The social impact of technology is being felt more rapidly than existing institutions can keep up with, let alone influence, from the impact of automation on employment through to ethical dilemmas around privacy and data. In a world where software developers can render an established competitor obsolete, or precipitate a crisis for their own management, the need for organisations to understand and assimilate new technology at every level is becoming urgent. We need to make the societal case for new and better institutions as well as making the business case for more effective, agile and resilient organisations. But despite a surge of interest in the future of work and organisations at all levels, research into the what, why and how of organisational transformation is still lacking.
To help meet this need, we are pleased to announce the launch of our new venture Shift*Base: a think tank dedicated to exploring the future of organisations and work in the digital age from a (broadly) socio-technical perspective. We want to go beyond the marketing white papers and sanitised case studies to really understand what is going on in organisations, how we can create the best, most effective and networked organisations, what techniques are working and which are not. We might be shooting for the moon a little, but we truly believe this is a necessary step towards re-imagining our world.
Over the past dozen years or so, we have worked make the world of work just a little bit smarter, simpler and social. We were involved in some of the world’s first enterprise social technology projects from 2002 onwards – pre-Facebook and before the term E2.0 was even coined. Today we have reached the stage where social and connective technology has permeated every aspect of life and is steadily changing society and organisations as well. As we said when we launched Post*Shift to explore what new organisational forms are possible thanks to the affordances of this technology: The Shift has happened. What comes next?
Part of the answer is to develop new models and transition strategies to help organisations adapt towards them, as Post*Shift is now doing with a variety of organisations. But there are many questions left to answer that require a much deeper dive into the detail than a consulting project allows. Also, the drivers for new forms of organisation go beyond the commercial – we need new and better forms of organisation for societal reasons as well, and this applies as much to institutions and non-commercial organisations as it does to companies.
These issues need much more cross-disciplinary work including economics, sociology, anthropology, engineering and organisational theory to shape our future, and we hope Shift*Base will contribute to this effort. To get started, we have defined six key research areas that we believe need to be addressed, and we are looking for organisations who would like to work with us to co-produce original research under these headings:
- New org structures
- Resilient organisations
- New culture of work
- New smart technologies
- Future of employment
- Networked institutions
We have also decided to open up access to our own knowledgebase of techniques, theories, book summaries and practice guides, which has hitherto been available only to members of Shift*Groups – our private community for internal change agents. We have also collated the best long-form blog posts from the Headshift and Postshift sites to illustrate our thinking and provide a sense of how it has developed over a decade or more.
We are working on our first project already, but if you would like to commission original research as part of a wider project such as a change initiative, or perhaps even to begin a conversation about the future of your organisation, then we would love to hear from you.