, and for them to empower their teams to find great solutions.
Fortunately, Sir James Dyson continued pushing his idea and created his own company around it. Today, Dyson has over 12,000 employees, generates $7bn in annual revenue, pivoted to assist with manufacturing ventilators during the COVID-19 pandemic, and continues to invest $10m USD per week in research and development.
How excited do you feel about going to work today?