| By TMA World


As World Cup fever reaches its peak this week, Terry Brake shares his observations on our workplace dynamic in the context of a rugby game. 

Picture this for moment if you will..

It’s approaching kick-off time and two teams of 15 players are facing each other on the pitch bound by solid white lines.  Goals are positioned at each end of the pitch with dash lines indicating the field of play.  Players take their positions – forwards and backs accordingly.  The excitement is palpable as the crowd wait in anticipation for the drop kick.

The whistle blows and they’re off!

Now imagine that same kick-off scene slightly differently.  The solid white boundaries disappear and are replaced instead with a tangle of multi-coloured lines, each colour representative of the players’ unique mental models.  Not only that, but the goal posts shift position continuously, and other teams with an unlimited number of players are able to come onto the pitch and start playing.   In fact, anyone from the crowd can also join the game at any given time.  Multiple referees also take part, each one playing by a different set of rules.  Moreover, none of the participants even need to be physically present to play – they can also take part on the virtual pitch!

In this fantastical scenario, we have the new business game – boundaries disappearing then reappearing, constant and unpredictable change, new competitors emerging all the time, unpredictability, complexity, and staggering ambiguity.  It’s our reality – and to survive it, organizations must learn to be agile, innovative, technologically smart, and highly adaptable.

During my research for the The Borderless Workplace, I found that four capabilities were absolutely critical to being effective in today’s environment:

Borderless collaboration:  working well with others – often virtually – across internal and external borders (some more porous than others) to co-create something no individual could have created alone. Leveraging talent within cross-border collaborations is now an integral component of competitive advantage. Unfortunately, cross-border collaboration often fails to deliver because of a lack of awareness of the inevitable challenges like isolation, fragmentation and confusion and the necessary countermeasures needed to get results.

Cultural intelligence: working inclusively with individual and group differences. Value and style differences are inevitable in a workplace that cuts across national, organizational, and professional cultures. The challenge is not to eliminate differences, but to apply different strategies for managing them most effectively and creating value from them. Strategies can include adapting, blending, co-creating a shared culture, and dividing (you do it your way and we’ll do it ours because our differences don’t have a negative impact on our results).

Digital fluency: making the most effective use of new communications and collaboration technologies. For many of us, our workplace is a computer screen and digital connectivity, and we can work with anyone, anywhere, at any time and from any device. Typically, the main digital fluency challenge is not learning the technical skills for using the technology, but the media skills for getting the best out of each technology, e.g. being engaging, understandable, and persuasive.

Matrix working: performing well in boundary-loose and complex organizations. There is a bewildering array of organizational structures in business today with a variety of names, e.g. latticed, multidimensional, and networked. Many of them integrate some form of matrix requiring an expansive mindset, as well as a range of demanding personal and social skills, such as: self-management, polarity thinking, and conflict management & negotiation.

In ensuring we’re best placed to succeed, we need to develop an expansive mindset that can flex as business borders shapeshift and even disappear.  As always, self-awareness is the pathway to growth, and asking questions is the gateway to the path. Here are seven questions to get you started:

o Do I invest time in networking beyond my current work boundaries?
o Do I share my knowledge and ideas with others, freely?
o Do I stay open to learning from anyone, anywhere?
o Do I create shared understandings across borders?
o Do I build and maintain trusting relationships over distances through technology?
o Do I practice both/and versus either/or thinking?
o Do I collaborate effectively on global virtual teams?

Interested in how introducing a cultural intelligence tool in your business could help to create a more borderless workforce? We’d love to show you our groundbreaking platform.