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ImageIn a world that is seeing the fastest rate of technological change ever, we ask leadership expert Paul Bridle to reflect on what this will mean to businesses and to their people.
My son left university in 2005 having been part of the education system for seventeen years. I reflected on the way the world had changed in that time. When he started in primary school, there were no mobile phones or digital technology and the fax machine was the latest modern piece of equipment that every office needed to have.

By the time he entered secondary school the e-mail was not yet available to the public and the World Wide Web was not developed. In fact through the seventeen years he was at school and university, technology grew faster year on year than probably any other development in the history of man.

This made me reflect on what the next seventeen years will be like. In other words, for the child entering primary school this year, what will the world look like when they graduate in fifteen to seventeen years time? The truth is we do not know exactly what the world will look like, other than to know that technology will continue to change the way we live and the way the world operates. We can however recognise that change will continue to happen in many ways and it will affect the way businesses operate in every part of the world.

At the same time as this change is taking place, people are having different expectations about life and work. In emerging nations, people see the standard of living in the West and are prepared to work and learn what is necessary to achieve that standard for themselves. In the West, people are seeking work-life balance and ways to make work part of their life rather than something that funds their life.

The issues everywhere mean that the way we have thought of work in the past will not necessarily be the way we will have to see work in the future. For leaders it means that the style and approach to leadership will have to change and adapt to be effective in the future.

What will employment be like?

For companies and organisations to compete in the future there will need to be more focus on achieving outcomes. The achievement of these results requires that people at every level are engaged and part of driving the business forward. Organisations will not have the luxury of carrying people who do not make an active contribution to the outcomes of the business. This means that employees will need to be focused, self motivated and responsible for their own actions and even for their own frame of mind. They will need to be prepared to learn and even relearn how things are done. It will require them to be flexible and most people will develop expertise or specialise to ensure they can bring value to the business.

The future will not be about being busy but rather about achieving results. It will not be how hard you work but about how effective you work. The future is about how productive people are, compared to the amount of energy expelled.

The truth is that organisations that cannot capitalise on the strengths of their people will lose their business to other organisations that will do it quicker, cheaper and more effectively. The competitor may even be from another country

This means that management is also going to have to take a different approach to the way that they manage and lead their organisations and their people. Managers will need to recognise that people are their greatest asset and also their greatest weakness. If they are capable of mastering and unleashing the energy, creativity and capability of their people in the right way, they will probably go on to be highly successful. If they don’t, they will create a hole in their ship below the water line that will eventually sink their organisation.

This will apply in all sectors of industry as well as private and public services. Some will take longer to feel the effects but eventually it will apply to all organisations.

So the future will not be about blame between management and their people but rather about mutual solutions that achieve a business with a future. Many organisations have issues with communication because both management and people use this as an excuse to blame the other for issues that arise. The organisations of the future will need to recognise that communication is a mutual responsibility. Managers will need to create an environment where people want to know and then give them access to being able to find what they want to know. People in the future will need to be responsible for knowing and not for being told. If you don’t know, then what are you doing about it? You can’t blame anyone if you haven’t bothered to ask.

It is an exciting time to be living in provided we can see the challenge and embrace it. The question managers and people need to resolve is, do we want to be constantly reacting to change or do we want to be part of creating the change? Creating it means that you have a say in how it is managed. Reacting means that you are always on the wrong foot trying to cope.

To do this, managers and their people need to be outward focused and not inward focused. Those that manage to recognise this and work together to develop the future will find that the world is exciting and rewarding.

ImagePaul Bridle is a Leadership Methodologist and studies effective organisations around the world. He is a Faculty Member of the Institute of Management Studies and an international speaker and author on Leadership. For more information, visit www.paulbridle.com

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