Why I’m Joining Shift*Base: To Reimagine The Workplace

Originally written by Christine Overby on June 13, 2016.

Photo by Yohanes Sanjaya

I’m on a mission to change how we work — and how we feel about our work.

That’s why I’m stepping up to lead Shift*Base, a new kind of insights company delivering analysis, tools, and models to help firms adopt new ways of working.

There’s a lot wrong with work today.

You know the failures of bureaucratic organisations. From missed business opportunities (Blockbuster) to the tragic (RBS in 2008, NASA in 1986).

It’s also personal. Deeply personal. Worldwide, according to Gallup, only 13% of employees are engaged in what they do. We spend more time at work than with our families. It means this apathy — at times, outright hostility — corrodes our society and our spirits.

But I have hope that we can change our work environments to raise our performance and purpose.

Here’s why:

  • New org structures and rhythms are emerging, influenced by software. Agile demanded software teams work in new ways. Broader work now takes on this tempo. Leadership styles must adapt. A head of Digital recently told me, “All my teams are agile. It changes the way that I lead. I give more autonomy. I spend more time telling stories and explaining why we do things.” Structures move from top-down to distributed teams, loosely coupled. Tools like Slack provide the scaffolding for these squads to stay in sync (I’m a convert). In this new world, the organisation becomes a platform for people and adaption.
  • Technology is elevating our skills and intuition in the workplace. We see exciting examples of people and machines co-working – from the first Artificial Intelligence attorney, ROSS, to the emergence of conversational interfaces and chat bots. Will this create technological unemployment? Possibly. A more efficient version of what we have today? Certainly. But also consider the transformation. Technology helps us unbundle the activities that make up our jobs. Senior people can delegate tasks previously only tackled by experts. Junior professionals get to do more satisfying, less mind-numbing work.
  • We are choosing to work for better reasons. For some, it’s going to work for a company with purpose. For others, it’s the joy of producing something with a team that they know and like (see Stripe’s ‘Bring Your Own Team’ approach to hiring). For still others, it’s gaining the flexibility of a portfolio career, made easier by professional marketplaces like HourlyNerd and less lonely by co-working office spaces like WeWork.

Enter Shift*Base. Our goal is to help reform organisations for the betterment of business and society.

We aim to break the traditional research and consulting mould to:

  • Explore the contours of the future organisation. Then give you the roadmap and tools to get there.
  • Go beyond marketing white papers and sanitised case studies to deliver deep analysis on the new ways of working that deliver competitive advantage.
  • Give you the evidence, advice, and learning when you need it. We’ll embed these in your business process, rather than burying in static reports.

As a first step, we are interviewing heads of digital and HR for research on the practical challenges they face in Digital Transformation initiatives, and what barriers they think are holding back new ways of working. To participate and receive a complimentary copy of the analysis, contact christine@shiftbase.net.

While you’re here, explore some of our initial research, including our answers to questions like How will ChatOps and conversational interfaces create smarter organisations?  and How can we create sentient organisations in the age of the algorithm?