This article from Richard Goff, Partner at Archipelago connections considers the concept of an 'organisation' and its place in the future of work. 

Perhaps there will always be organisations. But for a number of reasons there are going to be less and less of them; those that survive will behave less and less like organisations; and they’ll also be structured less and less like organisations, or at the very least like large organisations.

We live in the age of the individual. We expect our marketing to be tailored to us (and increasingly it is); we expect our customer service to be tailored to us (and sometimes it is); and we expect the organisations we work for to be tailored to us – to understand how we can best contribute, to actively enable each of us to make the most impact (but they rarely are). Organisations are mostly a rigidly-defined model in a world whose operating model is now simply your operating model – whatever that may be. User experiences are being personalised all the time - but how possible is it to personalise organisations, especially large ones?

Before, we wouldn’t have had the data; now, big data is driving the transformation. Just as David Bowie predicted how digital would revolutionise the relationship between musicians and their audience, so big data is revolutionising the relationship between organisations and their internal customers as much as their external customers. Data is individual; insight is starting to be too. Organisations’ structure, eventually, will lope reluctantly behind.

Because of course employment relationships are starting to change as well. At a recent @futureofworkhub event, futurist Dean van Leeuwen cited Kaggle, where 300,000 of the best data scientists in the world compete for your work; Facebook, Google and NASA have all used the service. However expert, it’s a safe bet none of those data freelancers dobbed in for NASA’s Secret Santa last year. Clearly Secret Santa needs to go digital too – as a survey by Intuit predicts that as much as 40% of the US economy will be freelance by 2020.

Societally there’s a deep scepticism about the very idea of organisations: research by Indeed reveals that just 12% of jobseekers are interested in what companies have to say about their values and mission. Transparently inauthentic, nobody believes in that kind of marketing any more. And in the decade of Glass Door nobody has to.

Too frequently organisations diminish themselves by plummeting to the lowest common denominator: the catch-all phrase for a mission statement, the tone of voice that assumes everyone employed here is trying to rip off their employer, the senior stakeholders with their arms around their fiefdom. But the rapidly-emerging future model is: find the talents, skills and knowledge you need from around the world, when you need them; engage them with a clear, genuine and evolving purpose; and be as transparent as you can with everyone you deal with, whether customer, supplier, shareholder or employee.

In short, organisations must not only engage with individuals as individuals but also behave more like individuals themselves – with an integrity less and less associated with institutions; with a clarity of thought derived from the most relevant experts to any given conversation, whatever their actual seniority; and with an agility suggestive more of someone engaged on a succession of sprints rather than a bunch of people shoved onto the same camel, each flourishing different maps, where only the camel is less than astonished it can’t make it to the next line in the sand.


By Richard Goff, Partner, Archipelago connections, is Chair of The People Director Partnership ( and an ambassador for the REC’s Good Recruitment Campaign. @HRLeadersnow



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