brains zombie apocalypse

The last number of years of recession merde have yielded us some strange phenomena… companies and their employees seem to have become stupider (maybe the ones I deal with) and the average amount of people with a “can’t do” attitude to customer service has gone through the roof.

It is my sincere belief that the zombies came to conquer the world in about 2010 and starved to death. Perhaps they started with the IT Channel and couldn’t find any brains…

I talk a lot (possibly too much), about the right type of organisational culture. Where challenge is the right thing to do, personalities are put aside for the common goals and candour, whilst it may hurt if it’s done with no intent to do so, can only work to improve a business. When I’m not trying to get Spencer Kelly’s job on BBC Click, I’m a big fan of Jack Welch as an inspirational leader where the candour culture is something he used to run an organisation as diverse and complex as GE.

My fascination from an academic perspective is building business processes embodied in IT that allow a degree of flexibility and flair for those who work in it. My theory is that we will develop a more highly enthusiastic workforce who can exercise their smartness and their creativity.

In the not too distant future IT systems will no longer be rigid process enforcers but be a guiding hand. Allowing people to fulfil their roles as individuals with a free hand how they may do something.

Now I’m not talking about the people who work for Google, those smart creative types. I’m not talking about people overly educated with PhD’s like most of my friends (I wanted to get that dig in there as they don’t rate us MBA types). I’m also not talking about us Master of Bugger All types or indeed people who are educated to any college or University level.

I’m talking about for all skill levels, all levels of education.  Everyone has something to offer an organisation

We’ve constructed organisations on divisions of labour, repetitive processes, automation, workflow and turned the knowledge industry into the modern day equivalent of a Henry Ford factory production line. Ford had to do a lot of things to keep that scenario working – first and foremost, Ford paid more than its competitors. It compensated handsomely for the mindlessness in the work that it had for its employees.

Prior to mass production, people were real skilled craft workers, I’m sure the very British industrial term of ‘fitter’ didn’t exist before. Mechanics, engineers and carpenters were replaced with terms like fitter, instrument mechanic and joiner.

Somehow I don’t believe those working in the mass-process industries banking, IT, insurance and the like are paid more than their equivalents who have the freedom of expression in their roles.

Once upon a time, professional services was also a heavily skilled area of work offering bespoke packages to all. Independent financial advisors, bank managers (remember those), solicitors and dare I say it, doctors. Were all highly skilled and respected professions with the ability for the said professional to be creative and free to carve their own niche and specialism.

The quality and process drives over the past couple of decades have really driven into these sectors too. The solution was not a conveyor belt and production line. However, it was not far off, it was IT, workflow and check lists. You only need to visit your GP and see the checks being done, the prompts they get for checking items like weight and blood pressure. If your GP checks those things, there’s going to be no issue with his insurance! However, is he thinking to check something less obvious?

We’ve moved into a world of mass-process industries and took the ability for anyone to shine and differentiate themselves away. Innovation has moved away from people and into the hands of consultancies and IT businesses who bring new practices in only after an organisation starts failing.  We’ve created a world where using your brain is a negative thing.

Worst of all, organisations have created situations where staff are interchangeable. Call centre employee, doctor, IT worker. As long as we follow the processes, we won’t get into trouble but we won’t improve the organisation either.

Many compare the human brain to a muscle, it has to be used and stretched in order to grow and develop.

It will be interesting whether in a few years’ time people are approaching no-win no-fee lawyers for the damaged caused from working in heavily prescriptive business processes.

Makes you think doesn’t it. I can’t remember what about though.

Oh yeah. If you want to begin thinking differently about how IT can enable creativity in your organisations workforce instead of being something to pin them down, let’s chat, providing you don’t have a starving zombie by your feet…