We have a new essay published on Deloitte Insights, Reconstructing the workplace: The digital-ready organisation. The essay follows on from The digital-ready workplace from last month. (We do seem to be publishing at a surprising rate at the moment.)
The big idea here is that if we want to move forward, taking advantage of digital technology in the workplace, then we actually need to think about ‘workplace’ differently. We use the analogy of electrification of factories. The initial attraction of electrification was a 20% saving in fuel (coal) costs. This was dwarfed by a the much larger benefit of a 20-30% improvement in productivity (using the same workers, machines, and facilities) from rearranging the workplace to optimise for workflow rather than the distribution of mechanical power. It’s important to remind ourselves what while this seems obvious in hindsight, at the time ‘workflow’ wasn’t a thing, and it took around 30 years of tinkering with electricity in the factory to realise that we should be optimising floor plans for the flow of work, rather than the flow of mechanical power.
Continue reading Reconstructing the workplace
A lot of angst has been devoted to discussing the skills gap—the large and growing gap between the skills workers hold and those sought by employers. Reports have been written quantifying the skills gap, how it’s a drag on the economy, or estimating just how much the economy might boom if we manage to close it. One estimate has closing the gap as adding US$11.5 trillion to global GDP by 2028.
Think pieces and TED talks promote “the skills you need”. Training schemes and education incentives have been implemented to reskill workers, providing them with new skills, skills more relevant to a digital age. Despite these efforts, the skills gap continues to grow. It’s now ‘catastrophic’, a ‘critical issue’ for educators, employers and government.
The problem is that the more we’re looked into the skills gap, the less we’re convinced that it’s a problem. This isn’t to say that there aren’t challenges we must overcome as we sail into our digital future—it’s just that the skills gap doesn’t seem to be one of them.
Continue reading What skills gap?
We have a new essay published in Deloitte Insights, The digital-ready workplace: Supercharging digital teams in the future of work, a collaboration with Rosemary Stockdale from Griffith Business School and Tim Patston from UniSA STEM at the University of South Australia.
Most (if not all) research groups have done a survey on the affect working from home has had—this is ours, though it’s ended up in a different place. We start by trying to understand the relative merits of a push or pull approach to support workers during the transition, where push is the usual “give them the tools and training we think they’ll need” while pull is empower and support workers in finding their own tools. Generally, a push approach works well when the challenge is understood beforehand, while a pull approach is better when the challenge is not well understood as it enables workers to adapt. We’d heard anecdotal stories that firms had taken different approaches, and we were wondering how the relative benefits and problems stacked up. What we discovered, once the data started coming in, was that we were asking the wrong question.
Continue reading The digital-ready workplace
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of being on the panel for Blockchain and the Digital Economy at ADC’s Leadership Forum. The session outline led with three questions:
- How has 2020 accelerated the acceptance of the digital economy?
- Is blockchain fulfilling its promise as the new universal disruptor?
- How real is the role of cryptocurrencies as the new universal store of value?
It’s a large topic and an important one, as if we’re to address challenges such as growing inequality then we need to find a way to make the economy work for all of us, rather than just some of us.
Unfortunately, as too often happens, adding blockchain to a topic results in blockchain dominating the discussion with other interesting ideas ignored. Blockchain is quickly positioned as the solution and all other ways of framing (and understanding) the problems we face are ignored. This panel was no different in this regard.
Some of the ideas that would have been relevant in a broader discussion are things that I’ve been exploring for a while. Before the panel I’d pulled together an outline of the argument as to why our future is not “the digital economy”, but something much more interesting, and which creates more opportunity and freedom to act in addressing the challenges we’re facing. Rather than let a good outline go to waste I thought I’d build it out a little and publish it here.
Continue reading The Digital Economy
We have a new essay published in Deloitte Insights, Unshackling the creative business: Breaking the tradeoff between creativity and efficiency. Creativity is seen as an import capability for an organisation to be successful in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world. Significant effort has been invested in fostering creativity in business, effort which sadly is often wasted. This essay looks at why this might be the case and what we can do about it.
Continue reading Unshackling the creative business
We have a new essay published in Deloitte Insights, A moral license for AI: Ethics as a dialogue between firms and communities. This collaboration with CSIRO’s Data61 looks into the challenge of creating ethical AI, picking apart the problems and proposing a way forward. There’s a launch event on the 2nd of September, 2020, which you can register for via Zoom.
Continue reading A moral license for AI
We have a new essay published in Deloitte Insights, Building the peloton: High performance team-building in the future of work. Jess Watson is the lead author of a report that looks into how we need to think a bit differently about teams, team work and leadership as the drive to create more agile organisations breaks down established organisation structures.
The report uses the analogy of a cycling peloton—the team-of-teams that competes and cooperates in a road cycling race—to integrate current research on team formation and operation in a world where firms function as a team-of-teams.
Continue reading Building the peloton
We have a new blog post up on the Deloitte blog, Innovating our way out of the crisis.
In the past few weeks we’ve written about need for management to get out of the bunker mentality that uncertainty and a rapidly unfolding crisis had pushed us into, and how we have a perfect storm for innovation with demand collapsing for the old thing while new demand is popping up as we adapt, and the government is (effectively) subsidising innovation by providing unsecured loans and underwriting payroll (via JobKeeper). Put these together and you have the potential for (some) firms to emerge from the crisis stronger and more capable than they went in. New winners and losers will be created, and so on. That leaves one question unanswered: Where should a firm look for these new opportunities?
Now we’ve had a go at creating an innovation mud map to help find where a firm might innovate. Our hope is for this to be a conversation starter inside firms.
Published on the Deloitte Risk Advisory blog as Innovating our way out of the crisis.
We have a new blog post up on the Deloitte blog, The government is paying you to innovate. The post points out that, due to a number of factors, now might be the perfect time to innovate.
There is a few reasons for this.
First is that we seem to have a perfect storm for innovation. The pandemic means that doing the old thing is not an option for many firms, with many of us stuck at home and the government restricting how businesses operate. At the same time, new demand is appearing and we all learn how to live in the new normal.
Second, and as we pointed out in Getting out of the crisis, the business environment post shutdown is unlikely to be the same as pre shutdown. The best way to prepare is to experiment now, to learn how consumer behaviour is changing, and start building the assets and services that will you’ll use in the new normal.
Third, and finally, the government is providing unsecured loans and is even willing to underwrite payroll. The government is effectively paying you to innovate.
There’s already early evidence that firms who are experimenting and adapting will emerge from this shutdown more efficient and effective than they went in. Now would appear to be the perfect time to innovate.
Published on the Deloitte Innovation blog, 20th of May 2020, as The government is paying you to innovate.
We have a new blog posts up on the Deloitte C19 blog, Getting out of the crisis. the post makes the point that:
The middle of a crisis might not seem to be the best time to think about the longer term. It can be important though, once immediate problems are dealt with, for management teams to consider how their firm will trade its way out of the crisis, rather than just reacting to events as they unfold.
The common assumption of a “V”-shaped economic contraction is unlikely to be true as when restrictions are lifted they’re likely to be lifted incrementally. The more a firm can do to innovation and keep the business running—rather than putting it into hibernation—the more likely the firm is to emerge from the other side. This means that:
An optimist would consider this a great time for experiment, to look for new opportunities, to find new ways to do old things, and to find new things to do.
You can find the post on the Deloitte C19 blog.