Brady Mick, Architect, Workplace Strategist, & Client Leader, BHDP Architecture
The increasing complexity of today’s work requires creative solutions to drive results. Yet, while business beats the drum for innovation, traditional organizational structures stand in the way of achieving success. Although an essential component in many business operations, traditional management systems limit creativity, squander time and isolate skilled people from contributing ideas crucial to business growth.
Solving today’s business challenges demands a more ad hoc approach, where individuals self-organize through advances in technology and changes in organizational structure. Encouraging the formation of flexible and fluid teams is key to the process. Such a monumental shift can be challenging. But by understanding how work is successfully accomplished today, businesses create a more sustainable environment for innovation and a clearer vision for the future.
Traditional management approach
For decades, a hierarchical approach to business management has been the status quo. Senior leaders set goals that trickle down through a series of managers and are implemented by teams. Whether solving a problem, enacting an initiative or achieving a goal, “who reports to whom” follows a strict pattern based upon the situation. Like driving a team of horses, managers crack the whip, and everyone pulls forward.
Although practical for transactional operations, such as moving product, this approach fails to address the evolving complexity and ambiguous nature of today’s work. For instance, bogged down with non-essential meetings, workers struggle to find time to think, let alone brainstorm and share innovative ideas. Similarly, collaboration between workers in other departments or on other teams is restricted. Unfortunately, limitations such as these are causing companies to lose ground rather than move forward.
A groundbreaking approach
Imagine for a moment, a different scenario: a meeting-free workplace where connecting and disconnecting with others, moving freely when the need arises and working with different people throughout the day is encouraged. Communicating on an as needed basis, individuals network like a single neuron in the human brain interacts with others to transfer vital information. By adopting a flexible self-organizing model utilizing these principles, companies can turn this dream into a reality. This is called a Boolean approach.
Dictionary.com defines the term Boolean in this way: “Pertaining to or being a deductive logical system … used to represent symbolically logical the relationships between sets, classes, and other entities.” In business, a Boolean network consists of a multi-nodal system where individuals change connections throughout the day based upon their skill sets. Investing in a Boolean culture offers an alternative approach to solving today’s complex business problems.
Benefits of a Boolean approach
There are seven key benefits of a Boolean approach. They include:
- Offers a forward-thinking style of problem-solving. Many of today’s startups utilize Boolean principles, such as co-working spaces, flexible roles and ad hoc meetups.
- Provides more autonomy, self-determination and a sense of belonging. Increased personal satisfaction in the workplace encourages greater creativity.
- Expands employee engagement. A recent Gallup poll of U.S. workers shows that on average, only 32.6 percent were “engaged” in work; whereas, 50.7 percent were “not engaged” and 16.7 percent were “actively disengaged” (July 25, 2016).
- Builds relationships, which can increase retention rates. Highly engaged work units saw significantly lower turnover rates, with 25 percent in high-turnover organizations and 65 percent in low-turnover organizations (Gallup 2016 Q12 Meta-Analysis).
- Speaks to the experiences of next generation employees. Today’s youth, who rely on online communities and typically take a hive-like approach to solving problems, seek employment with companies that offer a more flexible, less role-restrictive work environment.
- Requires less red tape to achieve goals. A hierarchical system of management requires permission to proceed every step of the way, from setting up meetings to putting plans into action, which wastes time, slows progress and decreases motivation.
- Generates emergent group results. Encouraging team members to gather when issues arise to create solutions to customer challenges, which motivates growth of new ideas.
Transitioning to a Boolean structured culture, as with any significant change, requires reevaluating existing business practices. First and foremost, revising traditional management roles is key. This begins by moving away from a hierarchical to a matrix system, involving leadership integration with the elimination of middle management practices. Providing a high agility workplace environment encourages individual input, an equal say in making decisions and ad hoc behaviors. Equally important is team member selection. Along with the ability to form and create self-organizing peer groups, a high degree of individual maturity is critical for success.
Reap the rewards
With technology advancing in leaps and bounds accompanied by forward thinking leadership ideals, just how businesses will operate in the future is difficult to predict. One thing is clear: online accessibility and the ability to form virtual connections are changing the way people interact, communicate and support one another. For companies that adhere to rigid organizational systems, this is a wake-up call.
Today, perhaps more than ever before, staying competitive requires a willingness to reevaluate business practices and adapt toward the future. Whether businesses across the board will fully embrace the Boolean concept is anyone’s guess. However, companies that recognize the value of this concept are relaxing the rules, encouraging people to share ideas, creating workplaces more conducive to ad hoc gatherings, and in turn, reaping innovation results.
About the Author
Brady Mick is an architect, a workplace strategist, and client leader for Cincinnati, Ohio-based BHDP Architecture. Established in 1937, BHDP is an experiential design firm that focuses on creating environments tailored to the client culture and work process. For more information, visit BHDP.com or call 513 271-1634.