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Innovaton and Economics

Kiely Katz talks about the need to shift to a people based economy in order to maintain and sustain jobs in an innovation driven economy. A radical mindset change is needed 

A successful shift to a more sustainable employment model needs to involve significant changes in traditional mindsets, attitudes and behaviours. Embedding behaviour change is notoriously difficult. The more deeply embedded the behaviour, the more difficult to shift.

We have worked within the similar operating norm for a very long time. Work is not “life” but the thing people do to “make a living”. For 9 hours every day. Those lucky enough to be employed spend more time with their work colleagues that with their loved ones. Employers expect employees to wear a cloak of the “professional persona” during working hours. Most expect employees to stick rigidly within the confines of their role. Stepping outside these rigid “job” walls, even to share knowledge to help colleagues, is often regarded as disruptive behaviour: and thus a massive chunk of skills, knowledge and experience are kept locked firmly away to avoid upsetting the status quo. Frustrating and bad for productivity – but “that just the way things are.

A shift to a ‘people centred economy” has to start by understanding what makes people tick.

Lets look at this norm through the lens of the the way the brain is wired.

People are most receptive to change (and most productive) when they are in “reward” mode. In this mode, we do our best, most creative thinking, we are open to collaboration and feel secure enough to try new things. 

There are six key triggers to this reward state:

Respect: People feel that their opinions are valid. They feel part of decision making processes and that their voices are heard.

Certainty: When there are no unexpected surprises. As an example, Zappos make all of their live data open to everyone across the whole organisation all the time. Nothing is hidden. Everyone knows what is happening. There are no board room secrets.

Autonomy: They don’t want to be watched and micromanaged. People are most productive and most collaborative when they are trusted to do the right thing – especially as part of a community working toward a shared vision.

Connectedness: We are social creatures. We are at our best when we part of connected communities – where we feel safe to share, to give, to be involved. We are most empowered when we are connected by a shared vision or collective mission.

Fairness: People like to know how and why decisions are made. 

Empathy: Even a message saying that leadership understands that change is not easy for anyone makes an enormous difference to how change is adopted.

Check back to standard current organisational operating systems. 

Employees are expected to keep their opinions to themselves and to tow the line. Leaders see knowledge as power and keep it locked away from prying eyes. Most leaders find the idea of employee autonomy uncomfortable and most workers are accustomed to doing as they are told without question. Sharing and cross silo collaboration is not incentivised, if tolerated. Decisions are made behind closed doors and delivered with not even a nod to the people most affected by them.

The gap between organisational norms and more engaged, and therefore more sustainable, operating systems is enormous. Travelling between one and the other will involve significant change.

Therein lies the rub. 

When presented with any kind of significant change, or anything that feels different to the norm, the brain triggers a threat “fight or flight” response.  We become distracted as we try to figure out how that threat will affect us.

Faced with change, people start to see threats even where there are no threats. People are less able to focus or think clearly. Memory and decision making is impaired, the field of focus narrows. They become more emotional and stressed, which further impacts ability to perform.

Unfortunately, the threat response is contagious. When one person starts to behave in a defensive way, the people around them react to the change in their behaviour.

While we considering how to innovate employment through the use of technology, we should not underestimate the challenge of introducing and embedding organisational and systemic change. Throughout the brainstorming process we should imagine what kind of frameworks could support organisations and cities (leaders and employees) through the pain on change into a new more sustainable norm.

Access to affordable and pervasive data, neuroscience, social physics and behavioural psychology provide us with an unprecedented understanding of how humans make decisions, what drives action and how behaviour change can be “nudged.” This research should be kept front of mind as we are plotting

Posted on August 26, 2015

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