The business world is in greater flux than ever. But to inject adaptability into your workforce or career means addressing the big concerns: the five ‘A’s: Access, Age, Acceptance, Ambition and Alarm.
Change is big stuff these days. Last week, Reid Hoffman’s article ‘Permanent Beta’ called for making constant change part of our individual careers. It’s akin to Fast Company’s ‘Generation Flux’ concept: a manifesto for a new model approach to work and workforce that’s nonlinear, more creative and better proof against today’s world.
Permanent change is a given. But entrepreneurs like Hoffman and thinkpiece-mongers like Fast Company forget there are real reasons this doesn’t take hold. Real reasons that aren’t about foolishness; they’re natural lags and concerns. Maybe we can attack the problem from a more bite-size angle by looking at some of the key pressures affecting workers; a simpler way in. Just for convenience here, I’m thinking about them as Five ‘A’s of Adaptability.
Introducing the Five ‘A’s
Five key hurdles must be jumped to begin thinking about driving ‘change enablement’ into your business or career. Calling them the Five ‘A’s simply underlines that they all stem from the problem of always being at the beginning in a cycle of continuous development. Consider them a Generation Flux maturity model, which you can work through step by step to create a more manageable approach to change and ride the ‘Hype Cycle’ of permanent change more effectively.
Access: Only some of today’s workers can enter the ‘permanent change workforce’. Most are blocked without the tech or social models to create more multi-faceted ‘social’ professional models. How are you creating digital access for workers? What steps can you take to become a more nonlinear worker yourself?
Age: In practice ‘Generation Flux’ is heavily weighted towards the young. This threatens to split the workforce even further. For businesses, it’s time to awaken your older workers to the need for greater depth and layers of achievement. For workers, it’s time to man up: realise you need to do more in today’s environment to make yourself attractive.
Acceptance: Most businesses don’t want permanent change to take hold except in very specific ways (technology). Who wants expert workers diverging their time or moving on rapidly? Of course, many skilled workers are naturally geared towards nonlinear working. So the task becomes one of ensuring that your business model can cope with employee flexibility and how to engage in more dynamic, nonlinear activity as a worker.
Ambition: On the other side, many careers have a linear track because they have enormous tipping points of success, status and corresponding…what’s the word…money. That creates resistance to change at the top. For employers, it’s vital to use that ambition and channel it in new directions. Otherwise you will lose the ones you want to keep and have invested the most in.
Alarm: Overriding everything is a huge war between two opposite evolutionary imperatives – the need to change and the fear of change. Hoffman et al (which has the advantage of being also the Darwinian side) points out that change is inevitable and exciting. That’s true so far as it goes, but people like Hoffman have a very special response to risk: they love it. People like Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs love it. But there aren’t many of them. Most of us don’t.
Addressing the question of alarm, educating yourself to the need for change, and educating other not to fear it (or feel the fear and do it anyway), is the ultimate challenge.
I’m not saying that this list helps solve every problem. It’s just a way of breaking up the problem into more manageable areas and concerns and taking some smaller, easier steps to drive changeability into your life and your business.