The 21st Century Workplace Elephant in the Room

1305312499615_4055577In my last post, I talked about the need for a personal career plan.  In this post, we’ll dive into some of the changes that you either already experience today or will experience as you step into your next job (…that will undoubtablely be the next step in your personal career plan!).  It is going to be a constant reality with 21st century companies that jobs, companies and even markets and industries will come and go at the drop of a hat.  Don’t believe me, just remember past disruptive innovations that have changed our world forever.  Just as the company career path is a thing of the past, the way we fundamentally work must change.  Those who will be the most successful will help their companies create disruptive innovation.  In fact, there are business articles aimed at identifying how companies can survive disruption when it happens.

Clearly, many others believe that the workplace has fundamentally changed.  There are now articles and studies about the fact that to be successful in the 21 century workplace, our children need to be taught more/different things.  Even beyond my humble attempt to call out the disparity between today’s education and technology skills needed, there are now even entrepreneur classes for kids springing up.  Fortunately, there is some light in the tunnel.  For example, a good friend of mine runs a program in a high school that focuses on teaching many different skills that kids will need for business…but I digress.

Whether you agree or not that education needs to change, we can all agree that the economy and the workplace is not what it was 20…even 10 years ago.  Face it, someone or even a new app is gunning for your job…and entrepreneurship can come from anywhere.  Just ask Ryan Mack who created his own business while he was homeless!

To be successful in the new workplace, you need to understand how companies are changing or being forced to change.  More and more, the successful companies will be the ones who are creating new and different products, markets and even industries.  These won’t always be technology companies like Google, Facebook and other obvious choices.  Take for example, Cinnabon…yes, Cinnabon the cinnamon roll folks – how “old economy” is that?  They aren’t an app and they make stuff that is perishable!  Surely they are destined for being replaced by someone more innovative.  Not at all.  The CEO, Kat Cole, has promoted “hackathons” to identify and create new products.  Typically in tech companies, hackathons are a day (or some time period) where everyone puts their mind to creating something new and innovative…and then a group – crowdsourcing – identifies the best candidates.  This is resulted in Cinnabon’s major growth to the tune of $1 billion (…yes, with a “B”…).  By actively promoting to everyone in the company that she embraces ideas from anywhere, employees are challenged to always be thinking about how to move the company forward…and to that end, there’s a Cinnabon air freshener and even a Cinnabon branded Vodka…a far cry from the little stand in malls!  The Cinnabon example isn’t just an isolated case.  Take Frito-Lay’s latest contest for a new chip flavor.  Instead of spending tons of money in market research, they created a contest that played out on Facebook which they said, “… like the biggest focus group someone could ever imagine…”  This is even playing out with smaller companies. Even a local buffalo wing chain in my area has a new “sauce lab” to try out new flavors and get feedback…a new innovation that only costs as much as a new web page!

So the point is to throw out the business, marketing and product development books from college. They won’t work anymore…or as least they won’t be as effective…especially if your business is going for a younger demographic.   Radical change is happening, not just in Silicon Valley; but rather, in just about every industry.  Start thinking about radically changing how your organization works.


Veteran technology professional and manager

Posted in Career

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