It is easier to copy a model than to create something new. But fine tuning old lines leads to dead ends.

The more we compete through ‘match and beat’, the less we gain. The world has never moved this quickly, yet it will never again move this slowly.  Exposure to the unknown will amplify. Machines already perform most repetitive, monotonous and dangerous tasks better than humans. What if, as Peter Thiel asks, we could combine new technologies with the human capacity to innovate? Could humans work miracles?

The more we create, the more we thrive. The moment of creation is singular. Every time we create something fresh and strange, we go from zero to one. The challenge of our time is how we free our human energy for creative work. It is also how we, as humans, bring purpose to that work.

“By creating new technologies, we rewrite the plan of the world.” – Peter Thiel

 

 

The WEF has issued a triple investment imperative: invest in reskilling at-risk workers, upskilling the workforce generally and in building learning centres in organisations. This is in preparation for the looming Fourth Industrial Revolution, a revolution that has become terribly fashionable in business parlance of late. One would think that 4IR seems quite distant from the realities of our everyday workplaces. Mine for one is not yet characterised by an interoperability of systems, and I complete most of my own dangerous and difficult tasks, with little assistance from connected machines.

a new mandate for business & leaders

Yet the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Global Study paints a picture that’s worthy of our attention. A significant level of unease on the part of employees is reported, with two thirds of people concerned about their future job prospects in the face of automation. This striking finding is most acute in developing markets. The new fear stalking the office corridor is the fear of robots. Deep involvement in discussion and in the process of sharing news may signal the desire to regain control and take back power. Engagement with media has jumped from 50 to 72 percentage points year on year.

But something else interesting is happening too. A new mandate is being issued for business and leaders.

Edelman has been measuring trust in the four institutions of government, business, media and NGO’s since 2001. South Africa was added in 2014. In the past, a lack of trust was reported across all four institutions. Trust has shifted from top-down (trusting those in positions of authority), to peer-to-peer (trusting people you perceive to be like you, and not necessarily those in positions of authority), to ‘local’, where individuals believe that they can control the relationship with their employers and that it is within their power to influence what happens within organisations. A new ‘trusted work’ paradigm is emerging. Within this paradigm, the rules are quite different. Employers are expected to re-assume responsibility for the learning and development torch that was ceremoniously handed down to individuals with the demise of the ‘job for life’ in the latter half of the last century. It could be argued that we had just started to get used to the psychological contract dictate that we are the masters of our own learning, growth and career destinies. The psychological contract is the term used to describe the unwritten set of obligations between employer and employee. Your working hours, job role and pay may be set and signed on paper, all that you expect your employer to deliver may not. Often these expectations are not articulated. However, unmet expectations erode trust, with the result that employee engagement declines, as does voluntary and creative effort. Given that creativity is a new currency for organisations, severed contracts are potentially disastrous.

The Edelman study shows that development, in the form of reskilling and retraining for digital futures, is falling at the foot of the employer once again. Employers are expected to engage on and address critical issues such as diversity, empowering with information, and retraining or reskilling so as to alleviate fears associated with digital, Fourth Industrial Revolution futures. In return, employees will advocate for the organization engaging broadly in the community on behalf of the organisation, and they will also be loyal to it.

Preparing for the future is becoming a shared responsibility.

75% of people believe that business can make money and improve society, says the study. The ‘trusted work’ paradigm requires that employers have a big idea for the company, a social aspiration or a purpose that employees can feel strongly about. Leaders, by their actions, are expected to persuade others that trust can be restored. 75% also believe that CEOs must stand up and act on important issues, and not wait for government. This finding is particularly noteworthy for South Africa: as trust falls, business is expected to lead.

Do not aim to build resilience, focus instead on becoming antifragile, says the statistician, scholar, essayist and former risk analyst, Nassim Taleb. Taleb looks at problems of probability, uncertainty and randomness. Whereas the resilient take shocks and stay the same, the antifragile get better. Staying the same is well out of fashion, it seems, and rather risky too. A new mandate is emerging for business and leaders, stand up with purpose and lead.

IQ alone makes for a poor 21st century leader

Whilst we have long prized Analytical Intelligence or IQ, research by developmental psychologists Kegan and Gardner has paved the way for a much richer understanding of human capability.

An addition to IQ, we have the relatively well-known but less well-articulated EQ, or Emotional Intelligence. Alongside EQ are the further Systems Intelligence (appreciating how systems come together and interact) and Spiritual Intelligence (as in the grandscale resurfacing of purpose at work, notably through Sinek, Diamandis and the SU, and many more). Whereas IQ is less fluid over time, all the other types of intelligences can be developed and enhanced throughout life.

Leaders who have high analytical, emotional, spiritual and systems intelligence are described by Mackey and Sisodia as conscious leaders. And the conscious business that they run, as evidenced in “Conscious Capitalism”, continually outstrip the performance of their non-conscious peers, by very large margins. These leaders have high integrity and an orientation towards servant leadership. As it turns out, we can only pioneer at pace in a complex world with a deeply human creative alignment, and that requires many types of intelligences. IQ alone poorly equips any leader for leading through 21st complexity.

Armed with multiple types of intelligences, conscious leaders view themselves as trustees of the business, seeking to nurture and safeguard it for future generations. They tend to be aware of their own deep motivations and convictions. They don’t try to be someone they are not. Because these leaders don’t look like manyleaders we have been exposed to (or are), I’ve taken the liberty of writing a personal blueprint for a conscious leader, based on the excellent work of Raj Sisodia and John Mackey.

As a conscious leader:

·     I accept the fact that traditional analytical intelligence (IQ) alone is a poor tool to lead in a complex world.

·     I appreciate the how Emotional Intelligence, Systems Intelligence and Spiritual Intelligence are fluid and can be developed over time. I deem these worthy of my investment.

·     Knowing myself is important to me. This awareness is the foundation for what I do. It matters because if I do not know this, I cannot align my work with the work of the organisation. I lose the ‘why’.

·     I speak truth to power, and actively value the courage to do so in others.

·     I recognize and work for many stakeholders, because I want all stakeholders to thrive and because I recognise this is good business sense and makes for sustainable success.

·     I consider the impact we have – good and bad – on the people and the environments that we touch through our work.

·     I think about what this business could offer future generations, and I work to nurture it for them. In this way I see my role more as a trustee of business, rather than extractor of profits over a shorter-term.

The quality of our leaders affects the quality of our lives, our communities and our environments. Bringing a richer understanding of human capability into our leadership lexicons can only assist with the leadership needed for the 21st Century.

Technological innovation does not drive social change. Rather, social change is usually driven by decisions we make about how to organise our world. These are the words of economic historian Louis Hyman. They remind us that the nature of work is a matter of social choice, the result of multiple decisions by us – companies and policy makers – and not the unavoidable consequence of technological progress.

Pre Industrial Revolution came what Hyman calls the ‘Industrious Revolution’. Independent workers who previously had worked from where they lived or from a farm or shop gathered under one roof in a supervised arrangement. People no longer controlled how they worked and they received a wage rather than sharing directly in the profits of their efforts. This signaled the first real separation between home and work life, and it set the conditions for the Industrial Revolution. Factory technology only worked because the relationship with work had already changed. Machines swept in and took advantage of and consolidated these changes.

A second industrious revolution has been underway since the 1970’s, when the collapse of a postwar era of secure wage-work began. In the 70’s a more strictly financial view of organisations took hold. Stock and bond prices were prized over production, short-term gain over long-term investment. “Lean” and efficient become fashionable, says Hyman. Workforces became expendable and jobs steadily became more temporary and insecure. This growing independent workforce has paved the way for today’s digital revolution. Online tech is swooping in this time, and there is a workforce ripe to take advantage of it. Without this workforce, apps and freelance sites would never work. New digital economies signal a land of milk and honey to some, offering the autonomy, flexibility and independence that traditional jobs don’t or can’t offer. But for many, this job ‘freedom’ spells a tear in the obligation between worker and employer, it signals insecurity and risk.

Gig-economy work comes in two forms, “web-based” working from anywhere, and “location-based” working in the physical world via apps. The evidence is growing that these jobs do not deliver the financial returns needed to make ends meet. Over the past two years, pay for gig work has dropped. Many workers are barely making a minimum wage toiling for giant tech platforms, according to JPMorgan Chase Institute and ILO research. Should these gig jobs be offered by huge tech companies that provide outsize returns to shareholders even if they don’t turn a profit? Hyman urges us to think about this. Our norms and policies need to make digitization benefit today’s workers, and not ‘work’ them over. Technological progress does not make work insecure, our social choices do.

Work is a matter of social choiceAs we stand upon the precipice of the 2020’s, we are witnessing a ‘purpose’ revolution. Purpose is not a new concept. In the 1940’s, legendary concentration camp survivor and psychiatrist Dr Viktor Frankl shared his learned wisdoms with us: ‘A man who has a why can bear almost any how.’ We have seen a surfacing of purpose as a concept at work in multiple ways over the years, called by many names. I believe it should be disrupting work, and that it will do so over time. For that reason I am marginally encouraged to see purpose play out on our rather drama-heavy conference stages.

Yet, I cannot help but wonder: has ‘purpose’ become the darling of our business chats because it’s another tool in the war for profit, just as “lean corporation” was touted 40 years ago by business gurus? Or is it a genuine response to our deep knowing that purpose drives the person, that it is the human condition to create meaning, and that creativity and purpose may be the real drivers of a future work that works for many more of us, whatever form work takes?

What will the consequences of our social choices be?

This article was first published here: http://www.talenttalks.net/work-matter-social-choice/

#CREATIVITY

  • Creativity is connecting things. “Technologies connecting to social movements. Industries converging. Bringing together disparate groups into a more powerful whole. Connecting the right message to the right medium. This is what great innovators have done for all time.”
  • We can be prosumers or makers. We can do more than consume what others make. In this way we can shape our own worlds and create more meaning in them.
  • Creativity by it’s nature ‘disturbs’. Creativity is risky. The system around you will almost always seek the path of less change. But creativity and innovation is everyone’s business. So develop and flex your muscles to effect change. Improve your skills in recognizing good ideas, getting them heard, and getting them to stick.
  • Growth mindsets are key enablers for the future. Creativity starts with the individual. We must provoke, unwrap and explore the way we understand the world, and discover the individual contribution we make. Growth mindsets are potentially one of the biggest enablers of better futures.

“We do not see the world the way it is, we see the world according to our instruments.” – Immanuel Kant.

#INNOVATION #PURPOSE

  • Innovation is a team effort. The hero innovator is a myth. There are many diverse contributions to game changing outputs. Once we recognize, appreciate and truly enable these different inputs, we move closer to ‘innovate-as-usual’.
  • Innovation can be purposeful. Purpose brings focus and directs attention and action. It engages humans. It keeps them motivated and flexibly persistent. It also solves important problems, of which we have many.
  • Purpose should be personal. Poke awareness of your purpose and think about how it links to the impact of the work you do and the work of your business or larger working context. Work to iron out what does not fit, even if this takes a long time.

“The world has an infinite supply of interesting and profitable problems, it also has in infinite supply of significant problems. I would love for us to focus on the latter.” – Andrew Ng

#MAKEITCOUNT

Traditional employee engagement measures will not secure the game changing outputs needed for a Fourth Industrial Revolution future. More money, more holiday, more check-ins, more projects, better food and fancier offices will not assist with the shift from red to blue oceans, to better work and to better working futures for all. So what will?

  • Having a true north and living by it will make a difference. It could even be massively transformative. Some organisations outstrip the performance of more traditional, slow-moving peers. These organisations go beyond competing to creating. Whilst leveraging exponential technologies can be key to success, exponential organisations have one thing in common, they acknowledge and live by their “Massive Transformative Purpose”.
  • Valuing and enabling FLOW will make a difference. We need people in Flow at work, leveraging this deeply human desire to apply, to stretch ourselves and to create.
  • Leaders will make a difference. Our greatest responsibility and challenge is to champion, enable and example creative, purposeful work.
  • Bringing the human back to work will make a difference.

 

Tried of the same old workplace tools and methods? Try something new. Like the Game Changer Index or Lego Serious Play or Playing Lean.

“Soon is not as good as now.” – Seth Godin

Copy of #creativity#innovation#purpose

1.   Design is everything. Design solutions that matter.

2.   With digital platforms, we sell value exchanges.

3.   Young people are more likely to open bank accounts through their social media platforms (this is about trust).

4.   The biggest issue for banking is business model disruption. Payments are being commoditized. The industry will be defined by a race to the bottom.

5.   Banking will become what you do and not where you go.

6.   FinTechs trigger the immune systems of organisations. The antibodies come out and kill them. There is an over-focus on P&L at the expense of future-proofing the business.

7.   It is the human condition to learn through play. Drive serious business outcomes through creating engaging and immersive experiences. Adopt new approaches.

8.   The creative and business difference is empathy. Develop it. Start with people, spend time with them, imagine how to enrich their lives. Then design better solutions for them.

9.   Let go of the ideas you are attached to. Get feedback. Reinvent relentlessly.

10. Work in diverse teams.

11. Transcend the metrics.

Did you attend #leaderex2018? What stood out for you?

Clever fusion

South Africa’s expanded unemployment rate has risen from 6m in 2001 to 9.6m in 2018. With these significant unemployment figures looming large, it can be challenging to keep a positive outlook. Until you pay a visit to Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator.

Harambee means ‘we win when we pull together’. If you don’t know them, Harambee is an ambitiously successful and spirited youth employment accelerator, designed in 2009-10 to tackle youth unemployment through partnerships and scale. Harambee was incubated in 2011 by Yellowwoods with a group of 5 funding employers and just 40 young people. They certainly have come a long way. To date they have placed over 55 thousand young people into paid employment and their plans are to shift this number to 100 thousand by the end of the decade.

We know that if a young person gets and keeps their first job, they are much more likely to remain employed for the rest of their life. But employers shy away from recruiting young and entry-level employees, not least because of the gaps presenting between the education system and the skills required in the world of work. Redressing educational and psychosocial issues caused by poverty can also increase costs for employers, and up perceived risks, creating a barrier for young people hoping to enter the workplace.

Harambee tackles these issues head-on by assisting with formal placement (demand-led) and through empowering young people with personal and skills development. And they have a unique approach. Unlike employers who typically use school grades as a basis for entry-level screening, Harambee assesses learning potential and measures what is described as ‘fluid intelligence’ – the ability to learn quickly in a new environment. This helps with understanding the person’s likelihood of performing in an opportunity. “78% of young people would have been excluded for entry-level positions based on their math scores, yet the learning potential assessment indicates that around 90% would be suitable for most entry-level jobs” says Nicola Galombik, co-founder of Harambee.

Although not every candidate can be placed, joining Harambee offers development opportunities and connection into a network where future placement is a possibility – jobs seekers emerge more prepared to meet the demands of entry-level roles. The dedicated mobi site is absolutely free for young work seekers who are unemployed and have been looking for a job. Offices are located in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban and Cape Town however Harambee services any part of the country where there is demand. Employers benefit from access to pools of talent previously undiscovered or inaccessible. It seems a win-win on all sides. So what underpins this success?

Harambee take pride in their relatively flat structure. And there is no doubt that there is a special energy about the place. But what really impresses is their adoption of tech to make a big and purposeful impact. Harambee has used machine learning and big data solutions to tackle the challenge of youth unemployment in South Africa, earning them a keynote spot (one of two organisations only) at the Google NEXT 2018 conference in Silicon Valley. They are developing an alternative pathwaying platform using a pretty smart, world-leading algorithm described as having the rules to include and not exclude. It takes account of the zigzagging young people are used to and reflects the kind of disruption characteristic of the gig economy. The platform analyses skills and suggests routes to employment (rather than just matches to jobs), and this could include short-term contract work. Harambee can access their data and understand both employers and candidates better. ‘Data we are gathering allows us to shine a light on all the great things (young people) can be and are’. Accolades are aplenty and include The CX Game Changer Award from Genesys for customer experience innovation, providing global recognition for their contact centre, and a nomination for the 2018 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship.

It is this fusion of clever, cutting-edge tech and deep human respect that comes home on a visit to the Fox Street offices. Sam Varney, Manager of Solution Analytics, showed me around, explaining the what, where and how of what they do. As a man with a large empty container passed us, Sam explained that young people are offered a sandwich and a piece of fruit before training. Full stomachs help people learn. There is also a room full of clothing supplies to assist candidates to get kitted up ‘right’ for interviews and the first few weeks of work. Simple, human things make a big difference indeed.

As Sam walked me to the lift at the end of my visit, she told me how lucky she feels to be part of Harambee, to be able to go to work there each day. And I left feeling like the good stuff can and does happen, driven by ambitious people connected to a larger purpose, and enabled in ways like never before thanks to technological advancement.

Take a look at the Harambee website and consider ways to get involved, as an individual or an employer. You can also direct young people who are unemployed to the mobi site. Who knows, perhaps this could be the seed of tackling tomorrow’s important stuff.

Harambee is an independent, not-for-profit social enterprise that works with individual businesses, government agencies, local and international donors, industry sector associations, youth-serving organisations, assessment specialists, behaviour change experts and technology providers. I visited them to see what they were doing, and this write-up was published by Talent Talks Africa where I am a regular columnist. You can view the first publish here.