2012: It's Up to Us

I’ve spent some time reading 2012 outlook articles and feel justified in my assessment: 2012 is up to us. Maybe it’s even a meme with its own hashtag #u2u -- which is fun with the relevant you to you homonym. In 2012 and going forward we have the power and the need to take responsibility for the design of our work and our careers. (Some of the more interesting outlook articles: BBCAlan LepofskyTeresa Amabile & Steve Kramer, and Andy McAfee.)

The articles I read describe a future even more focused on:

  • Consumerization of our work settings - we bring expectations about sharing via social networks and tools like personal phones, computers, and applications into our jobs.
  • Empowerment - we have and expect greater control over how we get our work done.
  • Transparency - our ability to learn about our environments given the data and tools we can access on our own (or in enlightened organizations, that are offered to us by our organizations).
  • Personal branding - The importance of understanding the value you bring to the table and how to help others see where this value fits into how work gets done.

This future pushes us to be responsible for the design of our work, yet few of us have the training to support our new systems design requirements. Systems designers gain their skills through explicit training and tacit knowledge gained through experience. Gaining expertise is unlikely to happen overnight, but I do have some suggestions.

Happy New Year 2012!

Use 2012 as a learning year

  1. Learn through commentators who provide you with good examples (I hope you see this blog and my GigaOM posts as sources).
  2. Give yourself permission to take time for professional development. Give your team members the same gift.
  3. Stop-Look-Listen, just like crossing a street, before making choices about how you do your work. This includes evaluating your choices. If you went to work in the Starbucks - were you effective? If you decided to leave your laptop at home and only take your tablet with you on a trip, did you make adjustments to your workflow so you would be productive?
  4. Share your approach to work design with your colleagues. Many things are more fun in a group (thus the proliferation of exercise tools that let you signal to your friends) and work is generally more effective if you're all moving in the same direction or at least understand the choices made around you.

Realize that you need to control your own destiny 

2012 may be a learning year, but we will spend the rest of our careers preparing and planning for our next steps. My students drove this home for me in the Fall term. Most of them have personal experience with layoffs, limited company-offered career development, and limited promotion opportunities given baby-boomers are still rebuilding their retirement accounts. Some of us may take numerous career steps inside companies that value internal development. Many more of us, however, are likely to build careers that shift more frequently than they would have in decades past. Read Race Against the Machine for a reasoned explanation of why. 

Adding value

I don't see thinking about our personal skills, brands, and careers as selfish. Rather I see this as being an even more valuable member of the organization. Research suggests that realistic job previews for employees reduce turnover and increase effectiveness. Similarly, employee selection that is based on actual work samples allow for more effective hiring. I offer that we will be putting more of our cards on the table in hiring and partnering - and that this will be good for all concerned. We will be expected to come to work prepared and to be prepared to make work better. We're not quite to the point of firing all the managers, but I expect managers in high performing organizations to be facilitators of design rather than people who hand out work and specific methods.

What steps have you already taken toward increasing your work design skills? What suggestions do you have to share? Please add in the comments below.

Image by Creativity103

Teaser: 

I’ve spent some time reading 2012 outlook articles and feel justified in my assessment: 2012 is up to us. Maybe it’s even a meme with its own hashtag #u2u -- which is fun with the relevant you to you homonym. In 2012 and going forward we have the power and the need to take responsibility for the design of our work and our careers.

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