Aaron Dignan is a business leader and coach who helps transform organizations from the inside out. He focuses on adaptivity and autonomy, so your business can not only survive, but thrive. Here, he shares how to reinvent this new world of work.
(upbeat music) - 2020, I think it's fair to say that this is a year we're all going to look back on and think my goodness did things change. From a global pandemic to community issues, a lot's in flex. But when it comes to work, I mean, what's going to happen? A lot of different companies are working from home. Is that going to continue? And what's on the horizon one, two, even five years from now? Hi, I'm Kelly Ruda with LinkedIn Learning, and today we have Aaron Dignan joining us. He is an expert at transformational change, and he focuses on adaptability and autonomy so that your business can not only survive this but really thrive. And he's here to share with us how we can reinvent this new world of work. Aaron, welcome. - Thanks for having me. - You bet. - So when we're talking about reinventing or reimagining this new world of work, we're thinking about what's next. What are some of the high-level things that you're kind of thinking about as we enter this new era, so to speak? - Well, the first thing that's on my mind is that whatever it is that's next is not what came before. I don't think there's a return to the status quo coming. I think that we've all just had an experience about questioning a lot of assumptions and practices and beliefs and principles that were true at work for a long time that now seem to be up for grabs. So I think we're in this moment of reflection and reinvention. It's so interesting to me that the experience we're having every day is simultaneously the most disconnected because we're all on screens all the time in our homes but also in many ways the most authentic and the most human. I mean, we're having meetings with dogs on our lap, with kids doing homework in the background, with interruptions, with yard noise. We're having this very human, we are real to each other interaction that has taken the professional mask away for the first time in, frankly, a century. And I think that that's incredibly powerful. So we're living in this world of being different in all these dimensions that make us more human and more connected while also being more disconnected. So that's one big piece of it. Another big piece of what's next is really changing the shape of what we go back to physically. So I know a lot of firms right now are rushing to get back to the workplace. But with policies where we can't use the cafeteria, we can't use common spaces, we can't be in meeting rooms together, it really begs the question of why. What is it about the way we're working that really demands just being in the same room and essentially on a video chat, like we would be at home? So I do believe that the future is going to be more focused on firms that are going remote first, firms that are going to a hybrid model and figuring out that right balance of when do we need to be in person together and why and basically finding and tuning that balance, finding and tuning those new ways that actually serve us. - Yeah, for sure. I love what you said about the human factor. It is so true that on these calls, it's such a different experience. Like you said, you see somebody, their kid comes in, they put on a mask. My boss actually came and put on a physical mask, and it just changed the whole thing. 'Cause his little girl was like, hey, put this on. I want to see, and then show all your friends. - And it's-- - I've seen more CEOs in t-shirts in the last two weeks than in my entire life previously. - Yeah, absolutely, it's so different. So when we're thinking about getting back into the office potentially, or being flexible like you said, 'cause you really kind of see that as the next kind of thing moving forward, what are you thinking? Should we put a plan into place? Should we just kind of wait it out a little bit longer? I mean, what are you seeing clients or what are you doing at your company? - I think there is an instinct to get back to it. And for some contexts, that makes sense. If you're a restaurant, if you're working in healthcare, I mean, there are definitely some industries that have to figure out on the fly how they're going to make things happen right now. They have to be present. But for a lot of us, if you're in software, if you're in creative services, if you're doing any number of things that are remote-friendly, you have time. And what I see some of the more sophisticated companies and clients out there doing is saying, we can take that time. We're learning lessons right now about trust, about collaboration, about tooling, about security, about all of the things that we do at work. And it would be a rush to try to just compartmentalize that into some new way of being and working and doing and just rush back to the office environment. So I think the smart move is, if you can take time, take the time and continue to notice, continue to ask, continue to be curious about what's needed. And maybe later this fall, maybe in 2021, maybe even beyond, start to settle into some new patterns. - Yeah, for sure. And as we're kind of thinking about this, one of the things that just keeps kind of popping up in my head is if we do take that time and we do keep on working from home, one of the things I'm hearing from a lot of colleagues and friends is burnout. We're feeling a little bit burnt out. We feel like that that line is kind of blurred between work and home. We're seeing our coworkers. While it's great to see them on video and see them more natural, there's that kind of disconnected thing that's happening. What kind of recommendations do you have? - Well, the first thing not to do is try to recreate the old world in the new. So a lot of folks that used to have eight hours of meetings a day in the boardroom are suddenly having eight hours of Zoom meetings a day online. And we all know that's a recipe for burnout, right? We're feeling that. We're present to that. What I think we need to do is start to adopt some of the new practices of firms that are working more remotely or in a hybrid way, and what they tend to do is they tend to use the right tool for the job. The lowest gear in their gearbox is not let's have a meeting. It's maybe you drop a message in chat. Maybe you write up a long-form description of what you're considering or a proposal. People can comment on that. People can react to that. People can build on that asynchronously around the world, and then you can move forward once you have that input. So a lot of people are thinking about how do I shift through the different kinds of communication up to the highest fidelity, highest demand version, which is, hey, let's get in a room together. So using those different practices to actually move things forward in ways that give us the space, frankly, to do deep work, to do creative work, to take a walk, to also be with our families, like the things that we need to do while still getting things done. - Yeah, and I think that that may even, if we adopt those new practices like you mentioned of writing that note, doing that chat, doing it asynchronously, I feel like that might change that meeting culture that a lot of companies have when we come back. - Yeah, it's funny. Meeting culture to me is a microcosm of the organizational operating system as a whole. And in many cases, it's a symptom of the problems. So many meetings are symptomatic of other issues. All we really need to meet for is to unblock the work, to retrospect together, to do a little bit of strategy, to move things forward, to have a brainstorm. There are very bespoke, very focused, very functional ways to come together and convene, but most of them are not what's happening in the room. What's happening in 90% of meetings is we're playing this game of making up for a shortage somewhere else in our way of working. So what I like about this moment is it's really challenging us to be like, do I need to do an eighth hour of Zoom or can I just trust that person to make that decision? Or can I just take individual action to go get something done? Or can I just drop a note in and say, hey, if I don't hear back in 24 hours, I'm doing X, Y, or Z? That kind of moving, shaking, making it happen, that's at the heart of the agility and the productivity that we all crave, and now we're in a moment where finally it's not only permissible, but it's kind of necessary that we just have to move fast and break things a little bit. - I mean, I think, like you said, we're in a video meeting right now. And how much time we spend burning out, thinking about, oh, does our background look okay? I have to be fully present right now in this moment. You know, it's so different than just talking on the phone and chit-chatting about what's happening. Such a different experience. - So different. - So that's great advice. So when we think about possibilities, right, like big and small things that could happen that we could do for our companies, for globally, what kind of things are you thinking? - I think the greatest possibility is that we now all have a shared experience. We've now gone through something together that was highly disruptive to our way of working, to our way of being. We're still in it. That gives us some fertile ground in which to plant new ideas about our economy, about our politics, about our way of being in the world where we can say, yeah, things that we thought were true weren't true, and what else is open and what else is up for grabs? And so I expect a future where we see a lot more remote work, a lot more hybrid work certainly, but also a lot more work built around ideas like self-management and self-organization and networks and doing things on your own time and really coming together in new ways to solve problems and create things, and that's exactly what we need right now in this moment in the world. - Those are all really, really good themes. I'm hearing trust. I'm hearing keep your mind open to what's possible. And I heard a lot about human, keeping people and their experiences front of mind. So, Aaron, thank you so much for sharing those with us today. - Yeah, thank you. - Now to hear more from Aaron, you can check out his podcast called "Brave New Work" or his book of the same name. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn or check out his course right here on LinkedIn learning where he shares all about how to transform your organization. Thanks so much for joining me as we reimagine what's next in this new world of work together.
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