The Guardian recently published an article titled “Workplace structures”, – included in a larger piece titled “Five Ways Work Will Change in the Future” – analysing the shift in the workplace paradigm from the rigid corporate ladder to what is now known as the corporate lattice.
The concept of the corporate ladder needs no introduction, surely but this other idea of a corporate lattice might not be as familiar to most yet. In short, in the corporate ladder model, employees climb to the top of the organisation’s hierarchy (the ladder), as they get promoted. The corporate lattice model, on the other hand, is a “flatter” structure, as layers of management are shed and ideas flow in every single direction, creating more of a grid-like structure. This makes more sense in the digital age, as collaboration is now, more than ever, seen as one of the most important drivers in today’s business.
Career paths are also affected by this new way of doing things, because it allows people to grow by doing different roles, progressing in a much less predictable manner, by acquiring new skills and experiences, rather than just looking in just one direction: up.
They also mention the report The Future Workplace, which goes on to explain something that we’ve been talking about for a while: the workplace is evolving and that employers need to foster an environment of collaboration if they want to attract and retain the best employees. The suggestions for doing this stop at “hot-desking, ideas workshops and regularly switching teams”.
I believe these suggestions are good but fall short of what really is needed and could be done for organisations to have a true meaningful collaborative environment. Changing teams frequently isn’t enough to create a real culture of collaboration, in which employees are given a voice that matters in an organisation. It seems like a vague and directionless way of putting it – hot-desking might help with people getting to know everyone else a bit better but it says nothing about using collaboration in a way that’s ultimately useful for the business and driving innovation forward.
The future of the workplace will necessarily have to include EveryDay Innovation – when innovation will become second nature to everyone in an organisation and that can’t be achieved with the odd idea workshop or the hot-desking game of musical chairs around the office. For a true innovation culture to be implemented and become part of the every day, employees have to be heard and be allowed to participate systematically in the big business challenges.
Fortunately, not all is lost, as when you carry on reading the article you’ll find that the concept of intrapreneurship is mentioned. This is a much more useful and realistic approach that we’ve also been talking about for a while. Intrapreneurship does away with old hierarchical structures, allowing any employee with a good idea to put it out there and make relevant contributions to the business. In sum, collaboration is great but without the spirit of intrapreneurship, isn’t enough for creating a true spirit of EveryDay Innovation.
To read our Everyday Innovation report and find out what is the state of innovation in the UK.