Window being cleaned

I think my next project has started to gel: 2020 Engagement. I'm talking about the needs, practices, and evolution (revolution?) of how we build our companies and do our work. We need to move from bounded, discrete jobs and organizations to engaged people and jobs in fluid organizations where new methods and products are everyone's responsibility.

My inspiration for settling on this theme comes from four sources:

UpMo is the first-ever enterprise talent network that lets you truly rock at work. With UpMo, you can now showcase your talents, build work tribes that get more work done together, and amplify your skills by attacking new opportunities without leaving your company. Exclusive UpMo networks are available to employees of some of the hippest employers and talent magnets such as Intuit, Facebook, Adobe, VMware, Intel, SuccessFactors, Zappos and many more. UpMo's cloud solution helps companies embrace internal mobility to dramatically increase productivity, reduce churn, and improve employee engagement.

As I looked into UpMo, I thought about some of John Hagel's talks on how talent development and passion for the job is underrated in organizations. That reality troubles me given Jeff Pfeffer's (professor at Stanford, author of Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don't, and co-author of Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense, among other great books) work on the overlooked value of promoting from within an organization. Who knows more about the work than the people who are already there? ..and who are going to feel downtrodden if they are passed over for an outsider?

When I saw that Jeff was an investor and board observer in UpMo, I realized we are on the crest of a building wave. (Jeff is also an advisor to Rypple, recently acquired by Salesforce.com and another great tool for this new work environment.) I want to help CEOs, managers, and individuals catch this wave instead of being overtaken.

Thus, 2020 Engagement is born.

I'm not sure is it's a book, a video series, or a set of workshops, but it is the next step in applying the ideas of my book, The Plugged-in Manager, on a broader scale.

2020 Engagement is about 20/20 insight into your own work, the work of your team, your organization, and the organizations you work with, and then, using that insight to create engagement at all levels and connections to the organization. I'm not discarding the ideas of plugged-in management. Plugged-in management, where you are in tune with your people, technology, and organization, is the engine, but 2020 Engagement is the goal. Plugged-in management is learning to swim; it's a survival skill. 2020 Engagement is using that skill to win the 4x200 freestyle relay at the Olympics.

Even the best companies have room for better engagement

Little has changed regarding the pace and complexity of our work since The Plugged-In Manager came out. I'm not sure I'd want our environment to slow down or simplify. But I do want to see more great things happen and what I see instead is many organizations thrashing about and churning through their employees, tools, and practices. Even the best companies have room for better engagement.

Yes, I also like the idea of looking ahead to 2020. I see it as a goal: how many individuals, teams, organizations, and movements can we bring to 2020 Engagement by 2020?

Some future topics (let me know which sing to you):

  • Successful platforms are engaged by design (linking to the ideas of Phil Simon's The Age of the Platform: How Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google Have Redefined Business).
  • Defining 2020 Engagement across each piece of an organization and its partners and customers.
  • The role of place, both in terms of being in engaged in your individual work (Drawing from Csikszentmihalyi's ideas of flow: TED talk), and to enable more sensible work arrangements (see Mark Gilbreath of LiquidSpace talk about current office building use).
  • Examples of 2020 Engagement by organizations and individuals. I've been hinting at some of these: Polycom, Intuit, Cypress Grove (yes, they make cheese), and Needle. They each give us, as customers, and themselves, as employees, something special through their personal forms of engagement.
  • Where 2020 Engagement fits in with what I've been calling New Work - what happens when you bring together strategic information technology, more organizational transparency, empowered work design, and people who have taken on the responsibility that comes with that empowerment, including lifelong education.

So many ways to talk about these ideas. I hope you'll help me find the clearest path.