- IMD Business School
News Stories · Sustainability - Organizational Culture

‘Inspiration centers’ and ‘productive resignation’ will feature in the workplace of the future

October 2020

Future companies will not only have a board room, but an inspiration center, an expert said on the second day of the WIN conference hosted virtually at IMD.

Citing COVID-19 and increased environmental and social concerns, the second day’s speakers shared personal and professional perspectives on how to create a company that would succeed.

Creating an organization that will thrive

Miha Pogacnik, Chief Inspiration Officer & Founder of ECOCULTURE predicted that future companies will not only have a board room, but an inspiration center, and said that leaders must learn the art of compassion. The new corporate journey involves increased sensitivity to listening and “productive resignation” in order to conclude was he calls “the journey of highest potential of the future company.”

Joining him in the discussion was Elisa M. Mallis, Vice President and MD, APAC, Centre for Creative Leadership, who said that companies must debunk myths to move beyond COVID-19’s market, sector and societal upheaval, citing recent CCL research.  “Leaders must take the long view,” she said.

The confusion, volatility and contradictions caused by COVID-19 increased fear and simultaneously decreased confidence and trust, she added. Leadership is a key differentiator for post-pandemic corporate survival, yet leaders are also “disrupted”. Mallis said: “We found that 55-80% of leaders are very or somewhat concerned that the pandemic has impacted their ability to lead.”

The pandemic has heightened paradoxes and polarities, begging greater balance between opposing viewpoints. Leadership is another area of falsehoods, particularly that leadership-development should only focus on top-level executives. She explained: “Leadership development must happen across multiple organizational levels in order to maximize its ROI.”

Another incorrect impression is that digital is less effective than classroom learning, the panel said. “They can be equally impactful if high tech has a human touch. A compelling strategy, concise-yet-clear content and democratized, experiential, scalable and unbiased learning will be key.”

Anuradha Purbey, People Director – Europe and Asia, for Aviva, explained how the multinational insurer is embracing a new reality by addressing the future of work. “We want the whole person and not just functions to come to work for us,” she says.

This calls for a shift in mindset, from “it’s my job” to “it’s everyone’s job”, with clear accountability along the workflow. Guiding principles are also important – in Aviva’s case, those governing opportunity, capacity, forwardness, capabilities and mindset — while backing proposed change with data.

“Creating a better world has never been more relevant nor important,” Jessica Andersen, CEO & CSO, IKEA Switzerland, said. Therefore, IKEA – where 50% of leaders are female – is harnessing its values and sustainable spirit to generate the power of people. “I really believe people are the most-important asset – they make the difference,” she affirms.

When imagining the next normal, panellists called for nurturing passionate, authentic, inspiring, supportive leadership. “The company of the future is very conscious of environmental and societal impact and ready to contribute,” Andersen said. “Collaboration and actions will be game changers; purpose is paramount. Welcome digitalization but do not estimate the power of people.”

Evolving our leadership and careers

The afternoon plenary took a more personal and occasionally playful look at the big picture and our individual roles in transforming our businesses, our environments and ourselves. Louise Le Gat, Founder and CEO of Positive Energy Leaders, drew from her personal journey and professional experience with leadership, career and talent development, to make the case for finding one’s own purpose. “While we are trained to perform in an existing system and maintain the status quo, we must move beyond what we can do and discover what we were made to do – our calling, “she summarized. This requires an understanding of what energizes each of us, which can unleash a new level of creative potential.

Leadership is about managing energy, said Michael Gelb, the author of “The Healing Organization” (2019), who shared his vision for healing the world through the way we do business. According to Gelb, shareholder primacy has made way for stakeholder primacy, and today’s organizations and leaders need to align. He asked attendees to take his Oath of Healing: do no harm, root out evil, and always operate from love. These are the hallmarks of a healing organization – one that puts people first and “connects before solving.”

WIN (Women’s International Networking) is the brainchild of Kristin Engvig, who has spent the past 23 years working on a paradigm that inspires change for women.