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The Future of Work is Organizing

By Derek Irvine

Recognize This! – WorkHuman highlighted a new paradigm of organizing in which potential can be unleashed through human connection and empowering work environments.

It takes an event as powerful and unique as WorkHuman to be able to hear from Shawn Achor about the power of happiness in the workplace in one keynote, and then to hear from Gary Hamel  in another about why we need to become a little angry to “hack” our organizations around more human ways of working. Although the approaches might differ on the surface, both speak to one basic idea.

The common thread across these and many of the other speakers I heard at the conference is this paradigm shift in how we think of organizing people. Framed within some of the observations that Gary shared with us, we do really need to think more in terms of organizing (as a verb, and active, dynamic process) and less in terms of organizations (as a noun, static and more resistant to adaptation).

Organizing, at its core, is about the potential that humans bring to the workplace. On this point, I fully agree with Shawn, that potential is not only made up of what the individual can bring to his or her work, but a quality that emerges from the relationships between people that have aligned behind a common, meaningful purpose. Organizing is also about developing an environment where that potential can be realized and expressed, rather than one that is overly restrictive and prescriptive about how work should be accomplished.

This definition of organizing - connecting with others and improving the environment to facilitate those connections - requires that we leverage both our capacity for happiness and dissatisfaction with the status quo into a much more complex approach at work than we are perhaps used to.

We are obviously at the very beginning of this new paradigm, with some companies having achieved more progress than others, and with a great deal of experimentation about what the future of work will look like.

Even though this is only the beginning, there is already a lot of thinking about how we will get there, and wide diversity in testing platforms, processes, and policies that may facilitate humans’ potential for organizing. In part, I am sure this is due to the increasing complexity of business itself, as well as to the pace at which information can now be created and shared.

I am grateful for the WorkHuman as an opportunity to bring many of these voices together, expanding all of our potential. As I bring some of these lessons back to my own workplace to continue the WorkHuman movement, I am excited for what the future holds, and how we can encourage everyone to harness the power of happiness and motivation to change our companies for the better.

What lessons have you brought back from WorkHuman?