I was reading Aaron Dignan's Brave New Work and absolutely loved his complexity conscious, people first perspective in relation to the workplace. It's really sparked my thinking and imagination about the future of GSL, and our sector in general.
At the beginning of this year, after coming back from our respective holidays, Nettie (GSL's CEO) and I both decided GSL was a touch broken. Not such a great start to a new year! GSL's day-to-day operations were completely dependent on Nettie and it just wasn't sustainable. We decided to act and scheduled a workday offsite so we could think; and think we did! Within two weeks Nettie had organised a team day and we let everyone know we are moving away from a dated, conservative, nonfunctional hierarchical model into something different.
Enter a period of much research, reflection, sole searching and yet more research. If we were abandoning a hierarchy, what were we adopting? The void was huge. As leaders we'd always had solutions; this time we announced we'd get back to everyone. We were confident that the way forward was to devolve responsibility, promote autonomy in teams and restructure in a way that we could scale without breaking systems and procedures. What this looked like in practical terms was anyone's guess.
On the advice of many clever people we've started small and in a couple of different places. It feels messy and counter intuitive, and yet, it feels completely right.
Through some of the research I heard the term 'intrapreneurial' and it really ignited an excitement I haven't felt for a little while. An intrapreneur is an innovator inside an organisation. Image GSL being a co-op or collective of small, independent intrepreneurial ventures? Not everyone wants to take the risks and devote so much energy, thinking and family time that Rudolf and I have in our entrepreneurial adventure with GSL.
Most people want the safety of a job, and yet, there are so many statistics our there about most of today's workforce being disengaged. GSL has been no different. We don't want disengaged people; clients and families don't need disengaged people in their life. So the question is how to engage. Our sector is financially capped, so there's not much wiggle room in talks around earning more money. Our sector is brimming over the edges with 'feel good'; that's where the reward and engagement lies. What about instead of being an entrepreneur, we attract and enable intrapreneurs; groups of intrapreneurs; a whole collective of many, many, many intrapreneurs? Exciting hey?
GSL, at it's core, is fundamentally a community response for families living with disability. Its about challenging the social inequities, and providing experiences and opportunities for kids, young adults and their families. It's about community doing what community does best - make people feel they belong and part of something bigger. What better way for this to happen than enabling passionate people to come up with innovative ideas and run with them! So, so, so, so very exciting!
This is a work in progress, and we are nowhere near being recognizable as an intrapreneurial collective. To be honest, it's a little scary saying it out loud.
There's lots of talk about the future of the workplace and the role of technology. Optimization means many jobs will be replaced and as we step into this new way of working, GSL will definitely be optimizing. It wasn't until reading Dignan's Brave New Work that I formed a picture of the intersect between technology and people for our sector.
Dignan has differentiated complicated work from complex work. The complicated work involves tasks and activities that may draw on knowledge of intricate and confusing information, but ultimately has a solution. This is work that can be coded. It is the complex work that is not so translatable (at the moment). Complex work involves activities that do not have a neat series of workflows and endpoints. Talking to a family who have just learned the diagnosis of their child, does not have a neat workflow. Motivating an impulsive young person with an intellectual impairment to re-engage with his goals, does not follow the same trajectory and resolution each time. In our sector, there is something about human connection and complexity that suggests to me, there is a workplace future.
Don't get me wrong, complicated jobs will be replaced, and I feel a strong sense of responsibility to retrain people who are in our complicated job roles. Their future prospects are in our complex workplace. Imagine the difference when the whole GSL team comes together; when everyone in GSL can dream up their 'best job ever', be provided with the support they need and stretch their intrapreneurial muscle. Watch them dissolve the inequities in our community, that we all want to see, for local families living with disability.