March 31, 2014

Future Of Work With Josh Allan Dykstra

About the host

Jacob Shriar
Growth Manager
Officevibe Twitter
Montreal, Canada
Passionate about company culture. On a mission to make work better.

About the interviewee

Josh Allan Dykstra
The Work Revolution Twitter
Los Angeles, CA
<100 people

Video Summary

Josh Allan Dykstra is passionate about creating a better work life, and co-founded The Work Revolution. Josh is on a mission to change the future of work, and wants to help employees be more energized and engaged.

Related resources

Video Transcript

Jacob Shriar: Hello, everyone. I’m Jacob Shriar, Growth Manager at Officevibe, and today I’m joined by Josh Allan Dykstra, who’s the co-founder of Work Revolution. So Josh, thanks so much for taking some time to chat with me.

Josh Allan Dykstra: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Jacob: Awesome. So, let’s dive right into it. If you don’t mind, give us a bit of background on what Work Revolution is, maybe talk a little bit about the summit, give everyone a bit of background, if that’s okay.

Josh: Yeah, absolutely. Work Revolution is an advocacy group that’s designed to support and advocate for everyone and anyone who’s trying to create a more human and meaningful workplace. So, if you’re an entrepreneur trying to do that, we want to support you. If you’re inside a big organization, trying to make it more human, we want to support you and give you tools, resources, and events that you can come to and meet other like- minded revolutionary people. Yeah, so that’s essentially what we do is fight for that cause.

Now, I will also say that the word, “revolution” can be kind of scary, and people have a perception of what that means. And we don’t mean it in a violent way at all. The literal meaning of the word revolution means a complete turnaround. So, just like the earth does a revolution around the sun, it’s a complete turnaround. And so, when you look at employee engagement statistics or well being statistics or even how passionate people are in the workplace, the statistics are terrible.

Look at passion, for example; 80% of people are not passionate about their work. So, in my mind, that’s pretty terrible, and we should probably focus on turning that number completely around. So that 80 percent of people could say, “Actually, I love my work” instead of, not so much.

How To Make Employees Happier

Jacob: Obviously, I completely agree with you, so I guess the question really is, how do we do that? I mean, what is the secret? Do you have the answer? What are your thoughts on that, honestly?

Josh: Yeah, it’s obviously a pretty big problem. There’s a bit of complexity here when we’re talking about this issue. But, I do think there are a number of ways that we can start to attack this issue to try to fix what’s going on. One of the things that we try to do, first of all, is help people who are in this space meet each other. One of the things that happens is that these revolutionary folks, who are really trying to make a difference in their organization or out there with leadership or writing books or whatever it is that they’re doing, what we find is that many times they feel alone.

And they feel like they are on this journey by themselves which, of course, isn’t true. There are many hundreds of thousands, many more, people who care very deeply about this issue of transforming the way we work to make it better. But they feel alone, and so we don’t want to see that happen, and so we’re constantly trying to find ways to connect these folks, help them meet each other.

So we put on events, we did a Work Revolution summit, our first one, last fall, we’ve got some joint venture events coming up this year that we can certainly talk about. The other thing we try to do is tell these people stories. So, we think that in the world of company culture and great places to work, the stories that people tell, the list is very short. People think of Google and they think of Zappos and they kind of run out of stories.

And so, we want to give them a lot more examples, and so we try to do that on our website. We feature revolutionaries constantly bringing in new people who are doing something to make work better.

How To Design Company Culture

Jacob: That’s great. Thanks for that. That makes a whole lot of sense. You came out with a book recently called, “Igniting the Invisible Tribe.” Can you talk to us a little bit about that?

Josh: Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s good for people to know the subtitle too, which is “Designing an Organization that Doesn’t Suck.” And so that’s a pretty important about this book is, the Invisible Tribe concept is kind of the big theory that I’m presenting. It’s the opportunity for business, but then the sub-theme of this entire book is about, how do you design an organization that isn’t life-sucking, but is instead life- giving.

And that concept, that idea, is kind of at the core of everything that I do. How do you create a workplace that gives people energy instead of sucks their energy out? The book kind of explains how we got into this mess, in pretty broad strokes, it references a whole lot of research that’s been tied together over the last four or five years of my research and, hopefully explains to people in very plain and easy-to-read language how we got into this mess. And then also, hopefully, gives some solutions for how we can start moving ourselves out of this quandary we’re in.

Working With Gen Y

Jacob: Very cool, yeah. Everyone listening to this should definitely check that out. You wrote a very cool blog post on your person website, There was a two-part blog post all about Gen Y. I think it was called, “How to Work with Gen Y.” I thought it was great. You definitely hit the nail right on the head, but maybe you could explain to everyone, how do you work with Gen Y? Maybe give some insight into Gen Y, if that’s okay.

Josh: Yeah, absolutely. I can give kind of the nutshell of what I wrote there in that first post especially. I think that what happens when we talk about Gen Y in the workplace is, we often end up using words like “entitlement” and, this group of people that doesn’t want to pay their dues, and expect all these things to be handed to them. From my perspective, that seems to be the overwhelming sentiment about Gen Y in the workplace.

And I think what’s going on when that conversation happens, is that we’ve completely missed the point. Because, what’s going on, again, from my perspective, is that Gen Y, what they’re actually doing, is they’re going to these workplaces and they’re saying, “I want to work in a place that’s meaningful. I want to work in a place that has a purpose, that does something bigger than just making money. I don’t want to just punch a clock, I want to do something that resonates with me as a person and makes a difference in my life.”

And they’re going to these organizations and they’re saying, “Can you give that to me? Can you provide me a place that’s meaningful, where I’m proud to work.” And that gets misinterpreted as coming off as entitled and wanting all sorts of stuff that they don’t deserve, what I think the real problems is that our organizations and our leaders today have completely failed, really.

The standard is way too low for our organizations now, that we somehow have created businesses where it’s okay just to have a business that exists to make money, or a business that really doesn’t have a clear purpose. Where that isn’t an explicitly stated or lived-out thing that the organization does. And so, the real problem here is that organizations and leaders aren’t able to answer the real question that Gen Y is asking.

Gen Y says, “Can you give me a great place to work?” And the leaders of today say, “Well, no. I can’t. Because my organization kind of sucks.” And so, the real issue here is that the leaders and the organizations of today need to up their game. They need to work on their organizations and their leadership capabilities, to say, “Yeah, I can actually provide you a great place to work that’s meaningful and has a sense of purpose.”

That’s the discussion that should be happening. We should be making organizations better, instead of griping about these other things.

The Culture At Fortune 500 Companies

Jacob: Yeah, you said is perfectly. I really could not have said it better myself. You’ve worked in a lot of different companies in your career, a lot of Fortune 500 companies, a lot of cool companies. I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about some of the culture there. You don’t necessarily have to name names if you don’t want to, but you can give examples of some things that you did well, some things that they did bad, just, maybe some insight into that.

Josh: Yeah, I’ve definitely been fortunate to work for many different kinds of companies. Big ones, small ones, nonprofits, for-profits, start-ups, you name it. I’ve done at least a small stint in many different kinds of companies. Which has been really valuable, I think, to your point, to see what are the common ingredients of a great place to work. I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I do think there are some commonalities, some similar things that happen in these great workplaces. I’ll give you a couple of them.

One of the big things that you see is that the great cultures always focus on what’s right with people instead of what’s wrong with them. So you can call these strengths, or positive psychology, or happiness or engagement or whatever. There are many words that are kind of used for that kind of concept. But whatever it is, great organizations always focus more on what’s right than what’s wrong. And that’s a huge component, I think.

But, one of the other this is, I think, that they do have a sense of what I call a noble cause. They’ve got this sense of purpose that’s larger than money. I think that great cultures always seem to have that, and do they make money? Absolutely. Is money important? Yeah, of course. But is it the point? Not for these organizations.

The point is something else. So if you think about Apple, for example. If you asked the senior leadership of Apple, “Why do you guys work the way you do?” because Apple makes some pretty strange decisions as a technology company. They don’t behave like other tech companies in many respect. And if you asked them why they do that, they always give the same answer. It’s for one reason: to make a bet product.

And so, Apple’s got this sense of a noble cause that if they can’t make a product better, they’re not going to play. And that relentless focus on that noble cause that’s bigger than money allows them to focus on what really matters. So I think that’s something that’s really consistent in great cultures.

And, maybe the other thing would be that they’re a sense of rhythm. I think that’s something a lot of companies are still trying to figure out. This is probably more of an aspirational thing, but I think where we need to go and what companies that have great cultures are realizing, is that there needs to be a sense of space, of rhythm, of margins, of being able to not just work hard, but also rest hard, or play hard.

There needs to be a back and forth balance between life and work, and those things need to be much more . . . I keep using the word rhythm, but it really is a good idea to understand, to go back and forth kind of between these two things, that there’s sense that that’s okay. It’s okay to rest. It’s okay to take downtime and, in fact, you perform better when you do. So, a few thoughts there.

Things Companies Get Wrong About Culture

Jacob: Yeah, that was great. Honestly. Thanks for that. I’d love to, maybe, ask you a bit about common things that you think companies get wrong. I mean, personally, I think, for example, training is a big issues, especially with mid-level managers and, potentially, low-level managers. I don’t think they’re trained properly enough. And so that’s definitely one point.

I’m just wondering, you know, if you have any thoughts on this, how can companies a, train their people better, and b, also kind of communicate better internally. So let’s say they have these core values or, you know, this mission that they’re trying to spread. How do they really spread that message properly?

Josh: Yeah, I agree with you, Jake. I think training’s definitely a weak link in organizations. And for me, it’s not necessarily an issue of frequency or even amount of training that’s the problem. I think it’s a problem of depth. So, what I think is going on is that, even in the way we train people, we’re focusing a lot on skills and abilities and tricks and tools and all of these things where you go a workshop and you get all these nifty kinds of ideas, and you leave all pumped-up and jazzed.

But then, we go back into our daily work, and we have no idea how to integrate that stuff into our actual workflow. And so, the problem that training is experiencing is one of a lack of roots. What we’re not doing is, we’re not developing the depth of leadership capacity in our training. We’re just giving people tricks. And it doesn’t stick, because they’re just tricks.

We’re not actually being very transformation in our approach. And so, some of the stuff that we’re after, for example, in my consulting practice, is, we’re after ways to really help people transform the way that they work, not just give them tricks. And it’s a fundamentally different thing. It’s a fundamentally different approach to take with your leaders and your managers, to say, “Hey, we actually want you to be a better person. We don’t want you to just try to get more engagement from your people.”

You don’t do that just from applying some new tricks. You do that by fundamentally changing yourself and making yourself better, and then, as a result of that, it turns out you get all these other things as a result and it’s actually more sustainable,rather than these programs that just come in for a half day or a whole day [inaudible 00:15:12] offsite or something.

The effects last for a week to 30 days if you’re lucky. Yeah, I think we’ve got to find something that goes much deeper.

Common Advice You Give To Clients

Jacob: Yeah, I like that a lot, actually. Yeah, that really makes sense. You know, you just mentioned your consulting practice. I’d love to ask, in all your dealings with different clients and different people, is there a common piece of advice that you always find yourself giving, and you’re like, “I wish these guys would just do this.” Is there something that you find yourself just repeating over and over again to every one of your clients?

Josh: Yeah. A huge focus of ours is to get people to start paying attention to what energizing them. So, we do find ourselves repeating this over and over. And it’s really more about awareness, so at the core, there’s something about awareness that we’re deeply lacking in our work places. We’re very unconscious in the way that we do pretty much everything.

And so trying to move our behaviors or choices or habits from the unconscious to the conscious is a very common thing for us. We’re always talk about it: increasing your awareness in order to make better choice. So that’s a huge theme in our work. And I would say that the other part of this, really, is about energy, for us. It’s paying attention to what energizes you, paying attention to what drains your energy.

Most people don’t pay attention to this at all. We just power through. You know, we just keep going, and we think that’s the best way to work. When it turns out, research is very clear on this, that that is not even close to the best way to work. That is not the best way to be at your most productive, it’s not the best way to get the best out of your team, it’s not the best way to grow your company.

But there’s a huge myth, and it’s happens everywhere. You see it a lot in start-ups, you see it a lot in organizations. People are burning the candle at both ends, and they go until they fall over, sometimes literally. And so there’s something about respecting a human’s need for replenishing energy that I think is really at the core of what our organizations need to respect moving forward.

Jacob: That was great. I guess the last question, before we go, if you can maybe, just tell everyone a little bit about the event, about the summit, and maybe some of the other events that you were talking about a little energy, and just, maybe, why people should potentially take a look at them.

Josh: Yeah, absolutely. So, the Work Revolution project was launched last summer, so it’s not even really been going for a year yet, so we’re very new. And we did our first event last fall. In New York City, we hosted our first Work Revolution summit, and it was spectacular. It was so much fun. We only invited a small group of people, around 100 people, invite-only kind of thing.

And we had some really great folks there, you know Tony Schwartz showed, and Joe Maeda from the Rhode Island School of Design was there, Doug Kirkpatrick from the Self Management Institute and a whole bunch of other people who, you might not know their names, but they are just as awesome, they were there. It was just a great time, a couple of days in New York City. I’m hoping we can do another summit, maybe 2015. For this year, what we’re looking at doing is some joint-venture kind of events.

For example, there’s a conference called the Positive Business Conference. It’s coming up in the middle of May in Michigan, hosted by the University of Michigan’s School of Business, and that would be really fun, so we’re hoping some work-revolutionary folks will crash that party. And we’re even having a post-conference gathering for all of us to just hang out a little bit and chat about some next steps and action steps after that conference.

So that would be great if folks want to join us there, that would be great. And then, I’m going to be hosting a really interesting event coming in California in June. So I’m going to actually be doing a live talk event with Doug Kirkpatrick with the Self Management Institute here in Orange County, and that will be on June 18th, or something like that. But we’ll make sure all of that information gets up on the Work Revolution website, if you want more information on that. It’s

Jacob: Awesome, very cool. Thanks for doing that. I guess we’ll end it here, and Josh, honestly. I want to take some time, thank you, so much, for taking some time to chat with me. This was incredible. I hope that we can do this again soon.

Josh: I’d like that.

Jacob: Alright, great. Take care.

Josh: You too.

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