Category Archives: Innovation

The Future of Mediocrity

“What are we doing here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in the immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come — ” Samuel Beckett

The future is not what it used to be. Thousands of articles are published everyday trying to assess the immeasurable impacts that technology will have on the shape of tomorrow. Hundreds of “vision papers” preparing us for the serial shock awaiting us from which will emerge the Future of Work, Future of Organisations, Future of Democracy and Government, of Health and Education…

Not a day, not a week, passes without new blogs being put online detailing the infinite potential the Digital Revolution might bring to institutions, businesses and individuals – as well as the formidable dangers that they all will face. When it’s not a multitude of foresight studies unfolding how Big Data will inevitably shred our privacy to almost nothing and transcend the very concept of identity and self.

As spectacular as they might be, these repetitive announcements invariably sing the same tune: “forget everything you know, everything will change”.

They strangely sound familiar and remind us of a song from a time before the internet:
que sera, sera
whatever will be, will be
the future’s not ours, to see
que sera, sera
what will be, will be

Surreptitiously, they put in the back of our minds the idea that our imaginations might lag the necessary leap to apprehend the world we will live in.

They condemn us to float in this chaotic now from which we shall not escape, an hyper-present that precludes us from hoping we can have the slightest influence on what will irremediably unfold.

Wrecked by a cambrian explosion of everything, our specie shall survive in this bleary, apathic mood, mostly unconcerned by the fact that in this enterprise we might have our say.

Shall we content ourselves of remaining just witnesses of our future? Shall we declare vain and pathetic our efforts to make sense of what will have an hold on us? Futile and desperate our attempts to uncover what could be next?

After 25 years, let us remind with humility that the most popular topics on the World Wide Web in 2012 were Whitney Houston and Gangnam Style, that Justin Bieber has nearly 40 millions followers on Twitter, and that more than 97% of all emails sent over the net are unwanted.

If we keep forsaking our individual responsibility with little or no protest, there is one thing that we can be certain of: Mediocrity will have a bright Future.

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Filed under Complexity, Innovation, Leadership, Purpose, Uncategorized

Coming out: can you bring value to an organisation after having left it?

I was 22 when I got my first job with a large multinational company, freshly baked out of the academic oven. What a sense of pride and relief for myself, and my parents, to get a confirmation that I could… fit in.

For 14 years, I created value for my organisation, within the frameworks they had designed for “us” to contribute. Depending on the Business Units and the geographies, these frameworks were more or less enabling or debilitating, but I would always get enough value for myself (financial, intellectual, social, etc.) to choose to remain part of the company.

In those 14 years, I have acquired a unique knowledge of this organisation; its people, its products, its clients, its cultural patterns, etc. Having worked in or with most parts of the structure and most parts of the world, I became a true connector in addition to a descent professional in my field of expertise.

The current employer / employee model is binary. You are either IN or you are OUT, and there is no in-between.

Being IN requires an absolute compliance to a vision, a culture and an operational framework. Once an organisation decides to bring someone in, the formatting mechanisms – called on-boarding process to soften the concept – come into action. As an outcome of this process, you know how much of your potential you are expected to unleash and how much is preferable to keep for yourself. Whether this is an 80/20, 50/50 or 20/80 balance is usually not a consideration for the employer and you can stay in the organisation for as long as you give it exactly what it thinks it need, even if that represents 10% of what you’re capable of.

Getting out of an organisation is a very formal process. When you leave the force, you hand in your badge and your gun – your pass and your laptop in that matter – and you turn your back and walk away.  When you are OUT, you simply do not exist in the corporate equation, no matter wether you are an absolute stranger or you have spent 14 years in the organisation, which makes you more knowledgeable about it than most people that are still “in”.

A few months ago, I made the decision to put an end to my contract and move on. I was not seizing an opportunity. I had not developed resentment, frustrations or anger against them. I had just reached the certainty that I could better unleash my potential and have more fun in a different context, within a different patch.

I still had a lot of respect for my team and some of my peers and I was convinced that I could be at least as valuable to my employer, if not more, from the outside of the organisation than from the inside. I genuinely offered to co-design a model where my contribution to the organisation would take different forms than the traditional “pay for my time” model. It would have been a way for me to help nurture the venture I had created and deeply cared about while minimising the unexpected disruption for the organisation.

Sadly, they declined the offer.

What struck me in this experience was the lack of maturity of the organisation. Their approach to the situation was driven by a primal sense of betrayal. The need to re-create stability as soon as possible within the current system completely hindered their ability to consider an evolution of the system itself to turn a challenge into an opportunity. When a key person is leaving, he or she needs to be replaced. Period!

That inability for organisation to foresee alternative models to employment prevents them from accessing a tremendous amount of talent at their doorstep.

Of course, most companies leverage consultants and temp staff every once in a while but the practice remains limited in scope and in time. The systems and processes are just not designed to embrace other models, but more sadly, the culture and mindsets are hardly prepared to even consider alternatives.

  • What would it mean for an organisation to actively leverage the potential of its employees not only during the time they spend on the payroll but also after, and why not, before?
  • How would we approach resource management if organisations weren’t exclusively inward focused but were broadening their models based on the value drivers of their ecosystem?
  • What if one could be both IN, on certain projects, at certain stages of his / her life, and OUT, to pursue other aspirations elsewhere and multiply activities and perspectives?

These questions are relevant today and hold in themselves a huge potential value for both organisations and individuals. But in the world where the number of freelancers is increasing exponentially and where the corporate career becomes less and less appealing to graduates, how long will it take before inventing those models become vital?

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Filed under Innovation, Networks, Nodes, Patches