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The Future of Work | Working the Future
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Working the Future blog: our latest insights and future of work sensemaking


2018-12-13 05:36

Cathryn Barnard



The need for certainty and reassurance causes us, I think, to seek out ‘people like us’. People who, because they share similar thoughts and beliefs about...


It’s an understatement to say that the world has changed dramatically in the last three years. It’s extraordinary to consider that as little as 30 months ago, we had no idea that the UK would be in a Brexit deadlock, or that the leader of the most developed country in the Western world would continually show himself to be narrow-minded, sexist, racist and all manner of un-presidential things in between.  In parallel, we’re hearing incontrovertible truths about climate change and our increasingly erratic weather patterns are testament to the fact that our human behaviour is becoming, bluntly, more and more destructive. 

Never in recent history have things seemed so precarious. 
Increasingly, it feels that the world is torn and divided.


We’ve become fixed in our worldviews and as precarity increases, we seem more and more certain about things, to the point of myopia. It’s as if when we can’t be certain what the future holds for us, we gain comfort in being certain about what we think. 

This need for certainty and reassurance causes us, I think, to seek out ’people like us’. People who, because they share similar thoughts and beliefs about the world in which we operate, help us to feel safe and more certain about the future. 

Surrounding ourselves with ’people like us’ doesn’t necessarily serve us well, however, and never more so than in the world of work. 

Digital Transformation, the widespread adoption of commercial technology, is creating vast efficiency and automating all manner of transactional functionality, leaving us humans to focus on the non-replicable aspects of business. This is arguably higher value stuff, creating new products and services to delight our customers. 
This is great, as long as within our organisations, we have the neuro-diversity to mirror the segments of customers we want to attract and serve. 

It’s my view that workplace discrimination hides in plain sight. When I worked in technology staffing, candidate CVs were often rejected for nonsensical reasons, but as an intermediary, if I wanted to get paid, to some extent, I had to suck it up. In the more recent past, with the new-found focus on corporate culture, it’s been far too easy to dismiss great candidates for lack of ’cultural fit’.  But this, in my opinion, thinly masks the bias that cuts across the commercial world. 

As we sail into increasingly volatile commercial waters, it’s never been easier to look for ’people like us’ when we go to market to source talent and collaboration partners. ’People like us’ will understand us, get up to speed faster, fit in easier, and bluntly be far more malleable when it comes to getting them to do what we want. 

This is entirely short-sighted, however. Right now, it’s never been more important to seek out people who challenge our thinking, test the boundaries of our worldviews and push us to do things differently. When we face the opposing views of others, it’s fair to say that it can be pretty uncomfortable at times, and often quite hard work, but then again, learning anything new and worthwhile has never been easy. 

Building and monetising new products and services will require vast amounts of creativity, which in turn only exists when we think differently. As Marshall Goldsmith succinctly wrote, "What got you here won’t get you there". And here’s another thing. If we want to market and sell our products and services to a diverse customer base (and if I’ve learned one thing in business, it’s not to put all your eggs in one basket), then what we create should be designed with differing worldviews and perspectives in mind. If we can’t apply diversity in our thinking, then we’re in trouble, as we’ll never manage to create stuff that appeals widely. 

As much as there is increased focus on workforce diversity, it does feel as though bias and discrimination are still as manifest as ever. Lack of gender parity is testament to that and I absolutely believe, based on my experience in staffing, that cultural and age discrimination are still rife. But until we improve on this, we will never create offerings that truly appeal to multiple market segments. 

Our primary business goal is to grow a company that thrives well into the future. For us to do this, however, we think it’s important to regularly step outside our comfort zones, to push against the boundaries of what we think we know and strive to think differently. We’re facilitating this by building a human eco-system of trusted collaborators who hold different worldviews because of their diverse backgrounds and life experiences. 

As consumers, we’ve entered an age of mass customisation. As technology becomes ubiquitous, it’ll provide diminishing competitive advantage. It’ll never be more important, then, to create bespoke and experiential offerings that somehow change the lives of those who buy them. We can only do this when we step beyond our comfort zones to embrace plurality of perspective and recognise that keeping ’people like us’ in close orbit is only one tiny aspect of a kaleidoscopic landscape.


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Looking to dive deeper into some of the areas covered in this blog post? Check out our Recruitment and Retention and Foresight Focus reports and products.

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