Work Futures Weekender - April Fools Day

Happy New Year!

2018-03-31 Beacon NY — I’ve always thought we should start the year on April first, because spring always seems like the start of a new year.

The ancient Celts did it the other way around, with New Years on Samhain, our Hallowe’en, at the start of winter, the end of the harvest season. The Celts’ Ostara is the vernal equinox, which gives us the name for Easter in English.

At any rate, like so many things in this world (like the endpoints of the Fahrenheit temperature scale — go look it up) starting the new year in the middle of winter makes no sense today, really, although it might have once upon a time.

Better to start the year on a day dedicated to pulling pranks, I think, than one in the dead of winter.

On Augmented Reality

CBInsights points out that the intersection of the two trend lines for Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality is soon to happen, with AR about to move ahead in earnings call mentions:

VR is principally a gaming phenomenon, but AR has the possibility of becoming the next platform, or maybe the final platform, displacing the screen/keyboard/mouse model of computing, and potentially reaching into every aspect of our relationship with computing, communications, and human connection.

subscript: Doing That Crazy Hand Jive: Gesture And The Future Of User Experience

On Sexual Harassment

Looks like New York State is going to take “a major step in sexual harassment law", according to Vivian Wang:

New York will ban most nondisclosure agreements and mandatory arbitration in sexual harassment complaints, and will require government employees found responsible of committing harassment to refund any taxpayer-financed payouts, according to a revision of state laws adopted by the Legislature on Friday.

Despite the lack of transparency in the process, and being criticized by a group of seven women who had worked in the NY legislature and accused legislators of sexual harassment for lacking the involvement of people like them, the bill has passed the Senate unanimously, and Governor Cuomo is expected to sign it.

The bill will cover both the public and private sectors, requiring employers to develop anti-harassment policies and training and barring the state from awarding bids to any company that failed to comply. It would also extend protections to independent contractors who might not be defined as employees.

A step in the right direction from Albany.

On Human-Centric Business

Martin Reeves, Claus Dierksmeier, and Claudio Chittaro have written what amounts to a manifesto, The Humanization of The Corporation. Check it out:

No company is an island. This has never been more apparent than it is today. Business is more vulnerable than ever to political forces, economic upheaval, and social change. Consequently, the view of public companies as standalone machines to be optimized to deliver the highest possible short-term returns to shareholders is increasingly untenable. Rather, as participants in complex adaptive systems—in which outcomes are shaped by interactions among members—companies need to fulfill a purpose that is beneficial to those systems.

This requires a departure from the insular models that underpin traditional management thinking, epitomized by the narrow goal of maximizing total shareholder returns in the short term, toward a mindset that considers the impact of strategies and actions on broader systems. Think of it as a shift from a mechanistic to a more humanistic view of the corporation.

Or a more ecological view, where businesses are viewed as inhabitants of the complex and interdependent network of community, government, markets, and people, organized around mutual benefit. This needs to displace what the authors call the total-shareholder-returns maximizing mindset, which looks at the world only through a competitive, predator/prey lens.

As they put it,

To renew the social license companies currently enjoy, the focus on maximizing short-term results should be balanced by factoring in the long-term implications of current decisions, defining a purpose aligned with human ends, and setting objectives that are inclusive.

They spell out how business must rewrite the strategic agenda, pointing the way toward companies becoming more human:

Becoming a human company is a long journey. Once companies articulate their purpose, they need to understand their starting point and ensure they are well equipped for the change. Business leaders willing to change their company’s character and guide the transformation could help usher in a new era, in which the widespread emergence of human companies, able to plant the seeds of inclusive growth and remain vital by constantly innovating, could lead to broad-based prosperity gains for society and a long-lasting future for those companies.

On Growth Culture

A great deal of credit to the reawakening to human-centric, growth culture is owed to the authors of Making Business Personal, Robert Kegan, Lisa Lahey, Andy Fleming, and Matthew Miller.n a 2014 HBR article I first read years ago in which they introduce the notion of ‘deliberately developmental cultures’. After reading the BCG report in the previous section, I looked through it again.

The central question they set out to ask was what if companies created ‘a culture in which people could see their mistakes not as vulnerabilities but as prime opportunities for personal growth’?

They looked hard to find such companies, and found some, not many. But here’s how they described the best:

These companies operate on the foundational assumptions that adults can grow; that not only is attention to the bottom line and the personal growth of all employees desirable, but the two are interdependent; that both profitability and individual development rely on structures that are built into every aspect of how the company operates; and that people grow through the proper combination of challenge and support, which includes recognizing and transcending their blind spots, limitations, and internal resistance to change. For this approach to succeed, employees must be willing to reveal their inadequacies at work—not just their business-as-usual, got-it-all-together selves—and the organization must create a trustworthy and reliable community to make such exposure safe.

As you might guess, that isn’t easy or comfortable. But by continually working to meet these linked obligations, deliberately developmental organizations may have found a way to steadily improve performance without simply improving what they’re currently doing. That’s because progress for their employees means becoming not only more capable and conventionally successful but also more flexible, creative, and resilient in the face of the challenges—for both personal and organizational growth—that these companies deliberately set before them.