Since the year 2000, 52% of companies in the Fortune 500 have either gone bankrupt, been acquired or ceased to exist. On the flip side, many of the world’s most profitable companies didn’t even exist in 2000 but are now household names worth billions of dollars.
This rapid and constant re-shuffling isn’t reserved for the world’s biggest companies but affects all organisations, in fact the pace of change is probably even greater for small organisations. Change isn’t just powered by landmark revolutionary advances such as when Netflix rendered blockbuster obsolete. The march of change is evolutionary too. A constant flow of incremental small differences cascade to produce competitive advantage, creating entirely new industries or dismantling old ones.
What’s the difference between the winners and losers? I would argue, for the winners, their advantage is their people, or more accurately people who are empowered to produce innovation, to be creative, to find new ways of doing things, to disrupt the status quo. The most talented individuals are agents for change. They will seek out organisations that provide them with the space to innovate.
Innovation is a product, successful organisations must continually manufacture this product, they must have high grade raw materials , and the correct facilities to transform the raw material. In this case, talented people are the raw material, they will produce innovation if organisations provide them with the right facilities and the right tools.
With this in mind, organisations are now met with two challenges, attracting and retaining the best talent and providing the tools and facilities to enable innovation. Organisations need to be examine new ways of working. Not just simply allowing staff to work from home or from Starbucks, but making sure the environment they choose to work in provides the tools and technology best suited to the task at hand.
Part of the solution to both problems might be the introduction of Activity Based Working (ABW). Put simply, ABW creates spaces best suited to the task at hand, often alongside or within the much maligned open-plan office. ABW creates spaces perfectly suited to conducting specific tasks such as learning, focusing, collaborating and socialising.
Relatively forward thinking companies, might be able to meet a few of these demands, with meeting rooms, break rooms, the ability to work from home etc. but the most innovative companies are consulting with their staff and meeting this challenge head on.
They’re redesigning offices with acoustics in mind; providing sound proof spaces for phone calls or spaces with background white noise allowing interaction with adjacent colleagues but masking the content of other nearby conversations. They are providing flexible meeting rooms that adapt to the duration or number of attendees and come with collaborative connected technology so people can join from anywhere. They’re providing relaxed spaces where colleagues can grab a coffee and review a document together or quiet zones for focused solitary work. Incidentally, they’re also realising costs savings from the rationalisation of desk space.
If you’re not convinced that the new majority millennial workforce aren’t creating the demand for these new ways of working, and that companies which are committed to meeting this demand aren’t succeeding then perhaps it’s worth considering the recent valuations given for WeWork, a company providing innovative office space.
However, innovative office space alone won’t meet these challenges , ABW must be supported by technology too. Can a user work with the right device in the right location? Can they seamlessly move to a new space and immediately pick up where they left off? Can they continue to collaborate on the same documents wherever they are, using whatever device they choose?
Activity Based Working isn’t enabled just by considering location, and device, but ‘how’ we work must be considered too. Can a user sign off expenses, submit holiday requests, book travel for an upcoming meeting and join a conference call without opening endless different applications and becoming distracted by the notifications in each of them. Wouldn’t it be great if the workspace just consolidated tasks, presenting prioritised easy to action activities based on what it had learnt about how and when a user works?
Organisations must also consider how they secure this new found flexibility. How can an organisation identify compromised accounts or malicious intent? How can it trust users working anywhere on different devices? How can it differentiate data exfiltration or ransomware from legitimate use?
It’s true to say that these demands are difficult, balancing the complex web of requirements with technology that is easily manageable, cost effective and secure is challenging. However, if you’re not meeting this challenge, if you’re not transforming your organisation, not enabling innovation, not providing the space for success, then maybe someone else is? Can your organisation risk becoming the next Blockbuster? Can it risk the exodus of its most talented people. Isn’t it worth at least asking the question;
what is possible?
Who knows, with an efficient and effective innovation factory, your organisation might even become the next Netflix.