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Nov 2, 2016

Through the looking glass…



When Alice steps through the looking glass, she finds a strange mysterious world. Lots of things look familiar, but nothing is quite as it seems. It’s an alternative universe… where things are contrary to the real world… where things are not as they should be.

Perhaps for all us the world looks like this when we view it from a different perspective, through a different glass, a new lens? If we cast our eyes beyond our familiar roles and functions, look through the glass the other way, what do we see?

I’ve just returned from a week away (always good for a fresh perspective) and I can’t help but observe how difficult we all find it to crawl out of our functional roles and silos. We can’t simply throw away the lenses we are used to/trained to use. This isn’t a criticism, simply an observation. Our thoughts and actions and human behaviour in general is complex, affected by needs, social norms etc. The world of ‘work’ is just one area where we encounter the things that make up our human behaviour. In viewing this behaviour from the perspective of traditional workplace lenses we arrive at a categorised approach based on functional silos. Each silo servicing a slice of the same world, as if they are parallel alternative universes…when in reality, they’re acting in the same space.

The struggle we seem to be facing is that this world is changing, where we are losing the previously compliant worker, conditioned over several generations since the industrial revolution and before to ‘take it or leave it’. This worker would simply fit in with what’s provided and follow a set number of rules etc. We are now getting to a situation where automation is taking on many of the tasks that were previously provided by these compliant workers. So what do us humans do for work now? And what characteristics do these humans have? The ‘new’ worker is someone who is expected to think, be creative etc. We cannot expect the worker to express this type of behaviour under the same conditions as the old compliant worker. So what we are striving for is a change in these conditions. Exactly what these conditions are needs to be explored with each individual worker – and these conditions will cover the whole range of the individual’s needs, physical, mental, emotional. Currently all the functional silos are trying to lay claim to delivering on some or all of these needs in a variety of ways, but the resulting competition between them means none are achieving on the possibilities created if we all looked through the glass the other way. Moving away from each servicing our own slice of the same world in parallel, to viewing things from the perspective of the people we’re there to provide for.

This new perspective moves away from the functions trying to deliver what they think the worker needs, to one where the requirements are expressed from the perspective of the worker. To start to orchestrate the existing functional silos, do we need to look at introducing a new conductor? An ambassador for the new worker, someone who translates their needs and shapes the existing functions to deliver their expertise? Is this a new function? What does it look like? What should we call it? Perhaps ask Alice?

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