Back to the future (at work) in 2025: Joint learning will become a core competence

70% of well-established companies in German-speaking countries will have disappeared by the middle of the next decade as a result of international competition. I admit that sounds like a bombastic estimate, but I believe it will prove to be a pretty accurate one. I don’t need a crystal ball to tell the future, and I don’t need Big Data. The signs of the times spell things out clearly enough.

I’ve been running a series of interviews on my blog for several months now on the topic of “At work in 2015” – there are a wide range of views expressed on what work will be like in 2015. As diverse as the opinions given in the interviews are, they all have one thing in common: We’re already overwhelmed by the breakneck pace, the proliferation of networks, the deluge of communications and the complexity these developments bring.

 

By 2025, the following will have happened:

  • Networks will have grown and will continue to grow in size and density,
  • The way people communicate will have completely transformed,
  • Cooperation and collaboration will be based on new paradigms,
  • Digitalization and technological innovation will have advanced enormously.

 

10 years from now, things in companies will be very different from the way things are today. Managers will not have much of a hand in ringing these changes, which will emerge as inevitable developments from changed working situations. Normalized standard products of the future will be devised and produced, for the most part, by machines – and will be increasingly easy to copy. Creative, “top” solutions and products will increasingly become critical factors in long-term success. The teams needed to come up with these solutions will meet up in self-organized networks in which they define themselves in terms of the way they work together, and they will set their own goals and objectives. The people in these networks will give everything for a project (if, and probably, only if), they all are perfectly aware of, and share, the “higher” mission and vision. Companies which want to play a part in shaping the top class will need these “sense seekers”, because these are the people who can do the job to the standard required. The awkward thing about these people is that they are not motivated by money alone. After their top priorities, such as meaning and realization of their own personal life mission and vision, trust, loyalty, self-efficacy, time and scope come high on their lists.

 

You dont believe me? Were already making it happen!

Current example: The study ‟Führungskultur im Wandel” (‟Management culture in a state of flux”) by “Forum Gute Führung” (a platform for leaders). Already today, 70% of managers want a different culture in companies, because they know that what once was the generally accepted approach isn’t working any more. The goal scenario: Clear goals, clear results, feedback, participation, identification, cooperation, transparency. All of these qualities are features of an authentic corporate culture, where the vision and culture are visible and lived honestly and openly by role-model managers.

But all too often, my experience of the way managers and companies perceive the world – in organizations such as small and medium-sized enterprises, comprises dogmatic planner mentality, selfishness, militant normalization, obsession with “the thing I have to do”, and hierarchical posturing. And the problem with that is there’s no room for innovation, no scope for development, no ideas that are out of the box, the very things that might allow you to be top-class and give people the space they need to contribute. It’s still about the bottom line, the margins, in favor of precisely the success factor that could get you where you want to be – the employees.
A disastrous situation, because in the great scheme of things, under the rising pressure to change, it won’t matter if a few managers lose their egos and ultimately their jobs, or whether a few companies go down.

The secret: Truly great success comes – now, as it always did – from the people who really want to achieve it.

 

Out of all the topics that we will look at in the near future, two topics stand out that will impact both us personally and the development of the organization more than the others:

“Individual lifelong learning”: These days, knowledge and competence age faster than ever before. Every single person – from the cleaning staff to the CEO – will (have to) show willingness to learn if they want to stay in the game in the long term. Apart from the WILL to learn, you also need to love learning – to see the meaning – in order to retain knowledge.

“Organizational lifelong learning”: Organizations assume that their will to learn resides in the people who work in them. But the goal of the organization – the goal and therefore the meaning – must be to motivate every single individual. All the members of the organization should jointly carry the vision and the culture and should want to develop and shape them. A compelling dialog on vision, culture – and thus necessarily on leadership – is key to success and, at the same time, generates a sense of belonging. This is the only way we can create the space to learn and master the future.

 

How do you learn? How does your organization learn? How is the idea of “learning” rooted in your vision, culture and leadership?

 

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