The future of work is about capabilities you (should) already have


Fries with that?Soon there will be nowhere left to hide. Everyone’s value is under the microscope from colleagues and management alike.  Whether you turn widgets, manage a process, a set of processes, lead teams or manage team leaders leading teams… or run a whole division… or even an entire organization, you are under constant scrutiny in today’s open workplace.

Everyone has to prove they are useful, add real value and are worth their salaries… or they are toast.  But most importantly, people need to prove they can be trusted.  Employee trust in today’s workplace is about proving you are doing more than just enough not to get fired.

Loyalty is legacy

Most heritage enterprises no longer want to give out gold watches for your turning up everyday for last 30 years… I mean, “thanks for showing up and coasting here for 30 bloody years and making it really hard to fire you”.  I don’t think so… Loyalty means little, but value means everything. The more legacy work we automate/digitize, outsource, replace with software, or just write-off, the more we have to focus on our human skills to justify our existence in today’s workplace.

Tomorrow’s successful workers are those who use their initiative to perform activities, on their own volition, to find new value for their enterprises.  You can’t get any progress or value from methods like Design Thinking if your staff are only checking the boxes to perform their rudimentary employment functions. Design Thinking is about going beyond the norm to challenge the status quo, to think outside the boxes, not just checking them.

You are who you are – your reputation is everything, your ability to forge relationships with colleagues, peers, industry influencers and company leaders who appreciate your value, your perspective and your personality is, really, all you have.  The days when you could get away with hopping from job to job because you were great at bullshitting your way through interviews are dying – any employer with half a brain isn’t recruiting through traditional channels any more.  It’s all about people engaging with people who have established a reputation for adding value, going beyond the basics, and being great to work with.

You need to find new problems, not just solve old ones

But adding value is not just about solving known existing problems, it’s about finding new ones to solve in the future.  You can always find a contractor or an outsourcer to fix a broken set of processes, or correct lines of badly written code. But finding people which can challenge whether those processes or lines of code are even still relevant to meeting your desired outcomes… people who care enough about their jobs and their company’s success to go beyond performing “just adequately enough not to get fired” is the secret sauce for future value.   And that is what new workforce trust is all about – initiative, attitude, personality and trust.

The Bottom-line: There is no secret sauce to staying relevant – it’s about putting our egos aside and becoming students again 

Frankly, I’m sick and tired hearing about “Digital Skills” and “Creative Capabilities” being some far-flung capabilities which you need to go to Millennial school to develop (whatever that is). Digital skills are about understanding your customers’ current experiences and intelligently leveraging every traditional, social and mobile channel touching your business to make them richer. Creative capabilities come from collaborating and challenging yourself with your colleagues and partners.

So correct me if I am wrong, but being successful today is about using capabilities we already have. It’s simply making ourselves students again, finding that hunger to learn about what’s out there and engaging with everyone around us to prove and challenge our theories.  We must ditch this sense of entitlement that dictates we don’t need to go back to basics and force ourselves to think, collaborate and learn all over again – or we’re going to be done before we know it.

Enterprises need to behave like start-ups, where their people group together for the common cause of making their collective group successful – only willing collaborators with a desire to learn and challenge need apply. We’re all part of the Digital Generation – we just need put our egos to one side and own up to the fact we’re all students rediscovering what we’re all about and what we’re capable of…

Posted in : Design Thinking, Digital Transformation, Homepage, HR Strategy, Robotic Process Automation



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  1. Phil,

    Enjoyed reading this piece – you’ve touched on some key points. In a nutshell, people with a willing attitude to learn and become “students” again, drop that sense of entitlement and work hard to challenge themselves and their companies will rise to the top. But this is a lot easier said than done – its going to take senior managers with this “start up” attitude to promote this behaviour deep into their firms,


  2. Love the positive focus, Phil. I concur that embracing new business models in today’s era is more about one’s mentality and ability to keep an open mind. You can teach old dogs new tricks!

    Cheryl Smith

  3. It’s all about getting people out of their comfort zone to challenge each other and the way their businesses operate. Design Thinking is becoming an integral way to rethink business models to embrace technology and use it to create a great customer experience.

  4. @Andy – it’s interesting to see how several “legacy” enterprises are bringing in talent from the likes of Google/Facebook in management roles to change things up with a start-up attitude. Am seeing this a lot in IT, as well as marketing – focus on flat structures, freedom to be creative, projects in teams, not individuals etc. Not seeing this much in the back office in areas like HR, finance, procurement which could add so much more value with motivated leadership tied to the front office of the firm. End of the day, it’s about the middle-back offices being able to support the digitally-driven changes at the front, providing immediate and actionable data, flexibility to scale / move to new markets at pace etc.


  5. @Cheryl – because if we fail to teaching the old dogs the new tricks, we’ll end up teaching the bots new ones =)


  6. @Andrea – completely agree. The challenge is to get companies to really take Design Thinking seriously. It’s working much more effectively in IT where the ambitious people know they need to think this way… less so in other functions where people are still in the “just enough not to get fired” mode…


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