How will the future of work impact your business?

With the current, and growing, socioeconomic changes and technological trends, how will the future of work impact your business?

It is estimated that automation could replace 45% of current human-operated activities, but only 5% of jobs could be completely technologically automated, according to a study by McKinsey.

The future of work will inevitably change several core dimensions of organizations, including the work (the who), the workforce (the what), and the workplace (the where). So what can we do to be adequately prepared for its arrival? The answer is in finding innovative solutions.

How to use facilitation to discover creative solutions

We can actively be in service of preparing for the future of work to set ourselves up for optimum success. Because the majority of work in the future will be influenced by automation and the disruption of the status quo, we must find more and more innovative solutions. Facilitation is the vehicle that will help teams tap into the real power of humans–creativity–to do so.

The following four innovation strategies can help you make the necessary preparations for your business in light of upcoming change:

1. More productive meetings

One aspect that is sure to impact work in the future is productivity needs. They will alter the everyday meeting from a time waste to an essential part of getting the work done. In a survey of 1,900 business leaders, 72% of responders reported they spent more time in meetings than they did five years ago; 49% said they expected time in meetings to increase in the future. This excessive meeting time is time (and therefore money) wasted, especially when a large percentage of meetings are unproductive: 37% of meetings are considered to add no value to organizations.

Meeting room set up
Are your meetings are effective as they could be?

How do we combat this madness? We are forging the way with our meeting mantras, the guidelines we closely follow for productive and effective meetings. One of our mantras is: no purpose, no meeting. This means in order to have a productive meeting, you must first and foremost have a clearly defined purpose. Otherwise, you do not have a goal to work toward, and efforts are scattered and inefficient, which wastes precious time.

Another mantra is: do the work in the meeting, not after.We believe the time carved out for a meeting should be used to do work, not just talk about it. Identifying an objective is the first step, followed by preparing a tangible prototype or a clear idea that is ready to be explored in-depth. The meeting then serves as a space to actively work through the idea to produce creative solutions.

When we value meetings and what they can offer by running them efficiently, we can make the most of them. Practicing this now will help you to have even more successful meetings in the future.

2. Foster creativity

Creativity is the competitive advantage humans have over technology. Human-centered design methods will be highly valuable to maintain a competitive edge, and innovation will be the top priority. This is outlined in the five phases of design thinking methodology: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. The foundation of human-centered design is empathy.

“We spend a lot time designing the bridge, but not enough time thinking about the people who are crossing it.” — Dr. Prabhjot Singh, Director of Systems Design at the Earth Institute

The word "create" on a wall

You must first be able to understand the feelings and desires of the people you are creating for. Then, imagination takes flight as you generate as many ideas as possible to meet those needs in a way that is new and exciting, and eventually, build and test prototypes to bring prospected solutions to life. Design thinking workshops are built to help foster creativity within your team and your company at large.

3. Diverse collaboration

Studies show that diversity of various kinds in the workplace makes for a more successful business: profitability and long-term valuation increase dramatically when teams are diverse. Why? Because a more diverse team means more opportunities to approach a problem with varying perspectives, i.e. more creative solutions. It also means your business is more likely to have team members that represent the vast range of customers you are trying to reach, which increases understanding of how to successfully serve your audience.

Two person discussion over computer

As the workplace continues to diversify, creativity and innovation are needed to help diverse teams work together. Enter: professionals in innovation. Facilitators with the necessary skills to help unify individuals of all backgrounds are needed to encourage each team member’s best work and ensure their voices are heard. Facilitation methods provide a framework for collaboration, co-creation, and participatory decision making, all crucial components needed to be sharpened in order to properly prepare for the future of work.

“When we listen and celebrate what is both common and different, we become wiser, more inclusive, and better as an organization.” — Pat Wadors

4. Adapt communication

As hierarchical structures fade away in the face of more successful innovation structures, organizations must develop new communication channels and decision-making frameworks to accommodate self-managing, cross-functional teams. Self-managing teams wildly outperform companies with Industrial Age hierarchies. And while they are becoming more popular, it’s unfortunately still more common to find cross-functional teams that don’t work. That’s due in part to a lack of effective communication and collaboration culture.

“Cross-functional teams often fail because the organization lacks a systemic approach. Teams are hurt by unclear governance, by a lack of accountability, by goals that lack specificity, and by organizations’ failure to prioritize the success of cross-functional projects.” — Benham Tabrizi, Stanford University

Group discussion

75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional, as found in 95 teams of 25 leading corporations in a study by the Harvard Business Review. So how do you avoid this? Establish clear and consistent communication company-wide to create a culture of innovation that is matured for the innovation process. This includes keeping employees in the loop with up-to-date information and check-ins to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Also, determine a prescribed set of rules and processes for everyone to adhere to that gives every team member the power to use their voice to innovate, make decisions, and instigate changes. The better your company and all of its moving parts communicate, the better it will function and perform as a whole.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” — George Bernard Shaw

These practical innovation strategies can help you prepare for the ever-evolving future of work and meet it fluidly. The best way to ready your business is to start small, but start now.

Skill-building takes time and effort and you want your team to get used to the adjustments. It is important to continually adapt and build the skills needed to embrace change as it comes.