Predictions of Workplace Changes Should be Left to the Magic 8 Ball

For this week’s reflection on how the nature of work is changing with the proliferation of the Web, I thought I would consult the only “expert” I could find: The Magic 8 Ball. According to Weinberger (2014), we cannot anticipate all of the changes that will be coming in the next year, let alone further into the future.

So, this is how my conversation with the Magic 8 Ball Oracle went:

8-ball-header-300x250

Q: Will the Web impact the way we conduct work?

A: Ask again later.

Q: Do leaders need to be more flexible in their leadership style to accommodate both technology changes and employee motivations?

A: Signs point to yes.

Q: Can we accurately prepare for these changes ahead of time?

A: My sources say no.

While this is a light-hearted way of looking at the evolution of the workplace, I cannot really argue with these answers. Many researchers and insights professionals get paid a lot of money to predict upcoming workplace trends, but how should leaders use these trends? I would suggest that the reports from Gartner, Fortune and Glassdoor.com should be used directionally. Yes, the trends of more collaboration, spontaneous work, and increased automation are helpful to leaders, but these are not the Holy Grail of how to approach one’s own teams and environments.

I have a very diverse team in terms of experience and tenure with our employer. One of my challenges is to bring a connection and collaboration to a group of people who might have never talked to one another in the past. Instead of creating a hierarchy, I am wiring together a group of seemingly diverse individuals under a collective and shared umbrella. This is the exact definition of wirearchy. This system will allow for greater effectiveness and efficiency.

wirearchy-v2

As the leader, I am charged with helping define the collective goals and demonstrating how each team member has a purpose in achieving these goals. This is not about connecting more effectively through digital tools, however, I am considering adding Slack to our inter-team communications. This is about truly understanding how to break down any barriers and build trust among the team members. I find this approach less reliant on technology and more reliant on human capital.

I have utilized some of the strategies outlined by Gartner to complement the changes in the nature of work. I have found that using work swarms, spontaneous work opportunities and changing the “routine” have helped to create the culture with my new team. But, reading an article did not impact my approach, I was utilizing these methods before being formally presented with these, so I question whether these trends are that revolutionary.

And, if all else fails, ask the Magic 8 Ball!

8 thoughts on “Predictions of Workplace Changes Should be Left to the Magic 8 Ball

  1. Dr. Watwood:
    Thank you for your comment. As I reflected more on this topic, I realized that the use and understanding of the Web and its impact on the workplace has become a table stake. While I am by no means a digital native, many of my direct reports are, so adapting and adopting are the keys to being effective in this ever-evolving environment.
    -Krista

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    • I loved your post, Krista! I clicked on the comments to concur with your sentiments only to find that Dr. Watwood beat me to the punch. Though, I think it is worth the reiteration! I have been in environments that employed the latest and greatest in technological fads, seemingly because it was the cool and sexy to do so. There seemed little interest in leveraging them to facilitate communication or trust among the organization’s human capital. In the end, many of these efforts translated to additional responsibilities with very little (if any) meaningful return on investment. I agree that adapting and evolving are crucial, but keeping the main thing the main thing (however that is defined) seems an obvious and necessary interest for leaders.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for your encouragement, onfootraised. As I further explained, technology has become a table stake. If a leader cannot accept “this is the way of the world,” then it might be time to find one’s own relevancy! While Millennials are the first generation of “digital natives” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_native), this phenomenon will continue with the coming generations, so adaptability will be key to finding one’s own purpose.
        Yesterday I went to a performance by a Chinese dance and musical company called Shen Yun (https://www.shenyunperformingarts.org/). It was not just very well done, but it had a special message. These Chinese natives are not allowed to perform traditional dance and song in their own country due to the rule of Communism, but these young performers have battled against their government to come to New York and perfect their craft. I have to believe that the world they are exposed to through the digital landscape has helped affirm the work they are doing.
        You can’t fight technology or the information that everyone is now exposed to, so why not embrace it?
        -Krista

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  2. Krista, I appreciate your novel approach to this discussion!

    In the end, you talk about how you think that these “trends” aren’t necessarily groundbreaking or revolutionary… and that you’ve been practicing them for years (maybe without knowing it). I tend to feel this way a lot when reading leadership and management “best sellers.” That is, we’ve built up this industry around making an often simple observation and then codifying, formalizing, and systematizing it. 10 steps to better whatever. 5 mistakes you’re making in whatever. How to whatever in less than 6 months…

    Aside from my feelings about the management section in airport bookstores, I think this speaks to the fundamental nature of collective work. If you’re a systems theory proponent, you might say that any system seeks homeostasis. Minor adjustments are made on the fly to account for constituent members’ needs, and over time, the health of the entire system improves. Or, put in the context of organizational learning, individuals respond to and learn from stimuli within the context of their organizations in order to accomplish the goal. If this is the case, I think you’re spot on with your Magic 8 Ball approach. Perhaps we as leaders can set goals and identify parameters (system boundaries), and then let the system do its thing. I’m interested to know if you’ve seen your team self-adjust in this way.

    Thanks!

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    • James:
      Thank you for your comments. I suppose we can complain about the “wisdom” of leadership bestsellers, but I have to also give the authors credit for writing these manuscripts! To answer your question, I have seen my teams self-adjust when parameters are set, however, I think the leader need to be open enough for allowing followers to find a better way of accomplishing things. I am still relatively new at my current job and one of the questions I was asked in an interview was my process for creating goals. My response was that as the leader, I do create goals in a bit of a silo. That is my responsibility, however, when it comes to how do we reach the goals, I looks for collaboration from the team.
      -Krista

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  3. Krista,

    I’ll probably be showing my age, but I view myself as a digital native. While I was a little to young to be active during the initial stages of the internet, I have had access to both the internet and computers for almost all the school I can remember. I entered the workforce around the time that the Gartner article you linked to was released, so I agree with your assessments that many of the suggestions do not seem that revolutionary and I wonder if that is due to my age. I have noticed that social media has changed the way organizations and leaders are able to communicate. As you mentioned, the greater challenge is for leaders to use the human capital available, with or without technology. Do you think that social media has had a positive or negative effect on this aspect of leadership?

    Chris

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