I think this video is one of the best video’s I’ve seen that articulates beautifully and powerfully why we need to rethink the way we prepare this generation for the 21st Century workplace.



I’ve been thinking about Women’s hockey and what business could learn from it. Actually, to be more specific, I’ve been thinking about the Great Britain hockey team that won bronze at last years London Olympics.

For those that do not know the story, four years previously, at Beijing, the team had had a disastrous Olympics, finishing sixth, with many people calling for coach, Danny Kerry, to resign. Mr Kerry himself admitted that he’d used the wrong approach, often retreating to analysing performances on his laptop instead of encouraging and leading the team directly. His approach led to insecurities and anxiousness that destroyed confidence and, ultimately, performance. In the post-games debrief he gave the team an option. They could either stay the same or they could do something different. They chose different and maybe business could learn a thing or two from what happened next.

The Coach stood back and let the team decide what ‘different’ meant. They decided to forsake jobs and live nearby to Bisham Abbey as full time players. They decided when the programme would start and how they wanted to be informed of team-selection decisions. They decided everything. And because they decided, they owned it. They genuinely felt it was their programme and therefore their responsibility. When the Coach started applying rigorous training work he found the team came together and looked after and motivated each other. They became a team: a team that went on to win bronze at the next games. So what can the rest of us learn from this?

Those that know a little about human psychology will understand about intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. For year’s businesses have been applying extrinsic motivators, such as pay or the threat of being sacked, to control the workforce. When more output is needed we apply pressure or offer incentives, such as overtime. Research shows that these ‘tactics’ have limited success. We might do extra work for a bit more money, but we are often doing it for the money, not because we enjoy or feel ownership over the work.

I have been involved in lots of digital design projects where ‘managers’ talk about using ‘social’ tools to help ‘employees’ communicate and collaborate. The danger is, by using these made up words, we are missing opportunities to truly innovate and collaborate our way to create real success, like the GB Hockey team.

‘Social’ is natural; it is a choice. Humans are hard wired to be active and engaged. We are curious and self-directing, not passive and inert. We enjoy autonomy and trying to master things. We like to have a purpose and feel responsible. All ‘Social media’ has provided is more powerful tools to engage in something that we do instinctively. ‘Management’, on the other hand, is made up. It is not natural. It leads to controls (ethics) and tools (carrot and sticks) to try and get humans (employees) to behave in a certain way. Controls lead to compliance and compliance does not lead to engagement or innovation.

In my experience most companies that want to harness digital tools to facilitate ‘engagement’ and ‘collaboration’ in order to foster ‘knowledge sharing’ and ‘thought leadership’, still actually want to apply control over their fellow humans (employees). For example, many restrict access to external social tools. Some want management to check what people are actually doing or they restrict access to some, but not others. It is crazy. These approaches are straight out of the 20th century, where most jobs were algorithmic, requiring people to follow a set pattern and to sign in and sign out. The 21st century demands innovation and creativity, especially in Western countries where a combination of the economic downturn, a hurry to outsource everything to places like Asia; and the rise of technology, has meant we have little choice but to work together and create new ideas and ways of doing things. But where are these ideas going to come from? Management? Yes, the world of work is changing fast and maybe business should take a leaf out of Danny Kerry book and do something different.

I thought I would post this just to show one of the student challenges in the Ministry of Future Audition experience we are running at the moment.

We were presented an opportunity to pilot the Ministry of Future platform within a secondary school.  The aim was to create our own experience, using the platform, but also extending it out into the classroom, school and wider community,  so that we could demonstrate what is possible.  The target group were year 7 students who are in their first year at ‘big school’ and still hold on to dreams of what they want to be when they are older.

For the pilot we created the MoF Audition story.  This was a four week experience that would require the 180 year 7 students to work in teams of 5/6.   We wanted to create a story and an experience that would celebrate all types of skills and contribution, from those that are academically bright, to those that are more creative, to those that have an entrepreneurial streak. In the future, all of these skills are needed and more.

The softer skills training started straight away too.  Each team would be self organised and could select to complete any one of the 41 challenges presented, as long as they reached the total number of points needed to pass the Audition.  The challenges were split into ones that could be completed during form time, ones that could be completed within class time and then special challenges that were during break time or after school.

To kick start the experience, the 180 students were invited into a special assembly where the video above was played.  After this, the students were put into their teams, encouraged to log into the MoF Secure system (the portal) and left to begin the challenges.

MoF assets

As well as the digital experience, students could also win special ‘bonus cards’ that contained points that would go towards their teams total. These cards were handed out to reward specific behaviours and softer skills. Finally, each team member was given a lanyard that already contained points and all they had to do was make sure they did not loose them.

During the Audition there were a further three videos, featuring our characters, which were used to maintain motivation and congratulate the teams on the effort to date.

Our ambition would be to continue the Audition story and roll out further experiences that would follow the same group of students from Year 7 all the way through to Year 11.

As described in a previous post, the portal would also enable other experiences to be created and published that could cover any range of subjects, topics and narrative, bringing the real world of work and careers closer to the students as they develop.