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The world’s been turned upside down. ‘Normal’ life has been completely disrupted.

We’ve been shoved through the COVID-19 doorway into a Brave New World and we are staring and blinking and trying to take it all in.

It’s a confusing mix of the old and the new. It’s work, Jim, but not as we know it. It’s home too but it’s not the one we are used to.

It all seems a bit unreal, a fantasy. Or perhaps a nightmare. …

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You’d hear the rattle of the cups first. People would look up from their desks and say, “Ooh, lovely, just what I need” or “About time, I’m gasping”, depending on their disposition.

The trolley would nose its way through the doors, with the the tea lady in tow.

And we’d all stop work as she made her way around the desks, dispensing cups of brown fluid of diverse flavours whilst people um’ed and ah’ed over the various bits of cake, buns and other confections.

Conversation would naturally arise as we sipped our drinks and munched our sticky treats. What we’d…

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You know what’s not on an org chart?

People.

Odd that, isn’t it? I mean, isn’t that the point of an org chart, to show where people fit in the organisation?

Actually, no. What is on the org chart is the boxes that the people fit into. The roles, the positions, the grades and the ranks. The names that are in those boxes are incidental. And replaceable. After all, HR departments spend inordinate amounts of time replacing the names in those boxes.

(Keeping the org chart of a large organisation up to date is a sysyphean and ultimately pointless exercise…

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Do you have friends at work?

It’s kind of nice, isn’t it?

When I started in work back in the 80s, work was very much a social place. By that I mean there was a lot of social interaction, as well as the fact that socialising with your colleagues being encouraged.

I made friends there that I am still in touch with and when we meet, we pick up where we left off.

As well as these deep and lasting relationships, I developed many other relationships that made work more enjoyable and fun and helped the wheels turn more smoothly.

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For too many people, work is crap.

That’s why the levels of employee engagement are pitifully low, why the majority of employees would change job tomorrow if a better opportunity arose and why the workplace is awash with apathy.

Too many work environments are toxic and harming the people in them, which is why

- stress, anxiety and depression are at record levels and rising

- people are dying from work-induced stress-related illnesses

- burnout is commonplace (and now a recognised illness)

- suicide levels are increasing (especially amongst men)

Human potential is being wasted on an epic scale as…

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No, really, I’ve got used to it.

It was a bit lonely at first but I prefer it now. It’s a chance to recharge the batteries, figuratively speaking. All that travelling before, it was overrated, really.

And I do get the odd trip still. The usual places and a bit of foreign travel. That’s nice, new places to see, new connections to make.

I don’t have any language problems, you see. I hook up straight away, I make connections easily. I have to look out a bit more, pay attention to my security but it all goes pretty smoothly.

No…

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It’s not surprising that in this in this age of technological revolution, many people reach for metaphors based on the invention of the age, the computer. They talk about ‘rebooting the system’, ‘installing new software’ and ‘re-programming’ things (sometimes, rather chillingly, they mean the people). They are trying to get across complex ideas in a way that’s easy to understand with a gloss of ‘cool’.

But it’s really unhelpful. Seeing the world through the lens of tech doesn’t illuminate, it distorts.

It’s a mistake Aaron Dignan makes in his book ‘Brave New Work’, which is built around the idea of…

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This is a famous painting by Renee Magritte of a pipe, that carries the legend ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’ (This is not a pipe).

Well, it’s not, it’s a painting of a pipe. In fact, it’s a painting of a thing we call ‘a pipe’. The thing is what we put tobacco in and smoke, which is different to how we represent that thing.

You can’t smoke the picture. You can’t smoke the word ‘pipe’. You can only smoke the real thing.

Magritte called this picture ‘The tyranny of images’.

To me it explains what goes wrong in many…

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This is not going to be one of those empty exhortations to grasp control of your destiny by getting off your arse and taking massive action.

Nor is it going to imply that the you are to blame for the unsatisfactory job in an unsatisfactory organisation that you find yourself in.

But if you are the sort of person who wants to change the organisation that you are in and make it a more progressive, adaptive, human-centred workplace then that is not going to happen if you do not change yourself.

It is not just that going through that transformation…

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Extinction Rebellion are a scourge for business, aren’t they? Blocking up the capital, disrupting people’s lives, causing business unnecessary delays and costs. What possible good can come from them?

Well, for those businesses that know they need to change but aren’t sure how, Extinction Rebellion could just provide the answer. In fact, if they stopped moaning and got out of their offices, they’d find a living case study of the future of organisations is literally on their doorstep. Right in front of their eyes. In plain sight.

If you are surprised at the idea of Extinction Rebellion representing anything that…

Colin Newlyn

Realising possibility

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