Where are you going to locate your new start up? I’m really struck by the success of large, shared office space for small businesses. It offers flexible workspace and relevant services within a community of like minded people running their own businesses. The atmosphere seems to ooze energy and creativity. These 20 and 30 and 40 somethings are not just ‘playing’; they’re serious and committed and engaged, but equally, seem to have their goals in more perspective in comparison to their previous work alcoholic generations.
We hope that these entrepreneurs will be successful so that, in time, they will need bigger space to house their growing businesses. Even if the physical environment of this shared workspace is not the future of UK plc (business growth and certain industries will still need big structures), there’s something about the vibe of the place that is surely set to stay.
So what is it that’s different?
One of the things that strikes you when you walk in is the use of technology. Everyone is at screens using a range of apps, sites, social media and more. Not much different here to many organisations. But the screen time seems to be focused and intentional. By contrast, how many big corporate offices have you walked into where people seem to be killing time as they sit at their screen?
The use of digital seems to be to maximum benefit, used to complete and update tasks, run projects, communicate remotely to co-creators. Face to face time – equally focused and intentional – seems to be used for genuinely creative outcomes and not like the endless rounds of meetings I’ve often experienced in big corporates which are often used simply to share information. Of course, in small companies, decision making is more direct, and it’s possible to cut out unnecessary hierarchy to shorten the distance between ‘the worker’ and ‘the customer’. But what also seems to be different in these meetings is the use of data to drive decision making. Quantification of customer sentiment, results, efficacy are the norm. In summary, a focus on the customer, the use of data to drive action, and quicker decisions.
Now, these are all generalisations of course and it’s possible to find all these elements in some big companies. But not that frequently. But as baby boomers retire, will the working style change even in bigger companies? And won’t the younger generations demand this anyway? They expect only a short distance from them to the decision maker and they expect to be able to communicate with that leader in the way that they work with co-workers: on-line, in real time and in a focused and intentional way. They expect to be able to challenge – using data – what’s working and not working. And because traditional hierarchy and status holds less attraction for them, they give themselves a permission to hold their leaders to account and create authentic relationships.
Younger generations expect to use software in business in the way that they use it in all other parts of their lives: to make a point, to give feedback and to be involved. Business won’t throw out face to face meetings. Far from it, we will use them to have creative sessions based on the employee data gathered through software. We must be ready to engage people now in new ways of communicating, getting feedback and using software to inform and drive our businesses.
8th June 2016