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May 18, 2020

As the world holds it collective breath and faces the fear and uncertainty of a “silent enemy” that has turned the world upside down, companies have had no choice but to develop work-from-home structures to keep their organizations running and support employees as they follow social distancing guidelines.  Over half of U.S. employees (75 million workers) hold jobs and have responsibilities that could be performed, at least in part, from home. Most of us would never have said we could function alone in our living room…but it turns out that we can.  We keep hearing the phrase, “no one ever thought this could happen”…but of course people have been thinking of these things for a long time. 

Before the pandemic and subsequent government requirements mandated us to be at home, only 4% of the workforce actually worked from home.   And before the devastating pandemic, although 70% of employers would offer work at home options to some employees, only 7% offered it most of their employees. Likely, now that the world has been working from home in mass, things are going to change. We are not as convinced that we need to sit together to be effective.  There is something incredibly scary about that realization…particularly if it is true!

Folks that have been thinking about whether working at home is functional are as shocked as we are that around the globe, within just a few months, over a billion people have functioned from home…running businesses, doing their jobs, ordering food…basically every facet of life, it turns out, is accessible from home… once the misery is over…will this be a tipping point?   A new normal?  Are the futurists who dreamed of these days ready for the reality?

The only way to successfully drag ourselves out of this disaster is with courage.  The courage to lead when we know how, the courage to follow the right leaders and the courage to persevere.  Courage will define whether we are successful. The new normal is also going to require us to become even more innovative.  The only business culture that will have even a chance of survival shift will demand a commitment to creating a culture where individuals are more empowered to contribute to the overall mission of the organization by speaking up and being heard.

If ever someone skated to the puck and wrote about the tools and ideas for tomorrow’s challenge, without actually knowing that tomorrow would become today overnight, it is this episode’s guests.  Karin Hurt and David Dye have written about their approach to organizational success: A Courageous Culture.  According to Karin and David, there is a breakdown in organizations that stifles innovation. Employees have ideas and leadership is interested in these ideas but somehow, there is a disconnect.  Karin and David believe that the collective effect of thousands of small opportunities missed because employees didn’t speak up when they realized something wasn’t working or didn’t share an idea because they worried that it might not be a good one, creates opportunities for failure. They believe that eliminating the safe silence that results from not speaking up and not contributing to the mission of the organization can help organizations thrive and innovate.  Perhaps working from home will empower the silent innovators into active participation?