Lecture ‘Organizing for the 21st Century’

Most organizations are shaped by the past; by the industrial era. This results in hierarchical organizations with a focus on efficiency. The question is: ‘Does this model work well for knowledge-intensive industries?’

Contemporary organizations experiment with non-hierarchical structures and purposes that aim to have a positive impact on the world.

Is that the future for organizations?

That is the question Heiske asked students during her lecture ‘Organizing for the 21st century’ at the VU Amsterdam.

In case you are surprised by the empty seats: the students actively participated an online lecture.

What will the organization of the future look like?

In response to the question, the students came up with the following characteristics for the contemporary organization:

  • Adaptable: organizations need to continuously watch trends and have the ability to adapt to changes quickly. This requires employees being open to change. Transformations needs to be done in baby steps instead of a ‘big bang’. To be able to adapt quickly, organizations work with flexibel (temporary) staff.
  • Part of a network: the organization will be part of a transparant network to enable smooth end to end cooperation.
  • Less hierarchical: to remain flexible and ensure committed staff, organizations need to have less management layers and give employees more autonomy (e.g. self managing teams).
  • Good work-life balance: focus will shift from a focus on hours to a focus on output. Obligatory offline time and shorter work weeks will be common practice.
  • Purpose driven: organizations want to have a positive impact. They aim to be social enterprises with a focus on sustainability and human rights.
  • People oriented: to remain ahead of the game, employees need to continuously development their skills. To ensure staff happiness, having fun and autonomy are key.
  • Digital: digital opportunities are leveraged.

What skills are required in this contemporary organization?

The next question Heiske asked her students is obviously: ‘What skills are required to perform well in this contemporary organization?’

Here is a summary of the 21st century skills the students came up with:

  • Ability to deal with increased responsibility: autonomy, pro-activity, result driven, discipline.
  • Ability to work with others: interpersonal/communication skills, EQ, empathy, self reflection, human focust leadership, awareness of (cultural) differences, properly deal with feedback, motivate others, listening, accessibility.
  • Ability to deal with change: flexibility, creativity, open mind, adapt to change, continuously develop, being critical, outward look.
  • Ability to deal with digitalization: digital savviness

Do you miss an important characteristic for the contemporary organization?

And what about the 21st century skills?

We are looking forward to hear your thoughts!

In the mean time we continue developing 21st century skills, Tomorrow’s skills! 🙂