We are (still) the solution to the problem

In 2008 (just before the financial crisis), Jay Cross noted many dysfunctional workplace practices in a survey of 237 respondents worldwide. Is this still the state of the workplace?

  • a lack of cooperation;
  • no time for reflection;
  • no ability to create DIY [do it yourself] tools for work;
  • no communities of practice for support;
  • lack of professional development;
  • poor training; and
  • working in organizations that are slow to change.

Does this resemble an organization you work for, or work with?

Michele Martin commented in 2008 that:

What strikes me is the fundamental sense of disempowerment in the workplace that suggests that people are essentially at the mercy of the companies they work for. While obviously there’s some truth to this, especially in an economic downturn, I still believe that people have far more control over these issues than they believe. One of my main goals in working with people on integrating social media and professional development is to point out how empowering it is to take control of your own learning by starting a blog and pursuing DIY professional development. If the will is there, the means certainly exist …

Unlike people in poverty, our power to move into another less dysfunctional system of work is still within our grasp, especially if we take a DIY approach to professional development. Systems, after all, are created by people, so we also need to be working on changing ourselves so that we’re in a better position to change the system. It’s not an either/or as much as an AND situation – change people AND change systems.

If these are still issues (and I see them in many organizations) then we need to remember that we are the solution to the problem. However, that situation may not last forever. As the saying goes, the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second-best time is today.

5 Responses to “We are (still) the solution to the problem”

  1. Paul Hobcraft (@Paul4innovating)

    In response to your state of the workplace. I just feel it needs some tweaking a little. None of what was offered by Jay Cross is wrong but some of these need defining a little more to reflect what I’ve come across. I’ve not added any more although I feel there is

    a lack of cooperation and collaboration;
    no time for reflection or for experiementation;
    no ability to create DIY [do it yourself] tools for work;
    no communities of practice for support or simply chances to share and exchange;
    lack of on going planned professional development- plenty of fire fighting development!;
    poor training that provides context and often ‘real’ personal relevancy
    ; and
    working in organizations that are slow to change but fast to adopt, layering on further complexity not easing it.

    My thoughts on your reflection “we are the solution to the problem’ totally agree but someone, somewhere has to agree ‘we’ have a problem.

  2. Paul Angileri

    In my own experience, many of the things listed are being done, but not to the point that they excise the internal cultural “traditions”. This has the effect of reducing the impact of the measures, because they are always done within the frame of the culture. The good of the company must of course be front and center, but these opportunities need to be seen as moments for improving the culture, not simply proliferating it.

  3. Michele Martin

    Hi Harold–this is a blast from the past! Although, sadly, I think still true today. And frankly, my feelings that it is the responsibility of individual people to manage their own professional development have only grown stronger in the interim!

    I’m seeing stats that say 1/3 of US workers are freelancers and that the hiring of contingent/temporary workers is on the rise in many companies. This means that a big chunk of the workforce will be not be able to count on their companies to provide or support professional development–it will be up to individual workers.

    I also believe, fervently, that those workers who take control of their own learning will end up being the most marketable. They can be the most responsive to how skill needs may be changing and focus on developing their own abilities. That doesn’t meant that organizations don’t need to be focused on that as well, but I am increasingly seeing a world where we need to be managing these things for ourselves.

  4. Dave Ferguson

    I’m sure that Michele is right; hiring of freelance / continent / temporary workers is on the increase, because they’re generally cheaper (lower salary, fewer or no benefits) and because they’re less trouble to add to and even less to remove from an organization’s workforce.

    As of 2009, total nonfarm employment in the US. was 130.9 million, while self-employed but not incorporated came to 9.8 million. (Self-employed but incorporated were counted as “employed.”) No doubt some of the self-employed are also among the employed (e.g., someone working full or part time for an organization and also working independently or as a contractor).

    Perhaps more depressing are the Census Bureau’s figures for average household income, adjusted for inflation:

    2009: $49,777
    1999: $52,587
    1989: $48,463


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