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Collaborating and Thriving in the Workplace of the Future

We’ve all been hearing about the transformative power of artificial intelligence, particularly tools like ChatGPT and Dall-E 2 creating written content and visuals that could potentially replace existing worker skills. We will have lots more to explore, experience and adapt to with the emerging world of generative AI.

Beyond technology, relationships and teamwork will also define your future of work. Learning to seek out, welcome and embrace diverse ideas and perspectives is a fundamental future workplace skill.  Wharton People Analytics hosted the inaugural Wharton Future of Work Conference, which looked at work trends, and also discussed the very human side of being successful in the workplace, through fostering strengths like better collaboration with people who don’t look or talk like you.

Here are some questions to consider, along with expert perspectives on human behavior in organizations, to start the conversation about becoming engaged, collaborative employees and effective future business leaders.

How do you think about your personal development? Psychologist Carol Dweck joined Angela Duckworth, a professor at both the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton School, for a discussion on concepts first introduced in Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. People with a growth mindset are often more successful. But what exactly is it? “Mindsets are beliefs people have about their personal qualities, like intelligence and talent,” said Dr. Dweck. “In a fixed mindset, people believe these qualities are just fixed traits. You have a certain amount, and that’s it. In a growth mindset, the belief is that these basic qualities can be developed through effort, good strategies, mentoring, and support and help from others. It just means that everyone has the potential for growth, and you never know in advance how much growth is possible under the right conditions.”

Can you step outside your comfort zone? Renowned author, journalist and podcast host Malcolm Gladwell sat down with organizational psychologist Adam Grant, a Wharton management professor and co-director of People Analytics, for a conversation about changing work trends, in particular how effective leadership is going to evolve in the next 10 years.

Gladwell identified discomfort as a step toward more effective diversity-driven decision making in the workplace. “Maybe the enemy of true diversity is the desire of those in charge to be comfortable,” suggested Gladwell. “What we really should be doing in companies is making people comfortable with being uncomfortable…The desire to be comfortable trumps the desire to be good at what we do, the desire to take chances, the desire to experiment. When we don’t listen to people, it’s not because we are actively prejudicial towards them or their type. It’s because someone who is different from me makes me uncomfortable because they make me think about things that I don’t want to think about… I think you need to rehearse being uncomfortable. The next way you are uncomfortable is [going to be different] and you need to be fine with feeling a little weird with what someone is saying or doing.”

“The source of intellectual exploration is your own ability to learn from others and your colleagues.” –Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft

Do you have the courage to stand by your convictions? Dr. Grant also spoke with organizational psychologist and former NBA star John Amaechi, who works with business managers to improve performance, about the future of inclusion at work. Employees and executives, urged Amaechi, need to have the courage in the moment to confront incidents of workplace bias, even in the form of casual comments or off-color jokes. Saying nothing is what he describes as weaponized ignorance. “Be thoughtful, be courteous, be really clear what you’ve seen that isn’t okay,” he noted. “Connect people with what they’ve done to the consequence, not the sanction. You’ve done this and it’s had this impact; this harm has been done. That way you can start to move people to a space where they realize that what they do has consequences, even if they don’t feel them.”

Are you part of the data science revolution? You can’t escape it – programming and stats, that is. In all the ways you act, engage and communicate, you will need to have a toolkit of numbers close at hand to support those interactions. Professor Andrea Jones-Rooy from New York University put it like this: “The most important change that has to start right away is that smart, thoughtful, creative, imaginative people with a variety of expertise…all get involved in data science.” Not so keen on stats and programming? Be sure to watch their Future of Work presentation for specific ideas about how to become data-driven and data-informed.

How will you become a lifelong learner? Dr. Grant interviewed Satya Nadella, head of Microsoft who is considered one of the world’s most beloved CEOs. Leaders, said Nadella, must show humility and vulnerability, while also recognizing the power of teaming to enrich thought and experiences. “Think about the source of intellectual exploration. It’s your own ability to learn from others and your colleagues,” observed Nadella. “I always think about the daily routine: the number of people I meet and how I was able to explore new things because of the people and what I learned from them…My dad had this diary he would write in every day: tasks done; people met; ideas generated to act on. The source of the ideas generated to act on are people and also the work you did. That, to me, is a continuous system.”

When reflecting on the themes of the Future of Work conference, Cade Massey, faculty co-director of Wharton’s People Analytics, pointed out the opportunities and challenges at play with technology and human behavior in tomorrow’s workplace. “The individuals and the organizations who are really going to separate themselves going forward are those who can blend data and ideas and wisdom from very different sources,” he observed. “There’s opportunity in collaboration, there’s technology ready to enable it, but there are some personal challenges in pulling it off.”

Dr. Grant leaves you to ponder one more question that will shape your future of work: “How do we identify the dimensions of diversity that are most missing from our interactions and pull those people in?” You can start thinking about and practicing those skills long before you reach the office.

Conversation Starters

Which quote in this article resonates with you most deeply and why?

Do you have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset? How might you nurture a growth mindset before you reach college and the workplace?

How do you answer Dr. Grant’s question: “How do we identify the dimensions of diversity that are most missing from our interactions and pull those people in?” What are some specific ways you plan to become more inclusive in listening and learning from others?

Rizwan Ahmed
Rizwan Ahmed
AuditStudent.com, founded by Rizwan Ahmed, is an educational platform dedicated to empowering students and professionals in the all fields of life. Discover comprehensive resources and expert guidance to excel in the dynamic education industry.


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