Life@Work Hasbrouck House breakout session, 2017

How to lead in a volatile and uncertain world

Live Grey’s immersive 2017 Life@Work Company Culture Conferences bring together culture leaders and influencers for an exploration of how to build workplaces of the future — a subject that is incredibly important to me as the president and founder of a diversity and inclusion training provider and consultancy, and incredibly close to my heart as a woman business owner and out member of the LGBT community.

So when my dear friend Kristoffer “KC” Carter invited me to speak alongside my friend Bob Gower, who is an authority on responsive organizational design and a past “Will To Change” podcast guest, at one of their two-day retreats, and unwind and reflect on humanity at work, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.

[Pictured center] Jennifer Brown and KC participating in a breakout session at Life@Work Hasbrouck House.

The theme of the conference was “how to lead in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world,” and I wanted to share my three favorite takeaways from the event in case they’re useful for you, too:

Organizations that “use up” people are not the future

When it comes to future-proofing, or even present-proofing your organization, Bob Gower talked about how we have to acknowledge that we tend to have a short-term way of looking at people as assets.

But when we look at people that way, they eventually burn out and ultimately, leave. Instead, we need to see people as individuals and, as we say at Jennifer Brown Consulting, ensure they feel Welcomed, Valued, Respected and Heard℠.

The workplace of the future requires diversity of thought

The lifespan of large, successful companies has never been shorter. That’s according to a study of turnover in the S&P 500, which predicted that around 50% of the S&P 500 will be replaced over the next 10 years.

This new reality that we’re grappling with demands that we seriously consider how we rapidly iterate our business models.

If we want to thrive in spite of that level of complexity, the last thing we need is uniformity of thought. We need multiple perspectives that enable us to future-proof our organizations and change our DNA so we can flex and adapt rapidly.

Eliminating blind spots must be a priority

It’s not just diverse perspectives which are needed at the table, it’s the diversity that comes from different backgrounds.

We need leaders who are willing to think outside the box and realize, If I hire people who look like me, and who have the same background as me, I’m not going to be able to respond in the right way. I’m going to have the same blind spots as everyone else.

It’s a need that Yammer co-founder Adam Pisoni, a previous “Will To Change” guest recognized as he founded his startup. He didn’t want the first 10 or 20 people to look like him, necessarily. Instead, he intentionally began filling his hiring pipeline with people of diverse identities and backgrounds in order to create a more inclusive culture from the start.

What else would you add when it comes to building workplaces of the future? Is there anything else you feel is essential to keep in mind?

Let me know in the comments below.


A version of this post first appeared here. Learn more in Jennifer Brown’s book Inclusion: Diversity, The New Workplace & The Will To Change.


The images above were taken at Life@Work Hasbrouck House presented by Live Grey. Join conversations like this and more at Life@Work Brooklyn this fall. Learn more at www.lifeatwork.co.