Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What happens when we can only think at Starbucks?

It sounds silly but this is a serious question. As I make my trek through a liminal season between full-time jobs, I find myself working on contract work from many locations - including Starbucks. What I have seen has caused me to think.

As I go into these coffee shops and restaurants with free wireless, I see tables full of workers focused on projects, teams of collaborators discussing their work, business people in the middle of a meeting and HR people interviewing potential employees.

And the crazy thing is that this is all happening in each location at the same time every day!

So back to my question. When some or all of these people get the types of jobs they consider "regular" jobs, will they be able to function in the sterile world of cubicles that they once knew? I think that this will be a harder transition than they think. A Starbucks has legal stimulants, groovy music and plenty of noise. It is a fast changing environment and it reprograms how you go about work. I know, I have had to adjust my work still when I am in such a public place.

At this very moment a huge percentage of the workforce is being reconditioned to work in very different environments than the fortune 500 companies of America. This means that they are meeting new people, learning about new ideas, setting up new environments for innovation and creating a "new normal."

As businesses and ministries begin to rehire they will have to take this into consideration. The millions that were laid off will not go back into the workforce the same. Now that is not necessarily bad. The white collar workers who have been laid off have developed new skills, grown through their challenges and created new relationships.

All that can lead to new innovation as many of these "Starbucks workers" begin to come together around opportunities and new ideas. It can also be a huge benefit to organizations who hire these workers.

The key will be to realize that the transition has changed you the worker and that will change the company you eventually work for or start on your own. All this can lead to innovation if it is understood, processed and harnessed.

So are you a "Starbucks worker"? What has your experience been in this transitionary time? How will you harness what you have learned to create new innovations?

Are you a company or ministry looking to hire? What steps will you take to engage in this new reality?


Ty Stakes said...

As I type, it is Wednesday of week two in a three week stretch where I am in an office with regular office hours (two weeks of training and one week of meetings), and frankly, I am losing my mind!! I miss my normal modus operandi...flexible time, flexible locations, self-direction, etc. I really appreciate the variety and creativity of this type of work space. In fact, I can not imagine ever having to be in a cubicle and keep regular office hours for the long-term again. But I could probably do it if called...I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Yep, I believe it, but I still hope to not be tested on this particular point.

Jon, enjoy...no telling where your transition will lead...

Jon and Mindy Hirst said...

Ty, thanks for sharing your experience. The challenge for many who never go back to a job in a big organization will be to accept this new lifestyle and enjoy the diversity of workstyles. For people like me who feel called to serve within an organizational setting, our challenge is to find ways to unleashe creativity in a traditional environment and bring some of the new dynamics we have picked up into these traditional setitngs.