On May 25 2023 / by Gary Bolles

Co-creating the flexible workspace: mindset, skillset, toolset


In today's rapidly evolving workplace, the demand for new skills is higher than ever before. As the nature of work changes and new technologies emerge, individuals must learn how to adapt and lead in order to succeed. The future of work requires a unique set of skills, including leadership, adaptability, innovation, and resilience.

Webinar recording

Key takeaways

  • Exponential Change is the New (Ab)normal
  • Work = Solving Problems & Creating Value
  • The Rules of Work Will Always Change
  • The Workspace Has 6 Key Elements
  • We Must Co-Create the Next Rules of the Workspace
  • Purpose + Meaning Drive the Workspace


  1. Co-creating the Flexible Workspace: Mindset, Skillset, Toolset blog
  2. Park sharing ups the happiness factor in parking-constrained workplaces
  3. The Next Rules of Work by Gary Bolles
  4. Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  5. Moonshots in Education by Esther Wojcicki
  6. The Web of Meaning by Jeremy Lent


Kezia Lynch:[00:00:00] Welcome everybody to part two of four in this webinar series about Driving Operational Excellence In The Workplace. I'm your host, Kezia Lynch. If you joined us last week, we heard from internationally renowned workplace strategist Nina Fountain, about what workplace experience really is and how to deliver it in your workplace without offering free donuts every day.

If you missed that session, it's available on the Parkable website right now. While you're over there, you can also take a moment to learn a little bit more about how Parkables software enables parking slots to act like hot desks, bookable and shareable, and why companies like Meta, Swarovski, Workday, KPMG and Universal Music Group have trusted Parkable with making their parking match their flexible working policies.

Today, Parkable presents headline speaker Gary Bowles – he’s an author, the chair for the future of work at Singularity University and the creator of LinkedIn learning courses on learning mindset, learning agility, and leading change. Gary's teachings on the future of work learning and the [00:01:00] organization have reached millions of leaders and students all around the world.

His latest book, The Next Rules of Work: The Mindset, Skillset, And Toolset To Lead Your Organization Through Uncertainty is a guide to conquering this brave new world of work in a post pandemic era. In the next hour, Gary will take us through how to co-create a flexible workspace. If you've got questions for Gary as he talks, drop them in the Q&A or the chat and I'll present them to him when we've got a break or at the end.

Over to you, Gary.

Gary Bolles:

I hope that those who are watching. That you there's so many things that we lose in the post covid era of connection between people and, you know, all being in the same place. But there are a few things we've gained. One of them [00:02:00] is that we be on Zoom calls and you know, when I'm talking to a big group I can't see thought bubbles over their heads.

It just, we don't have that technology yet, but we can do that on Zoom. So if you folks want to use the chat line as the thought bubble line, then I'd love to have anybody watching just pop in, thoughts, questions as we go along. You can use the Q&A function as well, but then I'll try to save a few minutes towards the end.

We'll run through a lot of ideas. But especially if we have particular questions about very specific strategies, like specific situations or that sort of thing, or particular companies that are using certain strategies I'm happy to talk about different examples with organizations that work for everybody, I hope.

So maybe we'll just jump into it and I'll just start doing the screen sharing thing. And again, because just feel free to stop me at any point if there's [00:03:00] something I missed. There's a question somebody has that I should be addressing.

So alright, do I get a thumbs up? So once again, humans have overcome their technology. This every time that happens I wanna celebrate it. So, alright, so why would I use a phrase like co-creation? We're co-creating a, a flexible workspace. So much of the framing that we use when we think about work, when we think about place, when we think about being together with each other we're actually following a lot of rules in many cases that have served, been set up quite some time ago.

And I'll talk about how those rules, sort of different waves, how those rules change. But I think it's really important for us to be able to stop and, and understand sort of re-examine some of the rules that we've accepted about work. And now in a post covid era, we actually have a substantial number of opportunities to treat this as a process of co-creation.

That is not to think that there are [00:04:00] certain policies or procedures or approaches that are static and are gonna just stay that way. We've solved it. Done. But much more to think of it as an ongoing process of co-creation. So that's gonna be my main thesis for today. And then we didn't talk about the how, like, the process of doing that.

So why would I be so interested in these things? Will I have what I call a portfolio of work that's focused on a lot of different facets of the diamond? So I booked the next Rules of Work as Ted was saying. I was trying to offer sort of insights around mindset, skillset, and toolset. And I'm happy to talk about those during the questions.

I have a small bit mighty consulting company called Charette where we focus on what we call initiatives with impact. I do a lot of talks for organizations around the world, especially C-Suite people who lead organizations around dealing with dramatic change, exponential change. We've got a small but mighty [00:05:00] software company built from the work of a book called What Color Is Your Parachute?

I've got as, as we're saying, courses on LinkedIn learning. Now it's about 10 courses about 1.3 million learners. And the most recent one is Skills for Leading the Future of Work. And I've dropped the link into the resources page for this talker. And then because there's just not enough time in the day, I also am chair for the future of work with Singularity University, which is a global big tank.

Okay. It's a Duke tank where we help a variety of different organizations to deal with exponential change. So when I talk about this unique time in human history that we're in, I offer what I call a series of fire starter ideas. And so, we're talking about how we lead to a future of work. And just so you know, the future of work rarely has to do with the future.

It's not about some hypothetical world of [00:06:00] work in 2050. For most people, it's tomorrow. The future that most people are caring about is tomorrow. How do we continually figure out what those rules need to be and how each of us as humans can find or create meaningful well-paid work and how we can thrive in the context of work?

So I'm gonna offer you six, what I call fire starters. Now we're just gonna kinda roll through these fairly quickly. So the first is exponential changes. The new abnormal work is means solving problems and creating value. The rules of work are always changing, and we can talk about why work spaces particularly have six key elements, things that are true about the way that we work.

We have to co-create those next rules if we're going to keep on adapting as human beings. And then one of the ways, the sort of through lines, the Southern cross or the North Star that each of us follows often is anchored in purpose and meaning. And those will drive a [00:07:00] lot of the decisions that we're going to make.

So lemme just run through each of these and again, please pop ideas into the into the chat line and let me know. And then if you have any questions, please be sure and pop those into the Q&A, if that's helpful. So the first fire starter point, exponential change is the new abnormal I mentioned singularity universities.

So this is a global think tank and it was founded by two brilliant men, Ray Kurtz, who wrote the Singularity engineer. And Peter Diamandas, who wrote a book called Abundance. And if you put those two things together, that is that the world is full of exponential change that is continually more and more rapid change.

But if we have what Peter calls an abundance mindset, that is, we don't think about scarcity and limitations. We think instead about opportunity and abundance, that we can actually come up with much greater solutions to challenges in the future. And so those brainy acts [00:08:00] that I mentioned, the experts of Singularity University, they're smart on everything from next generation robotics.

You might have heard of this thing called artificial intelligence to space next Generation Medicine. And I get to pull from those amazing brains thoughts about the future of work, the future of learning, and the future of organizations. And I mentioned artificial intelligence. Often I find that it's really important to explain to people what exponential change means.

So I went onto a website called chat bcg.com, and all I said was Ray Kurtzweil and the exponential curve. And in six seconds, it created a six slide PowerPoint presentation for me, just on that prompt outlining who Ray is, what his thoughts are, the fact that an exponential curve is essentially a doubling which starts off kind of slow and then hits this hockey stick inflection point.

And then examples such as the microprocessors, the [00:09:00] brains of these digital distraction machines that we all carry around in our hands. And then it talks about the implications of that curve, but it actually missed a picture. Well, this is true about a lot of these artificial intelligence tools.

I call this the quiet tsunami of AI tools, which is having a big impact on work. I dropped into the resources link to one of my recent newsletters. I'd done a five part series on this ai tsunami. And if you're interested in that, then I sort of walk through a variety of different facets in the diamond, but what is necessary in a world of exponential change because I believe strongly that is the new normal or the new abnormal, as we say at S.U.

Is that we have to see with new eyes. That is that this incidentally was an image that was generated by artificial intelligence on mid journey.com, and all I said was a child talking to a robot in a field. And that's, yeah. And it creates this stunning image that looks [00:10:00] straight off of an artist canvas.

But that's what I believe we need if we're going to be able to continually co-create that that vision of, of the flexible workspace of the future and continually understand how these new waves of change can impact our lives. So we're talking about the future of work. What do we mean by work?

Well, I essentially think that work is just three things. It's a problem to be solved, and it doesn't matter if it's a dirty floor or a complex market entry strategy or how you're gonna get a bunch of humans all in one place figuring out where to park their vehicles. It's a set of tasks that we perform.

So we go to the broom closet, we get a broom or whatever it is, there's a series of steps, activities workflows that we follow. How do we perform those tasks? We have human skills. So that's kind of it. This is what work is. There's a lot more things in a job, and I'll, I'll talk about those, but human skills apply to tasks, to [00:11:00] solve problems.

That's kind of it. And we sort of group a lot of those tasks together, and we call them processes and then we think, oh, robots and software can do a lot of those tasks. But basically when you think of your work, you think of the things, the problems that you solve, the tasks that you perform.

It's really helpful to didn't think about what are the human skills that I bring to perform those tasks and solve those problems. And as work always changes and the workspace always changes, that's an opportunity for us to be able to continually think about what new problems we're gonna solve, problems we've never seen before, and what new skills we need to continually develop so we can solve those problems.

The third fire starter is I mentioned waves of change. The rules of work have always changed and will always change. So we've, we've often followed old rules from the industrial era, five days a week eight hours, nine hours, 10 hours a day going to the same workspace over and over again.

And then [00:12:00] along comes new technology and this thing called Zoom. Oh, we can do remote work. And some tech companies tried it and then they shot those policies because they didn't trust their workers. And then along comes a virus and what I call the great reset. And suddenly now we all have to trust each other.

We all have to have a distributed workspace. And so we had to come up with a whole bunch of rules, next rules for how we were going to do that. And, and now here we are. This is kinda like on the Disneyland map. You are here, we are co-creating those next rules. And what I want to do is sort of walk you through.

What I think that process needs to be of continuous co-creation. But, but basically you can sort of picture these waves and we're here at this Disneyland math moment. Mark Andreessen, the co-founder of Netscape, which is the first internet browser, first commercial internet browser. He was, he's fond of saying that, that this is a real turning point for how society is developing.

And, and this [00:13:00] is an opportunity, it's a waste of a perfectly good pandemic. And we don't treat this as an opportunity to be able to continually co-create what the rules need to be. So that's the third fire starter. These waves of change, especially when they relate to work, are always going to continue.

And if anything, what we've done is we, we've inherited so many of those rules from that. Industrial era, a lot of factory oriented rules. That, that, unfortunately what's ended up happening is we kind of, many organizations, we've kind of bungee courted back. I know a number of you are in New Zealand.

We bungee courted back to the old rules and again, was of a perfectly good pandemic. So let's deconstruct what happens in work, what, what goes on in a workspace, and then let's look at the, the major elements and then how we can workshop what the, you know, the changes need to be, the ways we can, we can make it more human-centric work, which is I believe our key role.

[00:14:00] So I'd only say there's six different facets. Let's, let's focus on five right now. What, where, when, who, and how. So in the old rules of work, if we all worked in a factory, it'd be the same task, at the same location, the same hours with the same people, and doing the same work roles. Over and over again so that the, the, there's six W’s, but these five W’s, we wouldn't have to be thinking a lot about what work is.

We just keep on doing it. And then along comes modern work and, oh, wait a minute, mind numbing, commute, and big cubicle farms. Now, of course not everybody's workspace is like this, but we seem to have kind of recreated a lot of those processes that come from the old rules of work. And if you think about this dynamic tension between the organizations that are trying to be more flexible versus the those who are bungee corded back, if you I was at an event Elon Musk was at two weeks ago.

I've known Elon since [00:15:00] 2006. And he bought this company called Twitter and he fired 75% of the people, and the other 25% have to go into the office. And so that's kind of the old rules of work. That's a sort of my way or the highway mindset. And what it creates is what I call a tug of work.

You've got this old, this old rules mindset, but you've got a ton of workers and not just young people, but especially young people that want flexibility in their work. And so this is wall Street Journal is a little over IPED on this, but they call it the warden defined what work looks like.

But it is this dynamic tension between these different mindsets and some of the old rules CEOs will Elon's famous line was go pretend to work somewhere else that is re you know, distributed work or flexible work is not real work. And then there's a variety of different people who lead organizations, including Mark Benioff at Salesforce, who said, no, no, no.

These mandates are never gonna work. We have to be much more flexible in the way we [00:16:00] approach these things. But there's a lot of impetus to Bungee Cord back those old rules. And, Mark actually did start to require more workers to come and work in the mostly empty buildings that we have here in San Francisco, in our downtown.

So it doesn't always hold, but the mindset, I wanna urge. Apple, Tim Cook the CEO tried four times to mandate workers to come in and one, during one of the, the worker rebellions that he had to deal with there was a response from the Apple employees, a letter and said, stop treating us like school kids.

And he even told to be where and to be, when to be where and what homework to do. Right? And so this is the W’s, right? This, this, these are the characteristics of work. So there've been a bunch of studies that have been done in the post Covid era, and it's very, very clear. People don't want to feel that they don't have the ability to continually develop careers.

They don't want low pay, they don't want uninspiring leadership. What they do want is [00:17:00] flexibility, meaningful, well paid work, and support for the whole human, for their health and their wellbeing. And so let's talk about flexibility and the mechanics of that. But, basically the mindset to take away is that especially for young people, It has a variety of different facets of the diamond, a variety of different characteristics.

But, basically there's more that we are asking for work from work in this era. And it's not just a post pandemic thing in many cases, it's a generational shift than just how we think about work and what work can be. And so there's a lot of generational statements by the CEOs that that I advise often saying, well, wait a minute.

I never asked about the purpose of an organization. I always worked really hard and showed up and worked long hours and that sort of thing. Why is this new generation so lazy? But well, no, that's [00:18:00] not actually been my experience. Instead, they just are asking more from work, and they want more baked into the work that they do of the different facets of their lives, and we'll explore those.

So that's what's ended up happening is over and over again, I call this the new era of flexible work. The language around flexibility is the one to take away. It's not hybrid or any particular kind of work. It's this co-created process of flexibility. All right, so let's talk about the how.

Let's talk about ways to be able to actually change those rules. And then and then we can talk a little bit about the final W six one. So back to my premise, the five W’s of work. What, where, when, who, and how. The what of work. The core of it is that we solve problems and we typically group those into projects.

Where we do that is a workspace, and it can be a traditional workplace, but it can be a wide variety [00:19:00] of different locations. When we work, each of us has rhythms throughout the day of our work, but also of our own clocks. Internal clocks, whom we work with, used to be the person in the cubicle next door to us, and now it could be half the people on the planet with an internet connection.

And then the how. We've had these very traditional roles from the old rules of work about work and the, the idea that each of us falls into those patterns the manager or the supervisor is the one in charge, the one with all the answers and so on. Those rules are changing dramatically as well.

And so I'll talk about each of these and some of the mechanics and strategies that we see. But if you think of this as a set of sliders, a set of flexible aspects of work, you might be brainstorming in the morning in a co-working facility with your co-workers, and you're the one leading the work.

You're what I call a team guide. [00:20:00] Or you might be collaborating in the afternoon in a park as you're walking around with a group of partners with your organization, and you're a contributor, you're a team member. And so think of these as sliders shifting context in work. And, and Mike Chiche. Mihai is a great book called Flow.

And so if we think of this as the potential for optimizing what each of us does in our work that's flow, think of the times when you have felt most just absolutely in the moment with your work. That can be thought of as flow. And so you can I can drop, I've dropped the link to my book. I can drop other links to each of these other resources.

But for each of these facets of work, there's a book you can read that can help you to understand some of the potential strategies can be leveraged and ways can be able to become more flexible in that approach. But I'll just give you a couple of quick ideas. So let's look at what the, what of work reimagine.

So I said, If [00:21:00] work is, as you buy my premise human skills apply to task to solve problems, then we have to have more problem and project centric work. And so we're seeing more and more organizations that are defining job descriptions in the language of problem solving, that are talking about the ways that we can have projects that we can manage that are spanning, especially large organizations, spanning the enterprise and not just one work group that's in a hierarchy.

We have to help workers to become more effective individual and team problem solvers. If we're gonna do this, then they, we have to have the whole language around problem solving and what problem we need to solve baked into work. Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google was well known for saying when somebody would come in to pitch him on a new product, he would stop them in mid-sentence and say, wait a minute, I don't think you understand the problem you're trying to solve.

And then we have to help teams become pools of problem solvers. That is, we have to each team member think of [00:22:00] how they are, like a set of superpower, their team of superpowers each with particular and unique skills to solve different problems and how they can collaborate together to be able to solve problems effectively.

Where reimagine. So let's think about the flexibility around the work space. There's a lot of experimentation that's continuing for this, but basically the mindset that work is much more of a place to collaborate. The workspace that's traditionally was a bunch of cubicles or private offices.

We flipped the design so that now the main spaces are more open and flexible. Each of these things have to be designed and anchored in the nature of the work and the teams. But basically you've got this ability to be able to, how you design it. When there's lots and lots of experimentation with the timing of work.

A big study was done in the UK, which found that essentially a four day work week, [00:23:00] many workers like, and depending upon whose numbers you, you ascribe to not only no loss of productivity, but actually increase in productivity as people have more and more ability to have the agency and, and the control, the when, same thing, the whole idea that you as a team can decide, when do we need to be in this place?

What times do we need to be synced up to be able to continually plan on a weekly or a biweekly basis, and to let the teams make those decisions so that you can each do these sort of, no look, football passes to each other. If somebody's gotta take their kid to the football game or somebody's got to take the, their sick hand to the hospital.

You all also have baked in life's priorities into your pro, into the, the, the design of the when of the team. Who is in a particularly flexible mindset that we're seeing by more and more organizations. There's a number of organizations that are 100% distributed that is no physical workspace[00:24:00] singularity University.

We don't have any particular location. It's a very global organization and very, and very virtual. But basically there's a variety of different approaches that you can use to reduce the friction around how you can bring more people with the talents that you need into the organization. In the United States, we have an organization that talks about stars skilled through alternative routes, don't have the traditional degrees have processes where you reduce the friction to help people to start to do mentorships, apprenticeships, project work, so you can get to know each other better, internal skills, marketplaces, and a process technology that allows you continually adapt to different time zones.

The how I not often spend a lot of time on, but our time today is short. It often shifts around a new understanding of the team. Teams have a common purpose, a coordinated effort. They're accountable for results and they can dynamically bind their own problems. And Google's [00:25:00] project Aristotle found out that if there's two underlying characteristics, it's that teams have to be diverse and they have to be in an environment with psychological safety.

And if there's any place that you in your organization can change that calculus, it's around the role of the person, formerly known as the manager or the supervisor. My friend Esther Ty, has a great book called Moonshots in Education, and she talks about the need to shift the teacher's role from the sage on the stage to the guide on the side.

And that's the same mindset shift for people who lead teams and lead organizations. A team guide doesn't think they always have to have the most the best answers. Instead they have the best questions. And so that's one way to be thinking about the, the work that we do and the, the role of the person who leads that work.

This isn't some of the pictures maybe to pop into your mind and then we'll talk about the final W and I'd love to get any of your [00:26:00] thoughts or questions. So, back to the whole idea that work is a set of problems to be solved and we sort of break it up into a range of problems. What you think about as somebody who leads a team.

So let's say you lead a team and you've got a big project that you're gonna do, then your goal is to try to break up to have the team work together to break up the problems to be solved. Because essentially what you're doing is you're creating value for the organization's stakeholders. It might be customers, it might be your local community.

It might, there's a variety of different ways to be able to slice and dice a big problem to be solved and break it down into its different components. What you find then is if we have this flexible mindset around the design of the workspace and the design of work, then there's a range of different.

Opportunities to be able to make work more flexible as we think about, than the tasks to be performed. [00:27:00] So if it was a really dirty floor, there's a lot of brooms that need to be used, or it's a complex market entry strategy, or it's a thorny problem in your community or in your country, then you've broke it up in a set of different tasks.

And then there's a skillset that you need. There's certain tasks that maybe need to be performed. You don't yet know what those are, and there's certain skills that you need. And so this is the process of continually figuring out how you create value for the organization's stakeholders. And what a team guide does is a team guide approaches that process of deconstructing the work and empowers the workers to figure out how to solve those problems.

The team guy doesn't have all the answers. They ask the best questions. They know the mindset and skillset of each team member. They empower them to grow and to be effective, to be continually feeling like they have membership in the group. And then to be feel that they're synchronized or aligned in the work that they do.

And, and [00:28:00] ideally, that team guide empowers others to solve problems, others to lead. And that way continually helps to encourage the agency of workers. So that's the, the fifth fire starter is that we have the opportunity to be able to co-create the rules of the workspace. And those are some of the different characteristics to break work down into its various components and to change the role of that manager or supervisor.

Now, I mentioned there are five W’s that we've just explored. There's a six. And, and people always ask, but why? Okay, so we, we just established a little bit earlier that especially younger people are absolutely requiring that there is meaning in their work. Why, why do they do that? What, what's, what's that, what's that process of requiring that from the work that you do?

Well, if we go back to the old rules of work remember those waves our parents and our grandparents sort of asked two [00:29:00] questions. I wanna be paid for it, and I want, if I'm good at it, I'm gonna get paid better. And that was kind of it. Those are the old rules of work. Our parents and our grandparents fed their families, put a roof over their head and we, and all, they were satisfied.

I mean, work was work, right? And it just so happens that my father was a recovering minister back in the 1970s, and he wrote a book called What Color Is Your Parachute? And which paid sort of the world's career guide. And he said, well, wait a minute. What if I also gave you the license, the permission to do work that you love?

And that doesn't mean works perfect. It just means maybe it's the skills you love to use. Maybe it's the kind of people you love to be around. Maybe it's the kind of problems that you love to solve that could be your southern cross or the north star that would pull you in your work. So this became sort of like the third rung on the ladder.

And then maybe in the old rules of work, you might, when you retire, work out of helping the local food bank. [00:30:00] And those were the old rules of work. Now, there's a number of people that are watching, you probably know this is called IKIGAI. And in Japan, especially in Okinawa some of the longest lived people in the world it's believed that a life is not well lived unless you have all four of these characteristics in your work.

Now that's not a requirement. In the old rules of work, you sort of work your way up the runs of the ladder and maybe just stop at what you're good at. But if you give yourself permission to think about the world in a different way, and especially if you're a young person coming into the world of work, many young people are flipping the stack.

They know the problems of the world. They've got these digital distraction machines that tell them what the thoughts of a leader of a country under attack. Halfway around the world is thinking five minutes after he thinks it because it's on YouTube. So they, they're seeing what the world needs and then they say, well, okay, if I can do that, that'll be what I love.

If I love it, I'll get good at it. If I get good at it, I'll get paid well for it. [00:31:00] So this is sort of flipping the stack and we've heard lots of phrases in the past about young people and how lazy they could be. Well, Aristotle said back in the fourth century that, that they're always full of themselves.

And I mean, it's kind of generational. It's kind of what happens. This is the human experience, but instead I think it's actually an opportunity to be able, as we're thinking about how we create, we co-create more flexible work. These issues are not gonna go away. These are actually issues that each of us, as humans wrestle with.

And more and more organizations are going to need to bake in an understanding of these requirements of the younger generation. If this stuff is interesting to you, read Jeremy Lin's book, the Web of Meaning, where he talks about why meaning matters so much more in this era. So this creates a multi-generational mindset in a lot of organizations, older workers, younger workers.

That's actually an opportunity to pair them together, help older workers to learn how to be more nimble and use these emerging technologies and help younger workers [00:32:00] to be able to learn mastery and to dive in deeply on things. On my website, on gbolles.com. I've got what you might think of as a canvas, a really brief tool that you can use.

I'll pop the link into the resources as well that you can download for free. If you wanna just do that finger on the pulse for yourself of those six W’s to just get a better understanding of your own work and the way that can be more flexible. All right, so we've just gone through, very rapidly, six fire starters talks.

If you buy my premise here, then work. The new exponential change in the new abnormal work is solving problems and therefore creating value for the organization. Stakeholders, you know, these rules of work are always gonna change. Yesterday it was a virus. Today it's artificial intelligence software that's transforming people's work.

It's going to continue to change. If it's going to continue to change, then we have to co-create that workspace, co-create this much more flexible work. [00:33:00] And, and the, that's an opportunity for each of us to be able to determine what flexible work needs to be. And then for those who need a through line, who need something that pulls through with work, then that's an opportunity to be able to continually infuse meaning into what we would.

So I'm gonna stop there and I'd love to see if there's any questions or issues that each of you are thinking about. There's a couple more ideas I can pop in if we have more time. But if you have any more questions, you can, I mean, easy to find on LinkedIn mentioned my newsletter and resources@gbolles.com.

But would love to hear any, any thoughts or questions from any of the attendees.

Kezia Lynch: Just to kick us off, I guess, with some thoughts that I kinda had pop up as we were going through. What has your thoughts been on the four day work week trials that we've seen out of the UK lately? You know, there's been a lot of media coverage on how [00:34:00] successful they've been.

Gary Bolles: So let's back up and just say, all right, so I'm, everybody's watching.

I want to give you a magic wand. Think of the six W’s in your work. You have a team, you have people that you work with and think of the coming week or the next week. Now, how would you design it? Mm-hmm. And for some people, what fits their lifestyles? What fits their work styles, what fits what their vision of the workspace is, is, you know, I kind of wanna pack it all together in the four days because I've got other things I can be doing.

I like the idea that there's four days, I'm working in three days that I'm not de deliberately working and that fits my lifestyle. And others might say, you know what? I kind of wanna stretch it out. I'll do six. Mm-hmm. But I won't work as much each day. I'll have less, you know, focus on that. And that actually fits my lifestyle and, and work style much better.

Now a lot of organizations wanna mandate this and they want to have it be standardized, and I totally get that. [00:35:00] We find that, that actually the organizations that make that a process of co-creation with their workers, it's never gonna be perfect for everybody. But that offer a range of options, but have sort of a recommended approach.

Those are the ones that tend to get the most satisfaction from workers. And so four days is great. What you do want is if you're gonna do that, that your workers are signing up for it. And every time you hire somebody new, they know what they're signing up for. And so the studies are quite good that that show that worker satisfaction either stays about the same or increases people feel like they can be more productive.

Work needs to be revamped because you're gonna be putting more time into a specific day. And what you often get is over time a feeling of just greater life satisfaction. I don't use the phrase life work balance, but just greater life satisfaction when you feel that you have more control.


Kezia Lynch: We have a question here about how you might [00:36:00] physically deliver, a co-created flexible workspace. What does that look like in your eyes? Or have you seen any great examples that maybe offices you've visited across San Francisco or all around the world?

Gary Bolles: Yeah, absolutely. So LinkedIn itself has done this.

Again, I'm always gonna suggest we sort of step back and we have magic wands, right? So now think about the kind of work that you do and the, the ways that people come together, and especially teams and what helps them in their work the most. And so if you're in a very urban area like Auckland for instance, and there's a lot of cars and drivers all coming in and you need to organize that, then what would be the optimal way of organizing that?

Or what would be the ways that you want to think about coordinating your work and so on, and what you get then is, oh, well, so if I, for some people come in, in every day, that's optimal. Like, I don't work as well at home. I really like to be in a workspace for other people. I [00:37:00] wanna come in as little as possible.

And when I come in, I wanna have a reason for doing it. I wanna be there to be solving problems with my co-workers. So I give that magic wand and every week, or let's say two weeks, you have the ability to do that planning. Now a wide variety of organizations are doing this, even in the United States.

Our federal government the general service administration is actually encouraging teams to do two week planning windows. And they together decide when they're together and when they're not. Alright. So then if you're doing that, then what's the workspace for? The workspace becomes a lot more about design for collaboration.

You have to have a mindset that it's not remote work, it's distributed work. So if you have some team members on site and other team members that are not there, how do you make sure that they're baked into that experience so they're not just a tack on, like somebody just remembers that the last minute to bring in a laptop so they can zoom in.

No, no. How do you design [00:38:00] for that? And then how do you think about all the tools that are, you know, that, that work for flexibility? And anyway, so that process of co-creation. We often have physical resources that have physical limits. We only have offices that are so big. We, you know, atoms, you know, things that you can touch are hard to move around.

So you think about designing in flexibility tables and chairs that have wheels on them and whiteboards that can move and workspaces, hopefully group workspaces that are nice to work in. It's like, it's fun to be here. Mm-hmm. And then you can change your mindset as a worker.

Like, I'm gonna go in because that actually is the best way for me to be, to solve problems with other human beings. Mm-hmm.

Kezia Lynch: And you were talking just then about like co-creation, and I guess we've got a question here about how you actually co-create how do you source that worker input and ensure that you're creating these spaces that work for the business, but also for the, the people in that [00:39:00] business?

So, yeah, absolutely.

Gary Bolles: So let's start with the work itself, right? I think that's a great question. Let's start with the work itself. So, Each of us has a set of problems to be solved and a set of activities that we're performing or a set of skills that we bring. And so back to magic wand time, what would we want?

We would want to be able to have perfect knowledge about what we need to do, the problems that we're solving, the value that we create for the organization and so on. So in my book I've got a picture. I'll just, you know, do it with my hands, but something called the Strategic Arrow. And so every organization benefits by having really, really explicit statements and agreements about what the organization is about.

What is its vision, what is its mission, what are its goals? Like, what are those, you know, the next steps this, the, the value is trying to create the next six months, let's say. What are the objectives that [00:40:00] they have, what are the projects that they have and so on. So think of that as a strategic arrow for the organization.

Now, what if you could stop anybody in your organization in a hallway or on a Zoom call and say, what are the top three strategic goals of our organization? What are the top three strategic goals of your team? And what are your top three strategic goals for your own work? And how are all those aligned?

Most organizations, you're not gonna get consistent answers from anybody, so that's a problem to solve first, because the whole idea of co-creation is that we agree the value that we're trying to create, and if we don't know the organization's vision and mission and we don't know it's strategic priorities right now, and we don't see how our work connects to those strategic priorities, then you're kind of limited in how you can align, how you can synchronize.

I call it syncing. So it so happens that there's a company here called Asana. They're a competitor to Atlassian, the Australian company. Mm-hmm. And not only do they use something like the [00:41:00] Strategic Arrow so that every single worker in the organization knows what the strategic priorities are for their, for their work.

But then they have software where every single person on a team is continually contributing what they're working on, where they are in their work, update informational updates, and so it's project management, but it's in the context of the strategic goals of the organization. So that's an operating system that is all critical, whether or not you're doing it in software or with Post-It notes, but that is critical infrastructure.

For the operating system of even small organizations. And it's a lot easier in small organizations, but what it does is it allows you to continually be in sync with what everybody is trying to accomplish. It allows you to determine what your priorities are for the projects that you're working on in the next couple of months.

It allows you to be able to make a determination whether or not you accomplished what you thought you needed to accomplish in the past six months and so on. And so that's what co-creation looks like. It's having this, [00:42:00] operating system, this infrastructure in place, and then the empowering teams to be able to make their own decisions.

The mandates that come down from on top. We've just found those are just not very successful. It's not just that they're kind sort of counterproductive and they don't exactly help the make work more human-centric. They just don't work. As we found, for instance, with Tim Cook's mandates. And in a lot of cases it's, you know, it's essentially somebody who leads an organization.

Trying to mandate the use of sunk cost. Like we already have these offices, we've gotta use them instead of, no, wait a minute. We've got all these humans and we want them to continually create value for the stakeholders of the organization.

Kezia Lynch: We've got a question here from an anonymous attendee.

They've said, with the flexibility business outputs are more difficult to monitor despite, you know, KPIs and lots of analytics tools and all that sort of stuff. How do you drive that business productivity in such a flexible environment? How do you monitor that too? Yeah, no.

Gary Bolles:[00:43:00] that's a great question. So, so first off, I'm gonna I know it's a mon an honest person, but I'm gonna have an opinion, and I don't wanna just sound like I'm the word police but the word productivity is a really important word for us to step back and examine.

So, productivity in the old rules of work was the amount of outputs. The number of widgets that was produced on an assembly line. And it was so easy to be able to roboticize that work because the person on the line next to me is knocking out twice as many widgets. Oh, that I, you know, I suck as a worker.

Like, maybe I don't, I won't keep my job. But modern work is a lot more complicated in a lot of cases. And so productivity is unfortunately, I think a mindset in a lot of organizations that leads to a lot of negative consequences. Now, it doesn't mean that we don't want to feel like we are productive in our work, but I first off would say let's shift to a different [00:44:00] context.

And I call it being effective. So, effectiveness in your work is here's the agreements that we have about the problems that need to be solved, and the value that I'm helping to create for the organization's, stakeholders. Maybe it's making happy customers, maybe it's making lots of widgets.

Maybe it's creative work that's really hard to assess. But here's our agreement. My agreement between me and my team. Between me and my team guide, and then here's the work that I do. And some weeks, absolutely, 100%, Hey, done. Nailed it. Other weeks, eh, not so much. We had these agreements, but I didn't quite get this stuff done or I got something different done.

And so what you really need in this sort of oscillation that is human work, unless you are working on a factory production line, is we need a process of that continual determination of the agreements. What is it we're trying to accomplish? And then the best ways for you to accomplish those things. [00:45:00] And then we need to have the ability to learn from others how they do that.

And so that's effectiveness now. There is a lot of work that is much more subjective. That is, it isn't easy to assess, it isn't easy to just put numbers on. And so the organizations that I think are making the transition to much more of an effectiveness mindset, what they're doing is they are pushing a lot of the determination to the team level about how they're gonna solve certain problems.

Now it doesn't mean, you can't have really aggressive problems to solve, like, stretch goals and really big things that you need to accomplish. What? KPIs and OKRs key performance indicators and objectives and key results are essentially mechanisms by which we try to put some kind of operationalization around the sets of agreements.

Those are KPIs and then what we're trying to deliver to be able to get to that point. If [00:46:00] you go back to the strategic era, what you find out is that the whole idea that there are particular objectives that we're driving towards. If you've got that in place, you agree what the objectives for the organization are and then you see how what your team is trying to accomplish connects to those.

It is so much easier to be able to determine what the indicators in KPIs need to be. That is how we'll know we're getting to the results that we want. And then the OKRs, the objectives and key results are tied to those objectives on a timeline. Like there's certain things we need to do in the next three to six months and there's some stuff that's a little farther down the road.

So that's again, part of that operating system. And there's, think of it as standard distribution. There's some tasks that are gonna be very easy to figure out. Yep. We can put some metrics around those and others that are much fuzzier. That has to be a continuous process [00:47:00] of co-creation and discussion where the organization, and it's often this falls to the shoulders of the HR or the people function, where the organization has a language, has an approach, has an opinion about the ways that we coordinate those things so that we can always have the, the knowledge whether or not we're being effective in our work.

So I hope that's helpful to our anonymous questionnaire. But the idea is that the old, to move away from the old metrics of productivity, to focus much more on effectiveness.

Kezia Lynch: Kind of a tandem question on from that one. And also we do have eight minutes left if we have, you know, too many questions to get through.

Gary's being kind enough to say that he'll answer those on follow up email afterwards. So continue to drop them and we'll shoot 'em over to Gary and he can kind of come back later. But there's a question about who in the organization owns the sorts of things you're talking about. What function is it?

Is it HR, is it Facilities, is it Operations? And then also how do you sell these concepts into leadership? You [00:48:00] know this is quite futuristic stuff in a lot of ways. And people are kind of hesitant to change sometimes and update their organization's culture and roles and everything.

Gary Bolles: Yeah, absolutely. So I'm gonna take sort of each, I'm sorry, tell me the first part again. Cause I just didn't write down my line.

Kezia Lynch: Which organizational departments, is it people?

Gary Bolles: Yeah, Bishop and then people who lead. Okay. So back to magic War time when, when you're talking about.

The roles and responsibilities in an organization. What we've done is we've, again, fallen into much more old rules and the functionalization of the organization. And there's plenty of examples of organizations that do not have these traditional structures and functions and instead of come up with different approaches.

So the first thing I would suggest anybody that's curious about this [00:49:00] is to understand the edge cases. So the end cases. So there's very structured hierarchy on this end. Like very traditional organizations, there's tons of research about that. And then there's completely flexible organizations often called H o l a c r a c y.

Where there are no managers, there are no supervisors. It's a, everything is a process of co-creation. So first off, just understand how that works and then we can talk about some of the different models. So one of the examples that I use is Upwork. So Upwork is basically 2000 workers.

It's a platform for flexible work contractor work. Of those 2000 workers, 75% have been workers on the platform that is flexible workers contracting, but they think of themselves as employees of the organization. So what that gives you is this flexible flow of humans that are [00:50:00] continually solving problems, and then the structure of the organization.

Is much more flexible itself. Sure there's a people function, but the people function is not so much about a lot of the lead in processes that a lot of organizations fall into just managing benefits and teaching what hiring looks like and that sort of thing. They've already got a platform that gives them access to a big pool of human beings, so they don't need to do a lot of those things.

And that allows them to focus instead on the work that needs to be done. So if you've got a very traditional organization that's hierarchical, hierarchically organized, at this end of the spectrum, it's very difficult to do these kinds of processes because they think in ter, a lot of people in those structures tend to think in terms of ownership.

And ownership is itself, to some extent, a little bit of a failure. If it's co-creation, it's actually back to the team model. It's [00:51:00] interdependency and so I'd say first off, the people function of the organization needs an upgrade. We need to completely change our thinking about it, but because this relates to a lot of the way that people are gonna be interacting with each other, they need to leave.

So this is people at HR organizations in the past used to complain about not having a seat at the table, like they weren't involved in strategic decisions. I say create a new table. Create a new table that is around flexible work that is around having the talented humans. You need to be able to solve these problems.

And what you find then is you actually build much more flexible structure for that people function itself. And then that becomes an example for the rest of the organization. And then those other functions within the organization like finance and operations and so on, you give them the tool set to be able to adapt their own processes.

So that's the first part of it. The second part of it is how do you help people to change? All right, [00:52:00] so and the, and the more you've got people that have followed old rules of work that are in a hierarchy and achieve their power and, and prestige through that hierarchy, they tend to think those are the best rules.

And then we come along with this completely different, what I call a next mindset. How do you get there? All right. So I'll just give you my experience with these things. The first is that we as humans do not change unless we go through some kind of inflection point. Where we get the epiphany, Hey, you know what, it's not just gonna, we can't just keep on doing things the old way.

We can't bungee cord back in those old ways. So I often find understanding exponential change is a really good way to help people who lead organizations. That's one of the talks that I do all the time is for c-suites of organizations, is these fire starter talks to just help them understand that whole thing about the exponential curve.

And I was waving my arms a [00:53:00] lot last year saying, you know what? There's gonna be these technologies around artificial intelligence that are gonna really transform work. And I would get sort of patted, you know, on the head and, oh no, sure, sure. Someday. And now we're living in that world, right? So, I've got some ideas what the next wave is gonna be, but there's always gonna be that next wave that's gonna transform work.

And so what I find is that people lead organizations, and by the way, you noticed, I've never used the word leader. Because I think it has to be a verb, not a noun, but people need organizations. They can change. First off, they, if they feel like there's something that gets them outta their comfort zone.

Secondly is they have to feel that there's a process, a set of steps that they can go through. And if there's any book that I would recommend there's one for organizations. There's a study that was done by the Institute for Corporate Performance. And the book is called Culture Renovation by Kevin Oaks.

And he gives 17 steps [00:54:00] for the successful organizational transformation of all the organizations that they study. And so it's doable. There's, they fall into two caps. One cap says you can change people at the core of an organization. You can help to change the mindset of people who lead organizations and you can do it while you're running the organization.

And in in the cultural renovation book, it talks about companies that have successfully done that. It's the hardest way to do it. Another approach was championed by my friend John Hael at Deloitte's Center for the Edge, and he talks about it as edge strategies. You go over here to a new department, a new division, a new company that your organization has purchased, and you change that culture.

Or you buy a company that has the culture that you want and then you slowly

infect that culture into that mindset into the rest of the organization. So it's doable. It takes a process of building what I call coalition of the willing. That is [00:55:00] you have to bring in others in the organization that all say, yes, we need to change.

Mm-hmm. And this is how a lot of diversity, equity, inclusion initiatives and organizations have come about. This is how a lot of the flexible work approaches that organizations have come about, where people have just said, Hey, we gotta do this. And they build that coalition internally within the organization.

Kezia Lynch: Nice. That is taking us to the top of the hour. So unfortunately we've gotta close off there, but if you do guys have any more questions, of course, as I said before, Gary's happy to answer them. And there's been lots of resources mentioned, lots of books mentioned along this whole way. So do keep an eye on your email in the next couple of days for a recording of this webinar as well as all of the associated resources, collateral, all of that sort of stuff that Gary has mentioned.

There will be some more information about Parkable as well and how you can optimize your carpark performance and enhance that, enhance that employee experience without adding crazy loads of administrative work. If you do wanna hear more from Gary, you can obviously follow him on LinkedIn. He mentioned before he also popped his [00:56:00] email address up, so I hope you took note of that.

B earlier and his book The Next Rules Of Work that's in the background there of his screen is available on Amazon as well. There are two more webinars coming up in this Parkable webinar series about Driving Operational Excellence In The Workplace. The next one is on June 7th where you can join me and Byron Tudor from Deloitte, as Gary just mentioned.

Mara Fisher from Tradify and Parkable, CEO, Toby Litton for fireside Chat about efficiency and productivity with technology in the workplace. Or maybe we shouldn't be calling it productivity anymore. And so the link to register that will be posted in the chat as well. So keep an eye on down there.

And then that's all for today. So thank you everybody for joining. Thank you, Gary, for coming along and sharing all your thoughts with us. Yeah, stay tune and from all guys.

Gary Bolles: All right, thanks Kez. Thanks, you all be well.

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