This is a guest post by Jack Bergstrand. Jack is the author of The Velocity Advantage, on the board of the Drucker Institute, and the leading expert on improving the velocity of cross-functional business transformation initiatives.
We compete in a world that is very fluid, as fluid as knowledge itself. Our work is ever changing and often ambiguous, yet we continue to manage like we did during the Industrial Revolution—with highly detailed and preplanned work, managers who try to do the thinking for the workers, and strong functional and organizational silos. Our work has changed, but how it is managed has not adapted. We simply use more advanced and expensive tools, too often doing excellently what shouldn’t be done at all. Scientific management, which was designed for factories, lives on because it is the devil we know. Even though we live in a world of constant change, companies continue to cling to practices that were designed for the predictable and repeatable nature of assembly lines and blue-collar work processes.
“Even though we live in a world of constant change, companies continue to cling to past practices.”
The nature of today’s organizations is very different from factories. With physical work, people who are carpenters and assembly-line workers work hard for a living. When they finish the day, it is visibly clear to them and to others what they have accomplished. In modern companies, people who are researchers, subject-matter experts, analysts, and managers also work hard for a living. Yet at the end of each day, their achievements are not always as clear. People can work on something that was urgent in the morning but is no longer important by dinnertime. With physical work, we can visibly see the waste that comes from not working (or from working on the wrong things). When people work with their knowledge, this waste is often invisible. It is costly nonetheless.
Working with knowledge can be extremely productive because an idea can be used and kept at the same time. It is unproductive, however, to manage it using approaches that were designed for industrial work. Knowledge is different in that it is invisible; it happens inside our heads. Activities often expand to fill the time available, resources tend to calcify around previous priorities through historically based budgets, and workers too often rise to their levels of incompetence. Similar to the old advertising adage, half a company’s knowledge is wasted—we just don’t know which half.
Technology continues to change everything, and work is no exception. In just a few years, we have seen companies emerge from Uber to Instacart. New digital platforms are emerging that explore different business models.
Before I answer that question, let’s clarify the meaning of the word “gig.” The term was first used with jazz musicians in the 1920s, where they would book one club for a week and another for a few days in a different club across town. A gig referred to work that could vary in duration and was for a variety of employers. So gigs have been around for a long time. I started my company, M Squared Consulting, in 1988 to match independent consultants with projects. It was a gig economy company long before the term had even been coined. The “Gig Economy” refers to the people who work independently for a variety of entities as well as the companies that enable that work, both the new digital talent platforms, as well as traditional intermediaries and staffing companies. Additionally, you could include the vast eco system that has sprung up to support this work, including co-working space, productivity apps, collaboration tools, and financial service products targeted at the independent workforce.
Successful gig workers have grit, resilience and learn from mistakes.
A few years ago, you received two calls that got your attention in a new way. How did that alter your thinking?
Actually there were three random and unrelated calls from venture capitalists and private equity guys who wanted to talk to me about digital talent platforms. One idea was for a platform for professional moms who wanted to work flexibly after the kids were older. Another was to build a pool of on-demand oil field services workers in Western Africa, and the third was to create a product to hire recent college graduates into entry level management positions in a way that would require no human intervention. All of the players were technologists who had never run a service business, let alone a people-intensive one. Much of the magic was to be in the algorithms which would match talent and opportunity seamlessly and quickly. Many of the fairly basic questions I asked—like who would hire the moms? Would they be employees or contractors? And how would the platform make money?—had not yet been answered. I was struck by the disconnect of talent being the most important thing to the success of an organization, but nonetheless the goal was to eliminate humans in the process of securing that talent. It inspired me to take a much deeper dive into the burgeoning world of digital talent platforms.
Edward D. Hess is a professor of business administration at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. In addition to fifteen years in academia, he also spent twenty years as a business executive. His research is in high performance in the midst of change.
Over the next decade or so, tens of millions of service and professional jobs will be automated along with more manufacturing jobs. Service jobs that are at risk include retail, fast-food, manual laborers and construction workers, truck drivers, accountants, administrative people, paralegals, customer service reps, and security guards. Increasingly, professional jobs will be automated reducing the number of professional workers needed in the fields of accounting, law, finance, consulting, marketing, strategy, management, journalism, medicine and architecture. The Chief Economist of the Bank of England in November of 2015 predicted that over the next decade or two 80,000,000 jobs in the United States could be automated.
Some bemoan the constant interruptions and endless internet surfing. Others celebrate the new-found freedom and capabilities.
How has the digital age impacted our happiness?
Amy Blankson is one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between positive psychology and technology. She is the only person to be named a Point of Light by two presidents (President George Bush Sr. and President Bill Clinton) for creating a movement to activate positive culture change. A sought-after speaker and consultant, Amy has now worked with organizations like Google, NASA, the US Army, and the Xprize Foundation to help foster a sense of well-being in the Digital Era.
I want to start with the question that an entrepreneur asked you at one of your presentations: “Social media and technology are destroying our happiness, right?”
In recent months, I have seen a growing number of posts about how bad technology is for us. Technology is blamed for social isolation, disconnection, and corruption. But I’ve also heard and seen how technology can be used for good — a means to connect, to share knowledge, to empower, even to save lives. So, which is it: Is technology good for us or bad for us? Does technology make us less happy or more happy? As Shakespeare once said, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Technology is a tool, a means to an end–and WE get to decide how that story ends.
Fact: 95% of Americans spend 2 or more hours a day using a digital device.
Since technology can both bring joy and destroy it, tell us a few ways you’ve used it to your advantage. And tell us about what apps you’re using for happiness, productivity, and to “tune in, not zone out.”
One of my favorite examples of “happytech” is the Spire stone. The Spire stone is a small wearable that clips onto your bra strap or waistband to monitor your respiration and, in turn, lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and increase the flow of endorphins in your blood stream. The Spire uses your breathing patterns to figure out when you are tense, calm, or focused, and provides gentle notifications to guide you when you need it most.
When I first started testing out the Spire stone, I had a particularly poignant experience. Last spring, my family jumped into our backyard pool to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather. In an unfortunate turn of circumstances, my younger daughter jumped into the pool a bit too close to her older sister, landing on her neck and breaking her neck. I happened to be out of town when this happened, so I didn’t know how bad the situation was until I returned home and took my older daughter to the doctor. I was wearing my Spire stone the whole time and had managed to stay fairly calm through the doctor visit; however, as I was walking out of the hospital with my daughter in a giant neck brace, my Spire stone began to vibrate to let me know I was feeling tense. Pausing to think about what was going on, I realized that I was actually anxious about how other people would perceive me as the mother of a child with a broken neck. The nudge was just enough to help me reframe my thoughts to be more present for my daughter rather than worried about myself, and I was able to short-circuit an emotional response that might have taken me a week or more to realize before I had the Spire stone.
“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.” –Robert Solow
Sometimes tech is fun just for the sake of the endorphin rush and the dopamine boost. But at what point do those focus-altering diversions cause us to lose sight over what we really care about? At what point do diversions turn into fixations that are distracting?
Sometimes we become so engrossed in our diversions that we don’t notice that they are no longer making us happy anymore. Like Wile E. Coyote in Looney Tunes, we get our legs going so fast that it actually takes us a moment to realize that we have run right off the Happiness Cliff. Let me assure you that this never turns out well for poor Wile E.
According to the Law of Diminishing Returns, many diversions can actually be beneficial for our productivity and happiness—up to a point. Beyond that point, the diversion simply becomes a waste of time and eventually a time suck that becomes harmful to our productivity. To avoid falling off the happiness cliff, start your day by setting your intention for how you want to use your time. When you start to find yourself engrossed in a task, pause to ask if your technology use is helping you tune in (helping you to achieve your intention) or causing you to zone out. If your answer is the latter, then try to set a time limit for yourself to engage in that activity so that you don’t get sucked in and lose focus.
Happiness Tip: pause to see if you are tuning in or zoning out.
What does the latest research tell us about our ability to train our brains to be more positive?
The latest research from the field of positive psychology reveals that training our brains to be more positive is not only possible, it’s actually essential to striving after your full potential. Why? Because when your brain is positive, it receives a boost of dopamine, which turns on the learning centers in the brain and makes you able to see more possibilities in your environment. In fact, a positive brain has been linked to: 37% higher sales, 3x more creativity, 31% higher productivity, 40% increase in likelihood of receiving a promotion, 23% decrease in symptoms of fatigue, 10x increase in the level of engagement at work, a 39% increase in the likelihood of living to age 94, and a 50% decrease in the risk of heart disease.
Research: Positive people have a 40% increase in likelihood of a job promotion.
Tema Frank founded Web Mystery Shoppers International, the world’s first company to test omnichannel customer service. Her new book, People Shock: The Path to Profits When Customers Rule, shows off both her decades of business experience and the research from interviewing over 150 business leaders. She developed a formula to help businesses improve the customer experience in the midst of a digitized world.
I recently asked her about her research.
“The key to getting work done on time is to stop wearing a watch.” –Ricard Semler
As we automate more and artificial intelligence wipes out jobs, the smaller amount that is left for human to human interaction becomes critical. Companies that are people-focused (while using technology to support those people) are the ones that will win in an era of increasing competition and social media power. If you get the people side right, PeopleShock is your key to success. Ignore it and your company will soon be history.
“If you’re too busy to build good systems, then you’ll always be too busy.” –Brian Logue
Please share your 3P Profit Formula with our audience.
Customers are cranky, and they’ve got more choices than ever before. So you’ve got to keep them happy, and that means getting all of the 3 Ps of Profit right:
Promise – Having a clear aspirational, inspirational and memorable reason for doing what you do inspires staff and customers. It also gives staff a filter for decision-making: Would their action be consistent with the company’s promise?
People – Business success comes from connecting effectively at a human level with people inside (staff) and outside your organization. Outsiders include not only prospects and customers, but people we sometimes overlook, like suppliers, distributors, lenders, investors, media and the public.
Process – As time goes by, some of the processes that got you to where you are stop making sense. To deliver consistently great customer experiences, you have to regularly re-assess how you’ve been doing things. Start by looking at processes from a customer point of view. What do they experience? Then look at how that lines up with what you do internally.
“CEOs are the ones who must conduct the corporate orchestra.” –Tema Frank