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The Future Workplace Is Already Here, Just Not Evenly Distributed

by Carol Rozwell  |  May 23, 2011  |  2 Comments

I spent a delightful day at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium (#MITCIO) last week. It was delightful because I had the luxury of listening to a roster of informative speakers discussing a wide variety of issues ranging from cloud (of course!) to analytics. It was also nice to be able to attend the event without having any responsibilities except to learn. It makes it much easier to absorb and consider new information that way.

During one of the panel sessions, an intriguing question was posed. The gist of the issue was a concern that if organizations change their work practices to be more in line with a Gen Y work style, then chaos will ensue. The question, roughly restated, was, “Why would any enterprise throw away the business rules that have served them well for all these years?”

There are two flaws with this position. First, it’s a mistake to think that our current rules and organizational structures for running a profitable enterprise are serving us well. Secondly, this is not a generational issue.

Many influential thinkers have documented the inadequacy of much of the conventional wisdom surrounding organizational design and management. Research from organizations such as Gallup and Towers Watson suggests that higher levels of employee engagement lead to improved business performance and increased job satisfaction. Similarly, organizations with disengaged employees – unfortunately the majority – suffer the consequences.

Some useful books on the changes already occurring in the workplace and the value of greater employee engagement include “Employees First, Customers Second” by Vineet Nayar, “The Hyper-Social Organization” by Francoise Gossieaux and Ed Moran, ” Light Their Fire” by Susan Drake, Michelle Gulman and Sara Roberts and “Drive” by Dan Pink.

The summary of these tomes is that people are motivated by a fairly common set of drives: the desire to be recognized for what they know, to be in control of their actions and to be included in meaningful activities. So it’s not exactly accurate for senior leaders to say they need new skills in their organizations – skills like creativity, critical thinking and the ability to “play nice with others.” Rather, the challenge is to involve people who have these skills more directly in making the organization successful. The critical question business leaders must ask themselves is, “How can the talent we have available in our workforce be used more effectively?”

(Interestingly, though I tweeted throughout the event, my tweet suggesting that work has already changed was the one most retweeted)

So next time you are in a position to hire a new employee, add someone to your team or pick someone for your project, try something different. Throw away the resume and interview the person first. A key question to consider is whether this person energizes you and makes you want to do your best. Those are the essential attributes for a new age of self-directed workers who bring their passion into the “office.”

Category: change-management  collaboration  community  knowledge-management  social-networks  social-software  strategic-planning  

Tags: change-management  collaboration  collaboration-dynamics  communities-of-practice  knowledge-management  ppm-summit-emea  rewards  social-media  social-networking  social-networks  social-software  

Carol Rozwell
VP Distinguished Analyst
11 years at Gartner
21 years IT industry

Carol Rozwell is a vice president and distinguished analyst on Gartner's Digital Workplace team. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on The Future Workplace Is Already Here, Just Not Evenly Distributed

  1. Albert says:


    Great post.
    I was at the recent Gartner EA Summit in London where Gabe Zichermann in his presentation about Gamificiation said something similar. For most people the motivation is no longer about surviving, but about development and recognition.

    I also read the Dan Pink book Drive and agree with his 3 things that motivate people.
    Higher Purpose

    Dan did a great TED talk on this: –

    I worked in a few companies in early years, where these 3 ideals were normal and it was great, but then as the businesses stagnated they got lost. When revenue and costs are under pressure then giving people autonomy in how they operate, providing opportunities to master new skills is seen as wasteful and that higher purpose goes out the window until profitability is where the company wants it to me.

    Bureaucracy becomes the norm and the companies don’t know why they are not as innovative and dynamic as they use to be. The bright people leave and the new people know no different. A new status quo is established.

    It takes a brave manager to stick to the principles when they are under pressure to deliver results.

  2. Carol Rozwell says:


    Thank you for your comments and the additional references. I’ve just finished reading “Denial” by Richard Tedlow. Brave managers also need to seek out the truth and listen to the dissenting voices. Quite a challenging combo.

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