Putting the post-pandemic design process into context

Good morning.

There’s a new book out tomorrow that will be useful to every CEO still struggling to figure out the post-pandemic workplace—which, as far as I can tell, is every CEO. The book is called Redesigning Work, and it’s by Lynda Gratton, who is professor of management practice at the London Business School and one of the leading academic experts on the future of work.

But a warning before you dive in: It doesn’t provide an easy answer. In fact, it doesn’t provide an answer at all. Instead, it offers a four-step process—a design process—for getting to an answer.

“This design process is crucial because, in my experience, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach will not work. Instead you have the opportunity to create a way of working that fully resonates with your unique purpose and values, that acknowledges the capabilities and motivations of your employees and that ultimately increases productivity and fulfillment.”

Unlike many of the instant experts on this subject, Gratton has a deep understanding of the topic, built through careful research. And she understands both the good and the bad of the pandemic experience. Yes, we accelerated our digital skills, we learned the value of flexibility of time and place, and in some cases we learned to better respect the “off” switch. But we also saw strong ties strengthen while weak ties weakened. And we were forced to confront the critical importance of human connections. 

Gratton, who has been studying the ‘future of work’ for over a decade, also puts the post-pandemic design process in a larger context. We need to refocus on human skills, she notes, since automation will be replacing many of the rote and repetitive skills that were required in the 20th century; we need to consider the unique needs of older workers, because demographics will force us to rely on them more in the future; and we need to focus much more on continual training and upskilling of the workforce in order to deal with the pace of technological change.

So don’t go to Redesigning Work looking for a quick fix. This one is hard, and it will take time and effort to get it right.

By the way, Gratton’s focus on using a design process for tackling complex problems like this is exactly what we plan to explore at the Fortune Brainstorm Design conference in Brooklyn later this month (May 23-24). On hand will be design leads from many of the top companies in the world—Amazon, Google, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, Salesforce, Walmart, Levi Strauss, Etsy, Netflix, Procter & Gamble, 3M and more. If you are interested in learning more about how to use design principles to rethink your business, drop me a note, or apply here.

More news below.

Alan Murray


This post was updated on May 2 to correct the spelling of Gratton’s name and the title of her book.


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This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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