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)

Become (sort of) a journalist

A day doesn’t go by without someone deeply questioning the value of higher education. It’s the cost, it’s the hazzle, it’s the time wasted on subjects you never get to use etc.

And a day doesn’t go by without young people feeling anxious about making the right choices for their education and subsequent careers. Because how do you make sure, you have got it right? That you can make your interest and passion pay your bills?

I have one cowboy trick for you:

Study to become a journalist (if you can get it, of course).

Don’t listen to all the people saying that there are no jobs to be had in the media industry.

First of all, there are, they are just more fragmented than ever and not in the usual places.

But second – and most importantly of all – an education in journalism can lead to whatever you want it to lead to.

I am the perfect example of that; I have been a journalist by education since 1999, yet has still to work as a traditional one in a newsroom.

But what I have done instead is to use some of the skills that I have in my genes and I learned to control more during my education;

My curiosity for asking questions. And ask again and again.

My determination to get to the bottom of something and not take ‘No’ for an answer.

My thirst for knowledge.

My passion for trying to connect all the dots.

My instinct to cut to the chase and settle on an angle.

My talent for communication and presenting the story.

When you have those things and you study to get better and better at them, you can apply these skills anywhere. Especially in todays world, where noise is amplified, and signal often gets lost in translation.

Studying to become a journalist is not a one-way street; it’s more of a giant roundabout with plenty of exit options in different directions utilizing the skills, you learned.

So if you want to take a safe punt, go and study to become a journalist.

It just might help make big things happen for you later on.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

WFH? Not so fast

A movement is forming around the future of work; saying goodbye to the office in return for unrestricted flexibility to work from wherever whenever and however you might choose. It’s the future, damn it!

First of all, I will always be very reluctant to base any long term strategy on a short term experience of what happens, when you make the switch. Add to that that the switch was forced due to Covid-19 and add all the stress elements of anxiety, having to keep kids at home while trying to work etc, and to me it is just a big NO GO!

It’s just a poor way of using data. Almost fraudulent. Especially if you have the well-being of the people, you’re trying to determine the future of work for at heart.

Second, I strongly believe in working together – also in a physical sense. A lot of the work I do and do with others is centered around creativity, open discussions, listening to arguments and finding the best course of action going forward. I find it super hard to replicate sitting at my kitchen table versus being present in the office with the others on our team. But that’s just me.

What is not just me is the thing about workplace culture.

Let’s for a second forget that going completely WFH effectively eliminate all discussion about work-life-balance, because we take away the one thing that keeps things kind of separate for us – the commute. That’s a problem in itself.

No, the real problem is how we create a great company culture, if we’re never together? Culture is not something that happens at bi-weekly all hands meetings or the annual company picnic. It happens every day in your interactions – little and big – with your colleagues around why it is you come to work every day:

You need to see your great colleagues, your need to figure out great solutions together, your need to know and really FEEL that you’re together in creating whatever it is that your company is working to create – the big “why?”

Even though a lot of leaders talk about the importance of having a great company culture, a lot of companies still ultimately rely on people figuring the culture part out themselves and keeping it alive at the water cooler, the small chit chats and whatever else you have, where you can meet informally and bond.

That is super, super hard to do remote. It least if you care about having a team where the “why?” matters.

And that brings me to the final point:

There are lots of roles, where it makes sense to go predominantly WFH; some very well-defined roles, where you essentially have a tasklist, you can work yourself through on a daily basis, be done and call it a day knowing that somehow your contribution fits into the corporate hamsterwheel of things.

But by and large – for ordinary jobs in ordinary companies (and be honest, those are the 99,9 % of all companies) – the “why?” goes out the window during this process.

You can give people all the flexibility in the world that you want. But once everybody starts doing that, it seizes to be an advantage.

And you will be stuck with the downsides;

It will be as easy for your employees to leave as it was to onboard them. Because nothing is going to be holding them back:

They don’t have a real relationship with your company. They don’t really know the people they work with. They (probably) have an even more crap manager than in the office, because managing remote is even harder than in the physical space). And they are distanced from the mission, the “why?”

What’s not to leave behind for greener pastures?

A WFH defacto for work going forward will do nothing else than (1) make it harder for the vast majority of mediocre companies to make great things happen and (2) make it near impossible to keep the people that go the extra mile to see the vision come true as a true team effort while (3) all along giving the false sense of relief that everything is flexible, fine and dandy.

Choose WFH at your own peril.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Hypothetical strategy

The most common problems with strategy is that (a) it can be extremely poorly based on actual insight and data about market and customers and (b) it tends to become antique the moment, you have dotted the last i and crossed the last t in the grand plan.

When I recently tought a group of students at Aarhus Erhvervsakademi and Dansk Markedsføring about digital strategy and business development one of my main messages was that strategy today is not a plan. It is a set of hypothesis about market, customers and bets, we can make that we set ourselves goals towards trying to achieve. And remain flexible towards revisiting when needed. Not in terms of overall vision and goals but on the road towards that goal.

Strategy today is a fluent thing and with all the unknowns out there and the constant changing landscape, you need to be prepared to have your core hypothesis invalidated at any point in time. You need to be able to adapt, and you need to do so by defining new hypothesis that you can design your evolving strategy and market approach around. Everything else is – at best – wishful thinking.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

What is a great tool?

One of the keys to efficiency is to have a great box of tools fit for the task(s) at hand. For the same reason we’re constantly working to put the best toolbox at InQvation Studio together.

We already have some sharp tools in the box – Trello for overview, Mural for ideation, Lean Stack for jotting down high-level concepts for test etc – but we’re looking for more that fits the bill: Efficient yet flexible downstream while maintaining structure and oversight upstream.

The general idea is that no tool should be too rigid while at the same time not being so flexible that it becomes a total mess to manage. A tall order, it seems. Have you come across any that fits the description? It so please reach out.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)