A New Era of Remote Work

The extraordinary trajectory of the tech giants has a core message:  Data matter.  That’s a business understatement commensurate with pointing out how valuable oxygen is to breath.  It’s not new; just scaled.  Read this snippet from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and you might think it’s a TED Talk:  It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.

Staying with the theme of oversimplification … the challenge of business is to know what is effective and to do more of it.  Break the emotional bonds to cherished past practices when they can’t stand scrutiny.  You don’t often tell the market but the market will always tell you.  You need data. 

Oddly, one resource decision often made as has always-been-done is human.  It’s an expense of such magnitude that it deserves to be data-centric. To be sustainable, the employment bargain needs to work for both the enterprise and the talent.  The possibilities are myriad but fall somewhere on a continuum between assuming productivity and measuring outcomes.  We can:

  • Assume Productivity from measurements not supported by data like hours spent in an office or before a screen.  Someone’s presence, digital or otherwise, does not correlate productivity.  Even so, we use it as its surrogate.
  • Measure Outcomes from knowing the talent needs of our enterprise and the investment that can supported … all based on analysis.  Outcomes don’t rely on surrogate measurements.  The very bargain is what gets measured.  Give it an incentive.

Of course, it’s not that simple.  An enterprise needs executive corps as leadership, professional expertise, and to be the face of the organization.  Trained operators are needed for crucial ongoing tasks that can be measured in time, place, and production.  But a growing segment of work only needs a task brief and a deadline.  Nothing else.

Management of the remote workforce needs tooling. HR tools now concerned with time and productivity won’t work.  Let’s measure and incent task and outcome.

Blurred ⎟ Lines

blurred | lines

Industry is Education and Visa-Versa

Industry and education are cousins.  Kissing cousins.  Even if each believed in an independent way … their paths have always been converging.  It may not be clear to them, but their pace will become lock-step and unsure about who is leading whom. 

The Law of Accelerating Change (Kurzweil, March 7, 2001, an easy essay to find) says the 21st Century won’t bring 100 years of change.  It will be more like 20,000 years.  Judging from a one-fifth experience, Kurzweil might have underestimated the pace.  One truism (among many) is that accelerating change blurs the future.  The application of new tools and the resulting implications give rise to astonishing unintended outcomes.  Rapid change blurs all our futuristic assumptions.

Back to our cousins:  If there ever was a sequential relationship with clear space between years spent in education and those in industry … it has become blurry.  Even if a traditional degree earned over four years can give graduates enough to pursue opportunity, the industry will change before they walk across the stage and shake the president’s hand.  Arguable, 800 years of change since they started (if a Kurzweil year = 200). 

What will change (must change) is individual preparation to thrive in a blurry market.  Skill sets go stale quickly (remember, change has an accelerating pace).  Accurately discerning new challenges is nearly impossible.  The only answer is immediate access to learning that has been informed by industry.  Lifelong learners maintain forward momentum by constantly refreshing skills.  Regular and frequent.  

Don’t misunderstand.  A general and classic education has immeasurable value.  Our very culture depends on it.  We need artists and chroniclers and patrons to emerge, and they will.  Industry holding hands with education won’t change that. 

Recognize the emerging questions.  Apply new tools liberally.  Concoct a blend that uses what works and sidelines the rest.  Online or live?  Certification or degree?  Skill development or knowledge acquisition? Nano or macro?  Managerial or production?  It’s all of them.  Let’s figure it out.

Elegant Solutions Explored

It’s not just good taste; it’s a standard to pursue.  Using elegant to describe the merely beautiful is, in itself, inelegant.  More than good looks, elegance offers a solution.  It is refined, dignified, graceful, excellent, concise, and simple (look it up).  The word has been co-opted by design professionals … I say we take it back for business.  Seek elegant solutions; here are some pathway markers: 

  • Adornment:  Ok, sure.  There are valid reasons why we might adorn something to make it appealing. But the point of elegance is intrinsic excellence through relentless refinement.  It is not about a new look or story.  
  • Distractions:  Take a page from the minimalists.  Acquire only what you value and be certain you get that value.  Do only what is effective and be certain the effect is authentic.  Otherwise you are just accumulating distractions.  Stay focused.  Keep a loose grip.
  • Math:  It’s the language of business and it’s elegant.  Mathematics is the poetry of logical ideas (Einstein, he would know).  Math calls the iterative process successive approximations (for example, the Picard Method but not that Picard).  It leads from estimate to accuracy by converging on the solution.  If elegant solutions are refined, concise, and excellent … math will reveal them.  
  • Intentions:  You won’t wander into an elegant solution; you must be intentional.  Questions will confirm your intention – answers will test your honesty.  At least try these:  Why are we doing this?  Do we need this?  Can we sustain this?  Press successive approximation into action.

You may be well down the elegant pathway.  But don’t let dignity and tradition be just accumulated distractions.  Find your intention … focus in, do the math.  Act on successive approximations until you have the elegant solution … even if it just isn’t done that way.  A little risky, I know.