…and I don’t mean the future is building towers out of spaghetti.
One year, we did a Crystal Maze type event where staff were assembled into random teams and we rotated around a number of different themed challenges to win crystals.
My own team had a good mix of people from different bits of the organisation. Finance, IT, Senior Management, Allocations, Repairs, Lettings and Customer Services.
As we started to make our way around the various challenges something interesting happened. Because the challenges weren’t overtly related to anyone’s specific job role or department, people put themselves forward to lead based on the knowledge and ideas they brought with them. Others would then rally around and offer support to help the team complete its goals.
The person or people leading the group would change depending on the skill set required. Mathematical challenges generally favoured our Finance colleague, but one of the Lettings team happened to be a dab hand a solving logic puzzles. Working in tandem they breezed through some otherwise tricky brain teasers.
During that day, everyone temporarily forgot their job title and approached each challenge by listening to each other, swapping ideas and experimenting with different solutions.
During tea and food breaks, team members would go and mingle with colleagues from other teams, trying to find out what challenges they’d done in the hope of getting any useful clues or tips for the games ahead.
So, what’s going on here? Why did this feel markedly different from what we normally do when gathered around a meeting table?
Small, multi-disciplinary teams, loosely connected that act like a network. Organised around a clearly defined purpose, not necessarily aligned to departments. This is where I think the future of work lies.
None of us can be accurately defined by our job title or department alone. The sum of our skills, interests, influences and experiences are many times broader than whatever is written in the job description.
Most organisations would espouse a strong desire to have happy, engaged and proactive employees. Perhaps then, the answer lies in recognising the whole person and the unique attributes they bring to the organisation.
Some modern digital organisations have opted to organise this way, not because there is something inherently cool and unique about new tech companies, but because their modern working practices are designed to enable them to do so. It gets results and retains very talented people who are fulfilled by the work they are enabled to do.
That’s good news because it means any type of organisation can start experimenting with this different way of working if there’s a willingness to do so.