Death of the Computer Screen? Why Scenarios are Important.

hologramIn 2013 I wrote a scenario (see below) in which I painted a picture of the future of work. In the article, which later became a chapter in my book The Open Organization, I presented the idea that computers would be as small as a silver dollar coin and would operate by voice and hologram. Fast forward to 2017 and a C|Net article titled: World’s thinnest hologram will make screen size ‘irrelevant’. As a futurist, I am always excited when I see a scenario I wrote about coming true. Now, I cannot take credit for the idea of a Hologram by any stretch. In fact, the first time I even knew about what a Hologram even was would date back to 1977 and Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. I was… well.. .young back then…and the now famous scene of R2D2 displaying a hologram of Princess Leigh is etched in history.
 
Predicting the future and its potentiality is fun… but it is not always easy. While I can spike the ball now – sometimes anticipating a preferred future is difficult and requires a lot of information to get close to .. well.. maybe in the neighborhood of right.
 
Developing Future Scenarios are not about predicting exactly what will happen – but offering a glimpse of what could happen and what we would do with this information if we thought it could come to pass. Foresight is about creating a mental image of a possibility and then creating responses to those mental images in hopes that it will better prepare us for disruptions and market penetration. Scenarios force us into “What IF” analysis of our potential future state. It helps us to navigate theoretically through options before we have to do it in reality.
 
This is why athletes, firefighters, police and even the military practice so much. So that they can be prepared for what ever eventuality the future hands us.
 
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Embracing Open in the New Millennia

Imagine it is the year 2025. You walk into your home office and set your Smart Device (SD) on your desk. The SD, about the size of a silver dollar coin and as thick as a credit card, activates when placed on a flat surface. Sitting down, you lean forward and focus your attention on the holographic screen hovering above the SD. You say, “SD, date and time please.” In a clear voice your SD responds, “February 8th, 2025. The time is now 0900. Would you like to hear your appointments and tasks for today?” You briefly think to yourself how far computers have evolved in just a short period of time. In fact, you think, the constant we face is a world quickly changing before our eyes.

For the United States and much of Europe, the world has already begun to change as it relates to the way organizations interact with their employees. The field of employment has been shifting since the market crash early in the century. By the year 2040 it is estimated several emerging social and technological changes will greatly affect the way organizations view employment and human capital in the Westernized World.

Your SD speaks again, “You have an incoming call from Jeff and Dustin.” You turn your attention back to the hologram and tell your SD, “display call.” The hologram shifts to the images of your colleagues. You met Jeff and Dustin in your doctoral program a few years ago and the three of you formed a successful strategic alliance. Today you are meeting to discuss a proposal the three of you are working on. Your alliance with your colleagues has opened the door for all of you to compete with much larger organization on projects that you would have otherwise avoided.

The Great Shift

Since the late 1980s, Americans have begun working longer and foregoing their retirement. As a result of this trend we are beginning to see an increase in what we now call the Graying of the American worker. We are seeing an increase in job-sharing, consulting, coaching and even strategist positions growing among the Boomer population as Generation X begins taking over the reins of leadership. While the working population of the United States is growing older, fertility rates are also dropping amongst American women which ultimately will create a deficit in human capital available to replace an existing workforce. If that weren’t difficult enough on businesses trying to fill positions, legal immigration is on the decline in America creating even greater deficits in available workers. As a result of all these sociodemographic trends, we are beginning to see demand and acceptance of more flexible, freelance and collaborative opportunities in an increasingly less secure globalized world.

Emerging social and technological changes are forcing companies to move toward the use of short-term, temporary and independent contractors and consultants. With advances in technology and availability of WiFi in nearly every location, employees no longer need to pay to drive to an office setting every day nor will organizations need to continue supporting expensive centralized office space. In fact these advances in technology open the door for workers who are no longer limited by geography thereby permitting them to live anywhere they choose. Smaller offices and fewer employees working in those locations permit businesses to focus on finding and keeping essential employees while outsourcing the remaining positions to independent contractors. With these changes, businesses will be better able to shrink overall expenses and employees will gradually no longer see themselves as being employed by a single company. Employees are now able to work anytime and anywhere they choose as long as they are able to meet their job objectives.

The future of employment appears focused more on an individual’s talent. In fact, it is estimated that most jobs of the future will require higher education, advanced skills and high-tech training. The twenty-first century organization will require an ability to share ideas, knowledge, resources and skills across organizational, generational, and cultural boundaries from within and outside of the organizational system.

The year 2025 is closer than you may realize. Technological and social changes are moving at an alarming rate and while many may see the opening scenario as fantasy, the trends say otherwise. Collaboration will breed a greater competitive advantage, create influence and consolidate resources and expertise within a given organization and in a future that requires less human capital to produce a product or service. Now is the time for organization to begin examining the impact of a shrinking workforce. The Open Organization will likely be the formal response to the much anticipated deficit in human capital. Organizations will become flatter and there will be a greater level of shared information and even evaluations will come from co-workers rather than the traditional top-down leadership review. In fact, we very well could be witnessing the end of much of the hierarchies we’ve grown accustomed to since the early 1800s.

This shift in organizational structure will take time to adopt yet it is believed that these structures will be the most effective way to obtain a competitive advantage in the future. However, organizations may experience managerial resistance in adopting new organizational structures. Success is reliant on the commitment of the organizations leadership. It is necessary for organizations to address the fears of management and leadership in an effort to overcome delays in adoption.

The days of an abundant workforce are coming to a close. This shift in demographics will require organizations to view their structures far beyond the traditional business school training. Experts claim that there is a lack of future-readiness in the United State of employers and employment. Great challenges are ahead of us and the best way to address them is take the long-view and plan ahead for a new economy, new organizational structures, and a mobile diverse workforce like we’ve never seen before. These changes will require rethinking the view of hierarchies, traditional employment, and what it means to be self-employed. Technology will play a key role in the adoption and success of the organization of the future.

The conference call with your colleagues went well and as their holographic images fade, you sit back and smile. “SD,” you say, “Open RFP Alpha457.” Your SD responds, “Opened. What would you like to do?” You begin to dictate to your SD and so another day in this new world economy begins. You smile and remember a time when you used to work in a cubical and you think to yourself, “I’ve surely come a long way from those early days in the working world.”

As the story begins to illustrates, the twenty-first century organization will require an ability to share power, authority, ideas, knowledge, resources and skills across organizational, generational and cultural boundaries within and outside of the organizational system for the purpose of achieving desired goals. The world will continue to become smaller as technology advances and organizations grow in diversity of individuals from differing cultures and geographical locales. Organizational decision-making styles will grow in influence by generational and cultural attributes of the individuals from with the organizational system.

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cropped-img_0100-001Dr. Philip A. Foster is a Thought Leader focused on the Future of Work and the 21st Century Workplace. He is a prolific writer, International Lecturer and Best Selling Author of “The Open Organization” – now available on Amazon. He is an Ambassador to the OpenSource.com community and holds a Doctorate in Strategic Leadership with emphasis in Strategic Foresight from Regent University, Virginia. You can contact him at http://www.maximumchange.com

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Organization 3.0 – Embracing Theory in the 21st Century

As a business consultant and professor I am often asked why study theories and systems that are no longer used in modern society.PIC1

  I look to Aristotle who once said, “If you would understand anything, observe its beginning and its development.” Simply put, if we look at history we can best understand the present and anticipate the future. Fact remains, the world is complex and theories are our attempt to take a complex world and simplify is through a set of written observations.

We make sense of our world as we view it through our own filters and lenses. These filters and lenses distort our view and we begin to develop interpretations of what is happening to us. Perhaps this, in part, explains why there are literally thousands of leadership and organizational theories to date. Without an understanding of the world around us it would be impossible for a leader to make sense of the needs of the follower or the followers make sense of the leader. The epistemology of leadership theory is simply a process of understanding the limits and validity of a specific action within the context of a system. We look to the study of leadership theories as a process of learning the nature of responses from individuals and organizations with regard to specific actions.

Timeline of Leadership and Organizational Theory

PIC2The view of leadership and organizations has evolved. Using the timeline above, we find three distinct eras of time in which we can observe the evolution of leadership and organizational theory. The first era, Organization 1.0 focused predominantly on the Great Man theory and the emergence of Fredrick Taylor’s Scientific Management approach to production. The Scientific Management approach naturally moved us into Organization 2.0, in which we find the emergence of the Classic Theories of leadership and organizations. Finally, with increased complexity, globalism and emerging demographic trends we moved swiftly into the newest era of Organization 3.0 in which leadership and organizations are flattening and decision making is driven by members of the organization through self-leadership methodologies. Within the structure of Organization 3.0, the traditional top-down hierarchy is replaced with structures such as matrix, star, and open systems.

It is through the constructs of a theory we begin to better analyze a set of facts and thereby create changes from said process. Therefore, the need to understand so many leadership theories is a result of the process of analysis and learning. In the end, the purpose of leadership theory is simply to find understanding of human nature as it relates to the system knows as an organization.

As Millennials move toward leadership roles, it becomes important that they have a strong grasp of where we have come from and a sense of where we are going. Our ability to mentally stand in the future and imagine it will make us all much more competitive in the here and now. More importantly, leaders of all ages must come to grips with a reality that we can no longer afford to run a 21st century world class organization with 19th and 20th century ideas. The more we understand where we came from and have a sense of where we want to go, we can stand in the present and direct ourselves toward an idea future destination. In time, other theories will replace Organization 3.0 and perhaps it will be the millennial generation that does just that.

Question: As you view the world through your lenses and filters – what do you believe the organizations of the future might look like?

PIC3Philip A Foster is considered a Thought Leader in Business Operations, Organization and Strategic Leadership. He is a prolific writer, published author and lectures internationally. His most recent e-book “Organization 3.0 – The Evolution of Leadership and Organizational Theories Toward an Open System for the 21st Century” is available exclusively on Amazon.  Philip is certified in both Leadership and coaching and serves as Adjunct professor at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN. He is the Founder and CEO of Maximum Change Leadership and Business Consulting, serving clients from around the world. He is a Doctor of Strategic Leadership candidate with emphasis in Strategic Foresight and holds a Master of Art in Organizational Leadership, both from Regent University, Virginia. He can be reached at philip@maximumchange.com.

Cross-Cultural Communication and Change.

Hackman and Johnson (2000) state that cultures change over time and older groupings within a given culture may not be the same as newer groupings within the culture (p 298). Therefore, it is reasonable to argue that when listening and sharing ideas within a culture we must take into account these demographics. Older generations typically wonder how effective younger generations are in the workplace because the younger generation is constantly connecting through social networks (Lancaster & Stillman, 2010, p 198). Boomers are more likely, at least in the West, to wonder whether or not the younger generations are pulling their weight (Lancaster & Stillman, 2010, p 198). Further, not every member within a cultural group will act and respond the same way (Hackman & Johnson, 2000, p 298). When we recognize that cultural activities outside of the market create customized products relevant to the culture (Branch, 2012), we create innovation and cultural market viability. Millennials want to be innovators and have mastered the ever-evolving array of technology (Lancaster & Stillman, 2010, p 102). While it has been argued that changes within a given culture are difficult because cultures are organized around deeply rooted assumptions and values (Hackman & Johnson, 2000, p 243), we must relish diversity and learn from each other’s differences so that cultural difference can thrive and coexist (Marquardt and Berger, 2000, p 50).

References:

Hackman, Michael Z and Johnson, Craig E. (2000). Leadership. A Communication Perspective.

Lancaster, Lynne C. and Stillman, David (2010). The M-factor. How the Millennial Generation is Rocking the Workplace. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

Branch, Chester (2012). Retrieved from his posting: Blackboard Dialogues for Doctorate in Strategic Leadership, Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA.

Marquardt, Michael J. and Berger, Nancy O. (2000). Global Leaders for the 21st Century. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

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Philip A Foster, MA is Founder/CEO of Maximum Change Inc. Elevating leaders and their organizations to the next level since 2005. Master Certified Coach, Philip A Foster, MA and his associates facilitate effective positive change by helping organizations, leaders and individuals in high demand — design and implement strategies that maximize focus and deliver results. Specializing in Organization and Strategic Leadership.

Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Skype: philip.a.foster | 615-216-5667