Our book is yet unwritten

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2016 has been a year of discovery, of adventure, of breaking boundaries.  For many it’s been a year of unparalleled innovation – especially for those of us that live in experimental spaces. We’ve long known that innovation is for the brave – those souls who dare to speak out, the curious ones asking “but who says?” 

As I reflect on bravery or courage or heroism, it dawns on me that bravery in any of its forms is remarkably like crazy – or is it simply a matter of perspective? Much of our lives as innovators requires us to quiet the voices in our heads yelling out “you can’t do that! it’s crazy!”.  And it’s exactly this act of changing perspective that allows us to see possibility and create a new future – to disrupt our worlds. It takes a special kind of crazy to question assumptions that are years old, to challenge ideals and concepts that work well enough, to be that person in the room asking “why?”

In Adam Grants’ “Originals” (if you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for? It’s incredible!), he speaks about “Vuja De” –  the obvious reverse of Déjà vu – the concept of facing something familiar but seeing it with a fresh perspective that enables us to gain new insights into old problems.

In the world of work today one of the biggest issues we face is creating spaces where people can bring their excellence, where the uniqueness of the individual can be expressed to create winning innovation.  How do we create that winning culture?

For years we’ve had a book on how “work” is, a kind of imaginary Encyclopaedia Brittanica of how we work. But that imaginary book was written before “we” were working! It was written before many of “us” entered the world of work! Us being women, and millennials, and innovators but also closet creatives, and evening gardeners and day-time-suite-wearing-iron-men and also… well most everyone. Let’s face it, it was written for a bunch of folk who are now in the minority. And don’t get me wrong, it worked really really well back then, but with “us” in the workplace now, it really does fall short.  Many of “us” feel that our workplaces just don’t enable the way we need to work. So why then are we still using that imaginary book as our core reference guide?

That way of work was perfect for specific workplaces, for a workforce that were all very similar (or were told that they had to be) and for a time that was, well…industrial revolution.  We’re in a whole new time, with a whole new workforce, and yet – there is no new book!  We have moved from a world where work was about creating consistency, to a world where work is about embracing each individual’s unique contribution and, if we wish to do that, it means we are going to need that bravery to change our worlds of work.

And it’s right about at this point that I hear Natasha Bedingfield belting out “I’m just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, ending unplanned” and then…a great big ol’ penny drops…it’s time to do some re-writing!

In 2017 I’m keen to see these new chapters form.  Let us take the time to write “the Wikipedia of work” for our future, one that works for us, one that creates space for innovation, for creativity, one that allows every person to thrive, one that isn’t creating a whole workforce of ill-fitting pegs.

We have already rewritten the chapter on dynamic working (literally rewritten), but there are still many chapters that we haven’t even begun to write. We’ve only just started the chapters on what the world of work look could like for single moms? What about the chapters on working dads? Or insomniacs? Or those that live far from their workplaces? Or nocturnals?

And what about the chapter on success? Does it still mean becoming the CEO? Really? What is success if you believe in balancing family and sport and work and creative hobbies? What could that chapter look like?

And what is a career?  Is it really a straight-line 20-year plan? What if there was a chapter on changing careers mid-way? Or one on taking a break from your career? Or one on how to come back after a break?

Now is the time for a massive cultural innovation.  It’s the time for new chapters.  It’s time for all you brave crazies out there to start recreating, it’s time to get writing.  Take it home Natasha… “Live your life with arms wide open, today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten”