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Strong opinions and shared thoughts on companies, culture and Work — by the makers and friends of Ninety.io

Remote Work | 4 MIN READ

Introducing a New Era: Work From Anywhere

As we move toward “the light at the end of the tunnel” called COVID-19, it feels appropriate to start to reflect on what we’ve already learned and what we still don’t have the answers to. Disasters are always teaching events. Some lessons come fast, some slowly and other lessons appear after a significant passage of time (i.e., in hindsight).

Furthermore, if we are lucky, disasters also accelerate the way we live (AKA our insights) and innovation (i.e., the creation of something new that helps make life better) and these insights and innovations help us evolve as people, groups, tribes, communities, companies, and countries. I think we are coming out of a transformative event that will absolutely change the way we live and work and I believe it will, over the long run, accelerate the percent of the world that is doing Work (i.e., work they genuinely love doing).

Some background

Whenever I’m trying to understand change, I study it through three lenses: Insights, Tools, and Disciplines (ITD’s). IMO, transformative events, over the long run, almost always enhance the ITD’s that we leverage to make life better.

In terms of how we evolve as a species, I believe there are moments in history where either a disaster or, more often than not, a particular innovation causes a massive and swift change. I think these transformative “events” can primarily be attributed to either a new material insight (how we look at and or understand things) or a new tool (how we do things). Either way, they always include a new discipline; otherwise, we wouldn’t take advantage of the tool and/or insight and, as such, there is by definition no transformative event.

If we take a look at history, tool-based transformations (TBT’s) tend to take place relatively swiftly. Examples of TBT's include the printing press (1430’s), the steam engine (1712), the cotton gin (1793), the assembly line (1913), the transistor (mid-twentieth century), and the internet (1983). I think of these as mostly transformative in terms of how we leverage a new tool to make life better. I suspect there are a host of reasons why TBT’s tend to move so much more quickly because the cost/benefit of their impact is objectively measurable and, as a consequence, resources and money flow swiftly toward them.

Insight-based transformations (IBT’s), on the other hand, tend to move much more slowly for a host of reasons, not the least of which are cultural and/or political (typically attributable to vested and conflicting interests).

Two of the most notable transformative insights are, IMO, Democracy and Human Rights. These two highly aligned ideas started to come into being way back in Athens in the Fifth Century BCE. They were subsequently all but extinguished for well over a thousand years until the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. It then takes us hundreds of years before the ideas were further advanced by the English (1642-1651), American (1765-1783), and French (1789-1799) revolutions. The good news is things now start to speed up with the Women's Suffrage movements (1840-1920), the Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the Civil Rights movements of the 1960s, and the Sexual Rights movements still underway today.

That said, the world obviously doesn’t evolve as one for a host of reasons, not the least of which is the broad recognition of, and respect for, the Rights of others (i.e., we cannot demand that people respect our Rights if we don’t respect theirs). Consequently, here we are, thousands of years after the core idea of democracy was introduced and we humans have still yet to take full advantage of these two core insights that, IMO, make life better for all.

Right or wrong, I’m an optimist. Furthermore, I deeply believe, over the long run, we evolve for the better. I could write a whole book on this, and hopefully, one day will, but for now, I submit that life is much better for the average person today than it has ever been. And I deeply believe that collectively, once again, over the longer run, we humans and our communities, will continue to evolve into becoming better and better versions of the best versions of ourselves.

Back to COVID-19...

As I reflect on Covid-19 and the lessons learned and the associated transformations/evolutions, it’s amazing how information and communication technologies (ICT’s) helped us across all facets of life, from the personal to the professional, to even the spiritual. Could you imagine what the Great Lockdown would have been like if it happened forty years ago?

In terms of the lessons learned, one could easily write a whole book on how our institutions reacted and acted. In short, I suspect most of us would agree this was probably not our (these are, after all, our institutions) finest hour. Laid bare were a range of shortcomings in terms of what I like to call the Three Pillars of Trust: Competency, Character, and Connections.

That said, the virus has almost certainly imposed crash courses on a broad range of ICT’s that are making life better. And perhaps, most importantly (I hear you skeptics – only time will tell, but someone has to lead, and leading always involves risk and hence courage), the virus taught us how to bring to market life-saving vaccines far more swiftly than even the most optimistic of the experts imagined.

It’s been more than ten years since I launched Ninety.io’s parent Humalytix (HLTX). To me, it was super clear way back then that we already had a strong grasp of the ITD’s one needs to build extraordinarily productive, humane, and resilient companies, and that it was time to start building a cloud-based company operating system (COS) comprised of all the core tools that make it almost easy for leadership teams to not just embrace, but cascade, these ITD’s down and throughout their organizations.

For years, it has been clear to me that the slowdown in productivity growth in rich societies was less a problem of stagnation in technology than a combination of comfort with the status quo, a little fear of the unknown and maybe an excessive amount of regulations (a blog for another day). 

Let’s just look at the tremendous benefits associated with remote work or what we prefer to call Work From Anywhere (it’s not “remote” as in far away or all by yourself, but it’s a choice to… work from wherever you are, to work from.. anywhere):

  • less traffic means less congestion, smog, and road rage;
  • less demand for oil and all of the geopolitical complexities associated therewith; and
  • more opportunities to better match work with talent.

That said, many companies are still reluctant to embrace WFA because they fear their people will slough off or that theIr culture will devolve, or that they’ll struggle with their Work From Anywhere™ members feeling like outsiders.

We’re not suggesting everyone work remotely by any means. Some positions have to go to work in an office or a factory and/or a distribution center. We are hugely social creatures (we write about this in our ebook Remote Best Practices) and oftentimes the best ideas — those that really push a business, a community, and/or the economy’s productivity forward — are often the spontaneous outcome of unplanned, face to face interactions. We want both the mingling that breeds innovation and the widest possible take-up of that innovation.

As a leadership team coach and the CEO of Ninety.io, I talk to companies virtually every single day (yes, even on the weekends), have access to a ton of data and I can assure you that the companies that have been running on Ninety.io are moving through the Great Pause with a confident sense of who they are, how they are doing (from the tops to the bottoms of their organizations), where they are going and what they need to do.

Businesses, communities, and governments need to take a fresh look at their ITD’s, experiment, stand back and look at how they get work done and assess their business models.

Now is the time to re-imagine Work.

Now is the time to learn from this Great Pause and re-imagine how we do what we do.

Now is the time to do great Work.

Topics: Remote Work People Organizations Technology


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