As I sat calculating my route on the London Underground, an advert caught my eye. eHarmony were making a statement more of us need to consider. And I’m serious.
Imagine it really was the end? What would eHarmony become?
With this context in mind, I’ll pose a question. It’s a sensitive one, particularly in an age where few people seem to know what’s next, but stick with me for a few minutes:
Why aren’t more of us trying to make our work redundant?
Many markets are saturated; choice in abundance. There’s plenty of talk of purpose and finding meaning, whether that be in the work we do, or things we consume. Sinek’s infamous question: Why?
The shift in power is palpable. Whether by click, or a swipe to the right or left.
So, I’m curious, in order to remain relevant, why aren’t we all trying to make our work redundant?
I’ve spent many months learning how different people across different sectors are responding to unprecedented change. Amongst the themes, there’s two that cause concern.
- Self-preservation; it appears to be somewhat of a default. A defensiveness to new thinking, fear of own position, a very real feeling of ‘why (me)?’
Change isn’t personal we’re told, but when change or transformation is triggered in response to a crisis, it can certainly feel that way for those caught in the eye of the storm.
I’ve been fortunate in my career to design and facilitate resilience exercising, and of the true crisis nature. The aim is to test complacency, amongst other things. One of the fascinating things you’re able to observe is the coming together of different parts; process, procedure, systems, and the most interesting of all, people.
You’re able to question everything, including your own self-worth.
It takes place in a live environment, the idea is to simulate, not validate. Humility over arrogance. It exposes gaps, weaknesses, threats. The richest part is learning from it. In this, there is no choice. Developing proactive behaviour, leaving no room for passiveness.
What’s stopping more of us applying this methodology to the business strategy?
There’s an over reliance on a company’s ‘core’ product or service. An unhealthy amount of time spent with a rear-mirror view. What’s hiding around the corner, ready to jump out in front of you?
Just like eHarmony: I’m serious. This isn’t an experiment.
What if you worked hard to make your existing work redundant, and adopted a constant transformative state, leaving the old behind, always iterating and creating newness.
It requires an entrepreneurial mindset that is mostly discouraged by legacy companies.
So, what’s enough to get this going in the right way?
Firstly, you need to understand people’s default. And the very first place to start is questioning your own.
Secondly, it’ll need everyone to think harder about addressing the true cause, not treat symptoms; a break away from the 10-minute doctor-patient model. Applicable to all manner of contexts.
It also requires radical transparency in just about everything. That includes a removal of people protecting the control of their role, by holding on to specific knowledge.
My final recommendation to get you going: you need to work out how you design for fluidity, not consistency, in the context you’re working in. As Jeff Sutherland describes: people need to be known for what they do, not by the title they’re referred to.
Of course, the alternative is to continue following a belief that the work you do will still exist in five years. Or you might choose to act when your biggest client starts asking different questions. Or wait until your nearest competitor is the first.
But I’d say that’s a combination of waiting and self-preservation.
If you don’t do things that scare you or generate high alert, you’ll be sleepwalking, and you’ll never really find out who you are or what you’re capable of creating.
It’s time to be brave.
Being brave doesn’t always mean being reckless.
I’m serious: individuals need to make their work redundant. And the organisation as a whole need to make existing ways of working redundant.
Chris Furnell – Lead L&D Partner