Future of Organizations: 4 Trends and 10 Ideas

by Julia Culen & Christian Mayhofer (thanks to Stefan Culen for translating)


German Version: Zukunft von Organisationen: 4 Trends und 10 Ideen 

Four driving forces for change and  ten ideas for rethinking our perception of work and organizations

The drive for change is not a Gen Y phenomena

In the debate about the „New Work“ complex we are facing many antagonisms: New versus old,  young versus advanced age, Gen Y versus Gen X and versus baby boomers, hierarchy versus community, analogue versus digital and so on.

Yet, the future of organizations and work is not a matter of the Generation YZX, but has to deal with the fundamental changes in our society. In fact we do see a high pressure for transformation from all gnerations, Generation Y and digitalization being driving forces.

Umair Haque, one of the top management thinkers says „There seems to be deep cynicism and mistrust towards intitutions today“. Only eleven percent of our workforce reports to be satisfied and engaged in their professional life. A different set of values, ideas and a general paradigm shift all across the generations is taking place: Results from surveys concerning „New Work“ hardly differ across the age groups.

Apart from that we see various other trends, which ask for transformative change and seem to be even more profound and far reaching as to just make the working environment for the generation Y increasingly attractive.

Four game-changing trends:

  1. Speed: Both,  markets and business environment have changed dramatically for corporations and represent completely new challenges. A specific aspect is the combination of speed and market transparency together with perfectly informed clients, which even could be named „enlightenment“.  The demands on innovation and flexibility increases the  pressure for change: Apple creates more than 60 % of its turnover from products less than four years old.
  2. Communication technology: The technological development enables and at the same time requires new forms of communication and cooperation across the hitherto known borders of time and space. While in the 18th century a letter from London to Calcutta took six months, today data masses are available via mouse click and e-mails for the young ones seem already uninteresting because not instant enough. We are used to keep open several communication-line parallel while private and business contacts get intertwined more and more.
  3. Outdated Social Technology: The classical hierarchical structure, still often to be found, originates from the beginning of the twenties century, matching the technology, the structure of society and the requirements of the period. So we find each other in a phase, where the „Old“ does not function any more and the „New“ is just in the making. The co-author of „Wikinomics“ and „Radical Openness“, the Canadian Don Tapscott analyzes: „We are burdened with the wrong organizational models“. And organizational cultures.  That is also a big problem, which many firms are troubling now: how to manage people, who value loyalty to themselves, self-dermination, values and meaning higher than carreer and money?
  4. A  profound change in the set of values across the generations: In the 1990ies and the 2000thgreed, inividualism and carreer-orientation have reached its peak and lead to this shift of thinking and the urge for purposeness, joy of life and human authenticy.  Employees dont want to submit themselves to organizational constraints. They react with refusal, cynicism, lethargy and burn-out. The urging problem in the staff is the loss of trust, which leads to insecureness and the dwindling emotional attachment towards the corporation. This results in a rising destructive attitude within the workforce, which in itself represents a hefty risk: The Gallup Institute has reckoned, that the missing loyalty of employees would cost the annual amount of € 125 billion. It would be a big mistake to believe, that this phenomenon is restricted to just the elite of the scientific bunch, the „knowledge-workers“. We see these demands already common with assembly-line workers, who are more informed and linked up than ever before.


So we see ourselves in a veritable phase of upheaval. Yet the question is, what now and what to do? Only about a third of  companies seem to actively reflect and act: Surveys show, that 66 % of organiziations do expect fundamental changes within the coming five years, but only 33% are setting active actions. This could be a mistake.

Many organizations and many papers discuss the issues „new working“ mainly in regard to flexible timetables, mobile working, introduction of collaborating platforms, social media and new office space. However important and relevant those areas are, it is much more than those technical questions.

We prpose 10 ideas to rethink work and organizations:

  1. Think oranizations completely new. With VODAFONE Netherlands and UK all prevailing concepts  about leadership, hierarchy, office design and steering tools get defined completely new.  This also contributes to the success and turnaround oof the firm: They have not only restricted their action to putting their staff into an open-plan office, to install a cafeteria and supply them with mobile devices, which of course does represent quite a step, but dared a true transformative mutation. Its about a new attitude, a new image of man, i.e. that of a responsible and able person. Interacting flat structures, which rely on selfsteering and own responsibility must be the response to a networking swiftly changing environment. Following the motto: „The next Buddha is the community“ the power will not be derived from the hierarchical position but from the acknowledgement, the community pays on grounds of competence and natural authority.
  2. Being instead of Becoming: „Because of the never ending pressure for change we are not going to achieve anything any more. Only if we activate what is there already, we can shape the future“ formulates Patrick Cowden, management author and former executive with DELL, DEUTSCHE BANK and HITACHI. Endless Change Projects, repetitive restructuring and perpetual optimizing are weakening organizations noticably. They are exhausted and puzzeled and dont want to hear of „change“ any more. Yet, the simple focus onto ones being in here and now, the clarity about who one would be as an organization and as a person and who one would not be, leads towards  strong and authentic  action out of one self.  The constant change then does not produce anxiety any more but represents the nature of life as such. In the new world of work change does not happen through pressure and obligation but out of the awareness, that any moment emerges from the preceding.
  3. New role of Leadership: It is the task of guidance to set the frame and the direction in this flux. Andy Grove, ex-INTEL CEO, formulated: “It is not about to reign the chaos, but to make use in a certain way of the productive, self-responsible chaos.“ Successful guidance forms a context, in which the organization and the people in it can unfold in a self-responsible manner. However,  in  simplicity lies much strengh: Three clear priorities and five key figures  serve as better points of orientation for management-teams as academic models and modules of high complexity. Those theorems are predominatly of use for those, who formulated and sell them.
  4. Knowing the WHY „If money becomes the point, you have lost the point“ says Charles Handy, the Irish exconomy and sociology philosopher. Because, if to make profit becomes the main purpose of an organzation, it looses its source of energy and develops zombie-like properties. Within organizations we identify this amongst others from exhaustion and demotivation with staff and management. „Here everything is about money, profit. Never about the things, that really matter.“ Philipp Riederles concern as well is purpose. Graduates from the US elite universities turn away from strictly money orientated companies, they are not easily to be baught for any price. Definintively it is required as well as rewarding to explore the reasons of beiing and to communicate it well. Thus the „Sense of Puropse“ is created. Often this can be found in history, as organizations simply are just the tool to introduce an idea, a purpose, to the world.
  5. Flexible working: Looking at the various surveys about the future of work, one aspects emerges very clearly: Flexibility of time and local positioning as well as compatibility of profession and private life are predominantly on top. People not only want flexible conditions in their profession but also would like to live and work in a self determined way. Adaptible working hours and locations as well as indvidual self organization are not only for the highly mobile generation Y of prime relevance but equally so for the elder sector.
  6. Inclusive thinking: In the beginning organizations  artifically get sliced into clear and surveyable portions (departures, areas, teams). Then is gets forgotten, that these are only elements of an entity and one live on in the assumtion, that the assembly of those parts would represent the organization itself. What follows are the usual problems:  Narrow-minded thinking, isolated optimizing, rivalry, communication problems, competition and the impression of being separated. All this gets aggrevated by distributed global structures, virtual teams and the move to towards flexible working hours and working spaces. Hence it is essential to create all sorts of networks on every level and to let the people feel, that they are part of the entire system, to foster the powers of cooperation and exchange. This would be the most important basis for innovation and creativity, the essential future success variables.
  7. Enthusiasm and love of life: As long as a salary is felt to be the compensation for pain and suffering, hardly joy and lightness can come into existance.  People want to contribute, they cherish creativity and fun, they want to be able to make ideas work without getting drowned by sticking at trifles.  The neuro-biologist Gerald Hüther from the University of Göttingen maintains: „Enthusiasm is doping for the spirit and the brain“. We do learn fast in the spirit of enchantment, yet we would only be inspired by by matters, which do have significance. Whatever we like to do, we do well. Where there is joy of life, there is creativity. Consequently the assignment for the organization consists in establishing a world of work, in which enchantment and joy can emerge. The British author Simon Sinek states: „People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it“
  8. An open corporate culture: The awareness grows, that the lack of trust is a main reason for a low level of performance. „New Work“ means amonst others, to adress unpleasant issues, to give clear and immediate feedback, to be able to have difficult  conversations. Companies should let people know, that they can express their views and get involved in constructive conflicts. Trust is the result from transparency, authenticity and integrity in the sense that the action suits the word. Fear and trust rule each other out to the greatest extent.
  9. Fluid contraints and new networks: The outer limits of organizations get more and more liquefied, because the classical seclusion vis à vis the outside world and the preservation of knowledge is cutting the firm off from the vital  insight-circles. Corporations are building together with their suppliers, clients, partners, public institutions and universities new ecosystems, where. Silicon Valley presents a perfect example. This trend will pick up momentum, as more and more individual and small enterprises are constructing joint networks instead of falling back into rigid legal structures.
  10. Communication and Collaboration are presently defined in a completely new way. There exists a rapidly growing number of digital tools, should they be microblogging, video-conferencing, corporate social media and learn-, knowledge- as well as cooperation-platforms, which enable a high level of networking, yet on the other side also ask for personal responsiblity and self  driven activity. The challenge will be in an ongoing and progressive development to place the core commitments of the company like strategy, vision and direction very purposeful in order to attain the awareness of its staff, its clients and partners through clear messages and contents.

Organizations become “teal” more and more, but it is a bumpy road. Old beliefs, practices and roles are strongly challenged and the mental transformation is the most difficult one: it requires a clear awakening to the present and the future and embracement of the opportunities.



German Version of this article




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