Switching Back On the Light

While the world in general seems to get tougher and more and more focused on individual power, wealth, and success – rather than the old idea of helping each other to prosperity – I thought that it could be interesting to recap and search through the memories of a long working life, listing the things that actually worked well despite being out of sync with today’s rougher working conditions.

It seems to me like the new style is, in fact, just being the pendulum swinging back towards the conditions of the beginning industrialization after having briefly touched a more humanist approach. The darkening is again becoming the goal, after many years of enlightening. The light has been switched off.


I imagine a world in which each potential employee/job seeker writes a list of tasks and conditions that would suit them – and then employers can bid in on it with an application. This is, of course, the exact opposite of the world as we know it, hence, an Utopia.

My list

General company terms:

  1. Flexible hours – if work can be done at any time, then why insist on fixed hours?
  2. Possible to work from home – gives flexibility in life and easier time management
  3. Stress free environment (not “we are always very busy” or “you thrive with tight deadlines and rapid changes in goals and conditions”)
  4. Overtime is fine, occasionally, but in general the work can be done during the hours agreed on in the contract
  5. Values: Respect for the individual + knowledge sharing
  6. No performance management – control and cooperation are rather based on dialogue and mutual assistance. Any measurements are for the purpose of understanding, not for punishing
  7. Physical surroundings suitable for the job, i.e., if car is needed there are parking spaces, if meetings are part of the job there are meeting rooms, etc.

Characteristics of the job itself:

  1. There is a defined area of responsibility
  2. Tasks cover end to end, allowing for an understanding of the value of each step and being proud of having completed it – also when several people collaborate to do this
  3. Plans are made carefully but with flexibility to allow for new understandings and learning to be utilized and new needs to be included. No panic reactions and sudden, unexplained changes of course
  4. Knowledge sharing and communication is part of the job
  5. Goals are reached through people, processes, and technique – in that order
  6. There is feedback on the work, showing that it is important to some
  7. No matter the job type and level the employee is part of a team that has a main focus on helping each other to make good decisions and, simply, to ensure a systemic approach to solving the tasks

Some features of the boss:

  1. A human being, not an archetype – the HR approach to standardizing leadership is taking away the human aspect and should be used with caution
  2. Team oriented – is helping their employees rather than commanding them, allowing them to create their own successes
  3. Coaching, but in a human way, like a colleague – not “coaching for performance”
  4. No treatment of employees as types – they are individuals and must be treated as humans
  5. No micro-management
  6. Good at filtering tasks so that employees will not be given such that are meaningless or counter-productive
  7. Ensuring the correct work environment, suitable for the tasks

The culture and colleagues:

  1. Polite atmosphere – “Good morning”, “Have a nice weekend”, holding the door, etc. makes it pleasant to be together
  2. Friendly but not intimidating – understanding that being colleagues is not automatically the same as being close friends
  3. No mocking
  4. Learning and personally developing
  5. Accountable and taking care of their duties, showing responsibility
  6. Helpful
  7. Adult people, serious about their work – but all of them individuals

Myself – what would I need to bring in:

  1. Dedication and enthusiasm (of course, in a ping-pong with the surroundings)
  2. Strategical, visionary thoughts about tasks, working place, business area
  3. Observant, analytical and improving, participating and developing
  4. Accountable and taking care of my duties, showing responsibility
  5. Flexible
  6. Helpful
  7. Another individual – broadening the scope of thinking and problem solving capabilities of the team and the company

Mix and match

Headhunters and recruiting agencies as well as internal HR departments are often a lot more focused on matching than they are on mixing – meaning, they do not appreciate the extra competencies and additional experience a job candidate may add. They are even tightening in on a few treats and mostly considering everything else as noise that should be kept out of the company.

However, the ability for an organization to adapt to changing conditions and develop a pleasant (and thereby efficient) work environment depends on mixing various experiences and competencies. It is not enough to find the “best” candidates for selected areas. An example:

I started in a new job, many years ago, where the focus was systems development based on Microsoft tools and platforms, so these skills had been asked for. However, a few days into the new job a customer asked for a Crystal Reports consultant – as I happened to know about this product too, we got the assignment and it became the beginning of a long and important collaboration with this customer around their reporting needs. Without my extra and not-asked-for skill, this would not have happened.

The switch

Can we change the job market to the reverse, as I fantasized about? Or are there good and sound reasons for not being much interested in the wishes of the employees?

Can we similarly reverse the development, the pendulum movement, to again focus on what actually works in terms of delivering what the customer’s need, which is a collaborative and both analytical and goal-oriented approach, making use of thoughts and skills of individuals, rather than on the internal power structures and bonus payments?

Is it, perhaps, just a matter of switching the light back on?


First published at LinkedIn Pulse:

Service Society 2.0 – The Real Virtuality

When Virtual Reality hit the world some years ago, people were amazed: How fantastic it was to be able to experience some place almost real without really being there!

When virtualization hit the IT business at least some people where amazed by that too: How clever it was to make better use of the server hardware and just have a thin client on an old computer for the users…

And then, what happened? Gradually, everything got virtualized. Servers themselves are not real anymore, they are virtual appliances on other (virtual) servers. Clients are not really were we think they are, they appear inside of a browser window and are actually just seemingly running on the client computer – in reality, they are running on the virtual servers, which again are running on their virtual servers.

The only real thing that exists now is virtuality – everything else is virtual.

But how does that connect to the old idea of producing and consuming that built our political and financial landscapes?

Hurray for service!

The fact is – it doesn’t! We have virtualized ourselves into a new paradigm of just simulating a production and, to some extend, to simulate the consumtion of it as well. We are faking our way through life. A movie like The Matrix wasn’t all imagination, I suppose.

When I grew up, long ago, people were in a mental transition towards the then new and somewhat utopian paradigm: the service society.

Of course, it was new and therefore it was argued – “we cannot live from cutting each other’s hair”, a politician said. But he was wrong. This is basically what we do now. We give and sell services to each other. Sometimes in the shape of something that looks like a product – like software. At other times is is pure mindwork – like this blog posting.

So we have reached the utopia. We finally got there – to the service society – thanks to giving up the idea of getting everything we buy as something physical. By changing it all into services, based on virtualization, we now really can live from cutting each other’s hair.

Changing landscapes

We have already seen solid consequences of this: Trade unions have almost vanished. Shops have closed (since the few real things we still buy can be bought in virtual shops). Political ideals have more or less disappeared – there is no difference in opionions and ideals any longer between those who own the production environment and those who work in it.

Also capital have been virtualized – not just through BitCoins, but through the fact that lots of things that used to cost money are now available for free. Why buy a newspaper or a book when you can read a virtual edition for free on the internet?

Even the society itself has been virtualized – through social networks, especially, but in general through an availability of information and connections to people across the former physical borders. Through an understanding that we must give something to these new societies, the social networks, that we must spend our time on them, we are at the same time withdrawing ourselves from and thereby reducing the meaning of the old society that was physically defined.

The Service Society 2.0

So, to whom do we now give service? Where are the services based? Do we care more for blogging to the whole world than to join a discussion in the street or in the nearby physical cafe?

What I believe – and please just correct me if you think otherwise – is that the new service society has opened up the world for people who might not have given services to anyone in the old days. It has also closed the ability to do so for people who would have been happy participants in the old, physically defined society.

The virtual societies do not look at much else than your ability to read and write – or to publish or share information in the shape of text, pictures, or videos. So those who are not good at that have difficulties finding any foothold in the new service society. Since the old producer/consumer society doesn’t exit anymore, at least not to the extend it used to do, there are people now in this world who may find it difficult fitting in.

Hopefully there is a parallel Service Society 1.0 – such one that hasn’t been virtualized but allows for people to actually meet in person and be the rich personalities they are. I believe that it is there, but are we loosing it? Is the pendulum simply moving to the other side instead of finding its balance somewhere in the middle?

The virtual opportunities are a blessing to the world. But so are people. I think that we should try to make room for both.

This post has previously been published at LinkedIn Pulse.