The COVID-19 crisis sent many workers home. Organizations needed to turn to telework and many find themselves turned upside down. At the very least, telework requires technological tools to deal with the lack of physical proximity. However, telework does not have to be a simple transposition of office-work to home-work and virtual tools. At its core, the current need for telework is an opportunity to create the future of work, which is based on a new culture of collaboration.
Since 2007, at Percolab, we have been experimenting with this new work culture based on a radical practice of collaboration. Whether you are side by side in the same space, or whether everyone is at home, collaboration is built around a few fundamental beliefs:
- a global purpose; to accelerate the socio-ecological transition;
- agency and the leadership of each individual stemming from autonomy and trust;
- taking care of relationships by nurturing and re-establishing them, when necessary;
- day-to-day learnings and maintaining the learner’s posture;
- balance between the individual and the collective through shared decision;
- the individual and collective capacity of human beings to self-organize;
- transparency from the very beginning, making actions visible and accessible.
In her book Going Horizontal, our colleague Samantha Slade presents tangible practices with which we can embody these convictions. This set of practices, that we use and share, has developed for years with our customers, our partners, and sister organizations. These practices have been refined through multiple experiments and learnings, allowing ownership and creation of a greater common meaning. Furthermore, our approach is intended to be gradual and pragmatic so that everyone can acquire this new culture without fear of an unsettling transformation.
In our work of supporting teams, we observe that many people are affected by deficient, ineffective and painful collaboration horror stories. They have deep scars that keep them from re-engaging in collaborative endeavours. Nevertheless, we also all have rejuvenating collaborative experiences. For this reason, we call on organizations to build strong collaborative cultures in order to prevent the current need for telework from fulfilling Morten Hansen’s prophecy which states that poor collaboration is actually worse than the absence of collaboration.
The speed of COVID-19 transmission highlights our global interdependence. It reminds us that we must make this interdependence a strength in order to overcome this crisis. By joining the common venture of taking care of each other and of nature, we give meaning to the ultimate reason behind our existence. We recognize interaction and connection as the rudiments of everything that lives. This widens our field of vision and naturally changes the way we make decisions. This crisis is like a springboard that seeks to propel us forward. And the organizations do not have to be cubicles and silos in which we’re confined. Work can be a rich and complex environment in which we can reveal the best of ourselves.
With hope that the common question ‘in which cubicle are you?’ becomes ‘in which garden are you?’
Article written by Denis Côté, associate member of Percolab Coop