Workplace 3.0: The future wave of workplace innovation

While I love the ease of information access that the internet provides for building our business, developing training programs, researching resources for coaching clients, and getting my regular personal and professional growth fixes without having to leave the comfort of my own home, I am definitely someone who uses the internet (and most technology for that matter) on a “need to” basis only. I can pretty much always find something I would rather do than spend more time on the internet.

Fortunately for me, my wonderful husband and business partner, Boyan, is as far ahead on the technology and internet game as I am behind. As usual in all matters related to technology, he was the first port-of-call for narrowing down an interesting topic. “You should write about Web 2.0 and Web 3.0,” he said excitedly. Seeing my blank stare, he elaborated that Web 2.0 describes the trend on the internet towards sites and applications that enhance creativity, information sharing, and, collaboration through web-based communities such as social-networking sites, wikis, and blogs. Okay, I thought, I love wikis, can see the appeal of blogs, and while I personally can’t quite understand how people find the time to make use of these social-networking sites, I do at least understand the concept and the appeal of them.

He then went on to describe what Web 3.0 was. Maybe it was because it was after 7pm – the time the technology comprehension part of my brain seems to shut down for the day – but I didn’t understand a word he said. As I often do in such situations I decided to nod and smile and graciously thank him for his help.

Promptly the next morning – when my technology brain sector was once again up and running – I decided to hop onto the internet to see if I could make a bit more sense of Web 3.0. After a few hours of exploration, I still couldn’t quite wrap my head around it, let alone think about how it might relate to workplace issues.  I was ready to scrap the whole Web 2.0 / 3.0 idea when inspiration struck – stick to my own backyard. What I could understand about Web 3.0 was that it was a term industry experts were using to hypothesize about the future wave of Internet innovation by extrapolating on what was already occuring. Where then, would the natural extrapolations of current workplace innovation take us? Behold, Workplace 3.0 was born!

At the heart of Workplace 3.0 are two fundamental shifts – the first to do with the way people relate to work, and the second around the way businesses relate to their purpose.

A New Vision of Work

At the heart of Workplace 3.0 is a fundamental shift in the way people view work. There are two key elements to this shift. The first is that rather than simply a way to earn a living, people will view work as a spiritual practice – the key to discovering and actualizing a person’s full potential and liberating their consciousness. It will be viewed as a person’s way of being in the world as opposed to simply what they are doing. It will become the means for people to engage with conversations around the existential questions of “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” that are still currently reserved for late night coffee chats and private moments of self-reflection.

We are already seeing an increased commitment to programs that enhance employee engagement, values alignment, personal and professional integrity, trust, work-life balance, and wellness as research and practice is showing that these are the foundation for building and sustaining a high-performance high-fulfillment culture. The developmental needs of boomers and the younger generation alike are also amplifying this trend as individuals are taking the initiative to pursue work that is more than just a paycheque – work that has purpose, meaning and aligns with their passions.

In Workplace 3.0, it will be a given that a person’s work must align with their values, strengths and gifts and that it must provide them with a sense of purpose, meaning and contribution. What’s more, work and all the challenges connected with it on both a relationship and a production level will be seen as opportunities to master their body, mind, heart and spirit through mastering the art and science of creating in the material world by bringing thought into form.

The second fundamental shift in the way people view work will be around how we relate to and measure productivity. Technology, environmental issues, and the growing insistence of the workforce to have greater flexibility in managing the demands of their work and personal life is already driving organizations to create cultures that measure performance and productivity objectively in terms of results rather than subjectively in terms of face time. Rewards and recognition will no longer be about who you know, and whether you are good at appearing important by constantly wearing the badge of busy-ness, overwork and overwhelm. They will be based on whether or not you deliver on the results that are assigned to you, regardless of how you do this.

Best-Buy’s innovative Results-Oriented Work Environment (ROWE) program is pioneering this new type of workplace to great success. Employees in their corporate offices are able to work whenever and from wherever they want and for as little as they want or need to as long as they deliver on the results they have committed to. Initial fears that productivity would go down have been unfounded with productivity being up an average 35% in departments that have switched to ROWE. Other significant measures include turnover in one department that adopted the program going from 16% to 0, processing of orders by those not working in the office being up 13% – 18% over those who are, and engagement scores that measure job satisfaction and retention being the highest in the dot-com division’s history.

A New Measure of Value

Workplace 3.0 also represents a fundamental shift in the way businesses view their purpose. This shift has three elements – growth in evolution; depth with breadth; and “applicational” property.

“Growth in Evolution” represents the shift business is making both in how value is created and what actual value is. Driven by a growing recognition of the negative social and environmental impact of “business as usual”, organizations are already beginning to ask questions about their responsibility to add genuine value to the world vs. simply growing in size and profits.

The individual shifts in how people view work and what they expect of it will be mirrored in the organization. The individual recognition that their quest for material gain at all costs caused misalignments that fostered stress, ill health and a sense of prosperity that was as false as it was unsustainable will empower “followers” in organizations of all sizes to assume their rightful role as partners with those in formal leadership positions. Together they will steer the company on it’s own existential to discover the answers to “Who are we?” and “Why are we here?” that are critical to fostering the health, sustainability, and right livelihood of the organization, leading it into greater alignment with its true purpose.

The strategic direction of companies large and small will no longer be built upon the quest to increase shareholder returns, but on the answers to questions such as How much is enough? What are we truly passionate about? What are our gifts as an organization and are we truly focusing on them? What can we truly be the best in the world at? Where do we have a supernatural ability to contribute and make a difference? How do we measure our genuine contribution to people’s lives and the world? Do we truly add value to the world by a narrow focus on growing profits or are we ultimately doing more harm than good? The stock market as we know it will cease to exist and ways of valuing and investing in companies based on their levels of alignment with their true purpose and the degree to which they have a positive impact on the world will emerge.

The second element of this shift in measuring value will lead businesses to build “Breadth through Depth”. As companies come to a deeper understanding of their unique purpose and strengths and shift away from growing profits as the only measure of value, they will increasingly recognize that the common good is best served by everyone doing what they do best. Traditional strategies of monopolizing industries and markets through extending their brand outside their true areas of expertise or gobbling up companies that are bringing promising innovations to market will disappear in favor of forming strategic alliances that leverage each organization’s ability to do what they do best. With the emphasis on evolution rather than growth, companies will feel more free, and even morally obligated, to stay focused on their own specialized niche rather than trying to be all things to all people just to capture another profit centre.

The final element of this shift is something I call “Applicational” Property. As the internet and the trend towards open source increasingly makes knowledge available for free, intellectual property will lose some of its currency. What will gain in currency, however, are products and services that help people to apply this intellectual property or use it more elegantly. A growing Workplace 2.0 trend that points to this element is rise in popularity of personal, professional, and life coaching as a profession. Many of the performance and productivity initiatives in current workplaces focus on providing employees with more knowledge. Coaching, however, recognizes that there is a huge gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it on an ongoing basis and provides the individualized support necessary to close it.

Another element of adding genuine value that relates to Applicational Property links to the elegance with which knowledge, products and services are delivered. This weaves in elements of the first shift in terms of people wanting to interact with the world in ways that are suited to their unique style, strengths and preferences. It is why Apple products are so popular – they deliver functionality in a package that appeals to the user’s senses on a variety of levels. Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, builds a great case for this shift that represents the importance of companies being able to add value through fostering integration and wholistic thinking and experiencing.

There is growing evidence that all of the shifts above are growing in momentum in Workplace 2.0, but as with innovation in any area, making the shift to Workplace 3.0 will require pioneers who are willing to challenge old beliefs, stand firm in the face of resistance, and persevere in their vision no matter how often they are told it is unrealistic. I wish all of my fellow pioneers the courage to stand firm as we build momentum around what this new thriving workplace will be and how best to realize it.

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