Designing The New Path means finding a new language.


Designing The New Path means finding a new language.

I have written before about my aversion to phrases like ‘The New Normal’. Add to that ‘Future of Work’ (an easy short hand for what we mean, but not quite right in my opinion), ‘human capital’, ‘workforce’ and ‘personnel’. There are more.

A recent article in the Metro cited these phrases as the most hated of 2020 – top was ‘we’re in this together’, followed by the ‘normal’ phrase above (I won’t repeat it).

I want to make a difference, contribute to this conversation and design real things that will enable real people to work at their best as we come out of this period of accelerated change.

Because that’s another big thing to remember; the old way wasn’t working for many people before coronovirus came along. Covid has just accelerated the change.
The old way wasn’t working for everyone anyway

I’m starting with thinking about the language we use.

I’m still working out the most appropriate words and phrases to be using for this work. What I am clear about doing is steering clear of phrases that refer ‘back’ to an old, established ‘norm’ as if this is the basic accepted way of doing things (because it isn’t). I’m equally aware of avoiding phrases that are too purist or limiting. In this article, Beth Dunn reflects some of my thinking on this.

In conjunction with colleagues Angie Beeston and Colin Mair, we have landed on ‘The New Path’ for now. It speaks of opportunity and a future focus, and I think makes clear that whatever is next won’t be fixed. Other words we think will (need to) play a role in any future design work are:

  • Adaptive change
  • Personalisation
  • Asynchronous (not happening or done at the same time or speed)
  • Emergent (rather than existing or dominant ways of being)
  • Trust (link with autonomy and watching for micro-management)
  • Community (the social capital required to work well; but for it to be meaningful)
  • Creativity (how is this enabled / maximised?)
  • Parity of experience – recognising that only a proportion of people who work can work from home, or are able to work well from home.
  • … and therefore issues around equity, equality and division
Intentional new way

I’ve spoken recently about ‘the middle space’ – a phrase Colin and I came up with as we scope our event on 26th January. If, like us, you are seeing on one hand lots of theoretical rhetoric about ‘The Future of Work’, but not many practical ideas or solutions, and on the other hand much reactive activity such as office layout changes, adapted policies and new rules, this could be a conversation you would like to join. We would like to facilitate a space in which we focus on emergent, future focused change that sits in the ‘middle space’ between high-level theory and low-level reaction activity.

We would love you to join the conversation at this free event.

Angie and I are working together to pull together some insight, best practise and ideas. Called ‘Defining The New Path to adaptive change. A routemap for a new way to think’, we would like to invite you to contribute.

If, like me, you are interested in how we navigate this New Path – if you have ideas, insights or practical examples – I would love to connect and have a conversation.

I am driven by recognising that people look for meaning in the work they do, and also need connection at work and to the work they do to feel fulfilled and work well.

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