Google ‘the future of work’ and in a microsecond you’ll be hit up with 3.8 billion web pages dissecting what the future of work looks like.
And rightly so. After all, it’s a topic that ultimately has no definitive answer, is open to wild conjecture and is of the utmost importance, interest and intrigue to anyone involved in business – particularly those business leaders who are focused on setting up their company for future success.
However, much of the talk about the future of work focuses on the practical elements – location, when work is done and how technology is embraced and implemented.
However are conversations around (for what in reality is) workplace flexibility, process, or both, truly ‘the future of work’?
After all, it’s become the norm for good companies whose staff aren’t performing roles that require their physical at a specific location at a specific time, to offer brilliant flexibility.
Future of Work 2.0
Rather than only thinking about the future of work in the context of using technology to change how we do the work we need to do today, we need to challenge ourselves to think about the work we ask people to do, and how they actually go about it.
And what we really want out of them.
To prepare our businesses for the real ‘future of work’ we need to consider how we work; how we achieve and how we measure success. And, critically, how we empower people to be at their creative best.
Today, systems and processes that suit a company’s objectives are forced onto employees as a condition of employment, regardless of whether or not they get the best out of an individual.
Fast forward ten years, and employees will have freedom over how we use our knowledge. We’ll have freedom over how we work, and we’ll also have a burning desire to be recognised for that expression of self.
This is a hugely significant issue for business leaders and employees alike to think about – and as tech takes responsibility for the more automated and mundane tasks, it’s imperative we are setting up our teams to maximise their creativity.
Because it’s that creativity and unique thought that will be the human commodity for smart organisations.
And in a workplace that will become increasingly reliant on its team’s creativity, the notion of letting people choose how they best tap into their creative side isn’t a millennial fad, either.
Learning from the best
Back in the 80s, John Cleese, the famous Monty Python and Fawlty Towers comedian, gave a lecture on creativity.
If you have 30 minutes, watch it here - it’s awesome.
But a couple of lines particularly stand out for me:
“Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.”
I was challenged by this when I first heard it - I’d always thought some people are creative and others aren’t. Turns out I was wrong. It’s how they operate – and the environment they create around them.
I won't spoil the whole video for you, however this line is quite telling:
“Creativity is not possible in the closed mode [of thinking]. By the closed mode I mean the mode that we are in most of the time when at work.
“We have inside us a feeling that there's lots to be done and we have to get on with it if we're going to get through it all.”
Leaving no time – or space – for creativity.
If the future of our businesses, let alone the future of work, is dependent on bringing out the knowledge and creativity that exists in our people, then as business leaders we need to challenge ourselves to create the environments in which our people can be at their most creative.
And give them permission to choose how they do that.