Examining the Future of Work

by Braden Kelley

Examining the Future of Work

At Siemens ConneCTs 2018 I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Norbert Gaus, Head of R&D in Digitalization and Automation, and Barbara Humpton, Chief Executive Officer of Siemens USA and one of the topics of conversation that emerged was a collision of different insights and aspects surrounding the future of work.

A couple of topics that come up quite frequently in relation to the future of work is whether or not the younger generations have the same work ethic as previous generations (Baby Boomers and Greatest Generation) and whether or innovation requires organizations to become more open.

Dr. Nortbert Gaus doesn’t think the work ethic of the new generation is lower than ours, but their expectations of work are different (the environment). Changing expectations will force employers to re-think how they engage with their workforce, build their work spaces, and structure teams, time schedules and compensation plans. I love this quote from Siemens USA CEO Barbara Humpton:

“The ideal characteristics for future employees are curiosity and initiative.”

– Barbara Humpton, Chief Executive, Siemens USA

One other interesting trend that we are seeing is the infiltration of the grandparent/grandchild relationship into the workplace as people continue working longer and technology changes more quickly, meaning older generations often will need to learn how to take mentorship from the younger generation sometimes when it comes to technology.

And, if organizations are serious about innovation, not only do they need to hire and develop curious employees, but to create the collaboration opportunities for curious employees to connect and create with curious partners, suppliers, and customers. Siemens is trying to build environments that allow for co-creation with customers, they’re creating internal mixed teams, and bringing in external voices to mix this all together to create innovation.

But, one of the challenges all organizations face is the reality that teams don’t naturally form to successfully solve complex problems. People naturally people that think like them and similar people are attracted to similar problems, meaning that the teams that naturally form to solve problems are often lacking in cognitive diversity, which research shows is less likely to lead to successful (or timely) solving of the problem. So, if you’re serious about solving a complex problem, you must forcibly inject diversity into the group – not based on age, gender, race, etc. but instead diversity of perspective and in how people process knowledge.

Siemens USA started an Intrapreneurs Bootcamp where all 50,000 Siemens USA employees competed for 30 spots. The bootcamp’s opening exercises asks participants to ask a couple of key questions:

  • What’s your why?
  • What tools don’t we have that we need?

Cross-divisional teams are then built, organized around purpose, who then pitch their ideas at the end. Here is what a previous Intrapreneurs Bootcamp looked like:

Some potential challenges that technology intrapreneurs might want to tackle include:

  • How to create interfaces that are more intuitive?
  • How to make industrial technology more acceptable?
  • Privacy vs. participation – must choosing privacy mean choosing to take the back roads?

It would be interesting to research whether organizing cross-divisional teams around purpose has a positive or negative impact on cognitive diversity, creativity, and innovation.

And finally, I’d like to leave you with a final challenging question:

In today’s world, would it be possible to structure an organization in teams around customer problems instead of products, services or job functions?

 

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Full disclosure: Siemens paid my travel expenses for me to attend this event

Image Credit: IT Peer Network

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About The Author

Braden Kelley is a Director of Innovation and Human-Centered Design at Oracle, and a popular innovation speaker and workshop facilitator. He is the author of two five-star books, Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire and Charting Change, and the creator of a revolutionary new Change Planning Toolkit™. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter (@innovate).

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