What any initiative needs is a really great challenge. So this timely intervention from Neil Usher in the debate around Beyond The Workplace is to be welcomed. I, for one, have no desire to be surrounded by nodding heads and “Look at us, ain’t we grand!!” backslapping.
All this talk of tipping points, elephants and trojan mice is, in part, a useful collection of metaphors. In one of the first sessions with representatives from CIPD and BIFM, I riffed on the butterfly effect from chaos theory as a metaphor for an emerging enlightenment, drawing parallels between silos and chrysalises. We might consider butterflies as analogous with our trojan mice – the power of the small, as Neil would have it. The trouble with small is it doesn’t get much done by itself. Sadly, for the metaphorically inclined, elephants aren’t actually scared of mice. We might have a tipping point but a single mouse, or even a few enlightened outlier mice jumping up and down at the fulcrum aren’t going to move that elephant an inch. The mice are going to need to get a lot more friends on the other end to tip the balance. They need to coordinate. They need to get out of their little wooden hobby horses and become a collective. These mice need to roar. If one butterfly flapping it’s wings can cause an earthquake, just imagine what a whole squadron of butterflies flapping in concert might achieve.
The potential for big to fail is enormous. Small conversations are unlikely to. Some people cannot see the aims of Beyond The Workplace, the aim of these small conversations that have been going on “for years” is equally opaque to many others beside. It’s this opacity that stops a movement, a crusade, forming. They are unintentionally, unarrogantly (is that even a word?) exclusive. Their output sits on a thousand airport bookshelves the world over, exciting comment in the media and reverential appearances on the dais in sweaty conference centres from Sydney to Saskatoon.
We are living in a time of uncertainty and ambiguity (although much of that is of our own making). We can either try to prepare for and react to change or we can rethink our approach to work entirely and become the change we wish to see in the world, creating a new ecosystem.
Pockets of excellence exist. We must harness that good work.
Fascinating research has been done and conversations been had. We must curate, collate and act on what we already know.
Humans are feeling beings and are crucial to a sustainable world of work, with that work equitably distributed. We must not be afraid to act on intuition and insight.
20th Century siloed thinking is a busted flush. We must include everyone, regardless of affiliation.
The pursuit of wealth at all costs has pushed us to the brink. We must put integrity, trust, honesty and social and personal responsibility at the heart of work.
The link between education and work is broken. We must ensure that future entrants to the world of work are the best prepared they have ever been.
For me, Beyond The Workplace is about amplifying the network of the small to create an irresistible big movement. The potential for big to fail is enormous. In this context the consequences of failure might merely be some bruised egos. The potential benefits, truly enormous.
It’s time for the mice to roar.