The future work OS

For quite some time I have been thinking about how the new hybrid work culture requires a new operating system facilitating getting work done through collaboration and efficiency.

I fully realize that there are a plethora of legacy systems for all parts of the journey out there, but on the other hand, I believe the opportunity is so fundamental that it warrants thinking about in OS terms. With all the different takes on how this is done through stitching things together, I think there is a need for a more hardwired system.

If that is true, the big question of course becomes, what the key components of such an OS could and should be. I have been thinking about that too, and the following is nothing more than a list of four different key components that I would personally love to see in such an OS. That’s by no means the same as somebody ever doing it, but bear with me and allow me to hope.

Fundamental to any work OS is the ability for me as a user to control how I can get distracted, when I am doing work. One of the big challenges to collaboration is the reality that you’re essentially always adapting your work to somebody else’s agenda, and I just think there is a huge loss of productivity in that.

I would even argue that the control of distractions would be as essential a component to a work OS, as privacy controls are in many other types of software. I need to be put in charge of defining what’s needed for me to be most productive, and the OS just seamlessly need to comply with that, once I have configured it. Putting some ML on top could allow to suggest adjustments to my configurations based on how I actual work, but that would be about it.

While unrivaled distraction controls should be a cornerstone, the OS should also be adaptable to different types of work cultures. That’s the second component of the five, I would love to see in a work OS.

Think of adaptable work cultures as essentially an extension of a role based user interface, where I get the experience, flow and features that’s essential based on how I work and how we work together as a team. That’s the cultural adaptability.

It’s an important component of a work OS, as there are significant differences in how different organisations like to work together. Some have a more conservative approach with a ‘command and control’ set of values, where others on the other side of the spectrum have more of a ‘we’re all in this together, so let’s help each other out’-approach.

The point I am trying to make is that the work OS should be born with a rich set of templates based on research and market insights that allows you to configure the OS for your culture with a few clicks max. That would be really powerful, and done right it could serve as an important digital custodian of company values and ways-of-working.

With both distraction controls and an adaptable work culture facilitated directly by the OS in place, we can focus our attention of actually getting meaningful work done. This is the third key component of my ideal work OS.

How does meaningful work get done? In many ways but one of them is by making it easy, fast and efficient to not only make business critical decisions but also to execute on them. Like a startup, I met lately put it, it is all about creating ‘the path of least resistance’. I really like that way of looking at it.

There are many approaches towards getting work done in an efficient matter and a lot of frameworks and tools that support those in various ways. I think the important part here is that the method applied resonates with the adapted work culture as mentioned above, so that decisions and execution are as closely aligned with the individuals and the teams preferences for getting things done as possible. The less we need to think about it, the better and more efficient it is.

Getting things done efficiently also includes tying things together in logical ways ensuring that conversations are transparent, and that meetings called have meaningful agendas and outcomes, and there is a process for follow-up that ensures that things actually get done and nothing gets lost between different chairs. A lot of those things can be automated through flows, and I think it should be a core part of the work culture templates with the opportunity to optimize the configurations as needed.

While process is important for getting things done and make efficient decisions, it is equally important to have the context for the decision present and ready. Thus a significant part of being able to have an efficient work OS is to have the data supporting decision making ready and available at any time.

Thus doing the mundane work of ensuring that the work OS can integrate towards any type of data and platforms that your organisation uses for storage and work will be crucial. There are already a lot of precedent in how to do these types of integrations, and there are several providers, who already provide a federated view from one interface into countless different tools and platforms. So it can definitely be done.

The more the data you already have gets integrated into the work OS, the more supercharged it will be. People tend to live their work lives digitally wherever their data is stored and available, so it will probably be one of the key drivers to easing the adoption of the work OS.

The goal with a work OS should be everybody in the organisation becomes part of it. Why? Because it’s the cornerstone of the fourth and potentially most critical component to why a work OS could be a cornerstone of the future of work both on premise and in a hybrid mode:

Programming and automating the ways-of-working policy of the organisation.

Ways-of-working will be increasingly important as the means of turning a set of values and policies into a modus operandi for how the organisation and the people within it work and behave with and towards each other as well as externally.

As organisations become even more hybrid, and most of the people in it will in periods of time be working remotely, having a firm set of values and policies will only increase in importance. It will be the glue that keeps the organisation together. But it won’t happen by itself. It will need help. By a set of configured and carefully calibrated and adapted rules and policies for the individual organisation that sets seamless boundaries for what’s good and productive behaviour and what’s not.

Most of us working with software in our daily work lives are used to systems setting up rules for us or at the very least having the capability of creating our own. But they are perhaps to disparate across different systems and in some ways also too much in flux all the time to be truly efficient. Ensuring a broad, common adoption and custodianship of the set of rules of the entire organisation will perhaps be the one point where the work OS will really be able to make a foundational difference.

In summary there should be more than enough opportunity in this space for someone to have a go at creating a true work OS; something that could be foundational to powering the way we work efficiently in ways that resemble the original PC OSs. Yes, that’s how big this opportunity is. Question is whether someone has the audacity to go after it in a way that is bold enough?

(Photo by Leone Venter on Unsplash)

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