Workplace Darwinism: Are You Up for the Evolution?

Survival of the fittest -- that's what evolution has dictated since the beginning of time. When it comes to your company culture, workplace mentality and approach to business values, survival of the fittest still applies. Don't use inertia as an excuse to carry on traditions that can't keep up with the changing landscapes.

Let's face it, when it comes to the workplace, things are changing -- and fast. Are there broken systems, processes that are more puzzling than productive, and roles and responsibilities worth rethinking and organizing? Is innovation still alive and well or are you just sloughing through to get to the end of the week.

You are not alone with your litany of questions. This line of critical thinking is making a steady surge as technology, access and connectivity are rapidly impacting the traditional workplace. Approaches to building a sustainable, as well as innovative, business are also becoming the norm.

Engineering a new kind of workplace should not be approached (again) with a one-size-fits-all template. It is important to take into consideration all the ways to incorporate technology, flexibility and a generation of new values that can best achieve desired results.

We're Not in Kansas Anymore

If technology can be compared to a bridge, than the obstacles we must cross every day are rapidly disappearing. We're not running businesses through carrier pigeons and we're not commuting to work in a horse and buggy (although it'd be pretty cool if we were).

With shortcuts and portals at our disposal, the workplace cannot be confined to the four walls we might call an office. Technology has made it so we can work almost anywhere as long as we can gather our thoughts, channel our energy and connect to the internet. And self-serve coffee does not hurt either.

Sorry Robots, We Still Have Things to Do

Having the technology to connect doesn't mean we factor ourselves out of the equation. It means we are forced, now more than ever, to reach our own zone of genius. How so? Well now that tools and apps have taken over the light to heavy lifting, we're still in charge of connecting all the dots and streamlining new processes.

Think of it this way: When emails took over letters, it didn't eliminate the need for communicating, it just created a faster way to do so. Now we might not have a mailroom but we still face the challenge of what we should be communicating, when, how and why? Email does not solve this for us. With every tool you add to your team's toolbox, you must make sure it's a fit in your culture and using it helps you reach your business goals more effectively.

Another mental shift that occurs with the rise of technology is how to keep important information in structured platforms. We may not be using suggestion boxes, pencils and paper anymore but we've seen with 15Five, that feedback is needed now more than ever and sometimes technology can streamline the process. And save trees. We just have to know where to plug it into our lives, making sure we manage it, and not the other way around.

Lastly, with no excuses not to communicate, the problem is not how we talk and listen but how well we talk and listen. Technology doesn't stop us from saying things for the sake of hearing ourselves speak, nor can it tell us where our ideas are hiding and which ones to set in motion. We have literally tens of platforms and channels at our fingertips that we could treat as soap boxes at any given moment. An open-mind, collaborative disposition and transparency are still staples in good business, but truly harnessing technology happens when you can match its speed with the integrity of your business values.

Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft, is the mastermind behind this incredibly thought-provoking video: Re-Imagining Work where he examines the current approach to work and even the current flaws of "flexible" approaches to work.

His message is clear: he wants organizations to encourage a truly open, collaborative and flexible working culture to create more value and innovation in today's economic reality.

Being truly open means, for most leaders, to be completely vulnerable. The goal is not only to remove the walls of your workplace but to remove the control/guilt associated with an out-dated sense of productivity. Flexibility means shifting to a task and result-focused approach and not punch-card mentality. The clock becomes obsolete in this paradigm and that can be scary for everyone involved as it forces to distribute our energy effectively and not just look busy.

One way to foster this approach is to allow employees to choose where they think is the best place to work for any given task. Remind them to stay focused and not to create an illusion of being present through counter-productive emailing and messaging. Reinforce this mentality by avoiding constant and condescending check-ins that foster a culture of guilt and monitoring.

Achieving flexibility in the workplace is not just about removing permissions, it's establishing radical transparency and then practicing it every day.

It's a Small World, Not Just a Saying Anymore

As we mentioned earlier, with technology bridging the gaps of yesteryear, reaching customers as well as talent across the Atlantic or Pacific has become a matter of a few clicks. No carry-on luggage required.

This means the talent pool is that much greater and building an all-star team is well within reach. Remote work and contractors are being embraced more and more, creating further flexibility and agility for company's on the rise that don't have access to tons of financial resources. On the other side of the coin, people no longer have to pack up their entire lives in order to follow a dream job. For both parties, the world at our fingertips can be a complete game changer.

Are you adapting or just surviving? Take sometime to think how you can help your company evolve to embrace the new workplace. It's in your best interest.

What do you do to increase innovation in your workplace? Share your tips with us in the comments below or tweet us @15Five.