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Which companies are ensuring their place in the future? Definitely not those sticking to conventional models in work organisation or in structuring and running their businesses. As evolution teaches, the ability to adapt to environmental changes, such as the ones we experience in the corporate world, determines who has a better chance of thriving. So, is your company’s DNA set to evolve?

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A significant number of CEOs all over the world feel this urgency as work innovation has become an essential lever for success. Everyone agrees with this.

Yet there is a gap between intentions, on the one hand, and reality, on the other. In practice, managers and executives allocate less time to innovation than they aspire to. Think about it: How much time do you devote to finding out about not only new methods and products but also ways to shape your structures and organisational processes to instil innovation as a work methodology?

The effort of guiding this change must come, above all, from executive leadership. But employees have to be engaged for this purpose too: all need to be committed.

In search of new paths

Too many organisations and executives still operate within an obsolete management paradigm – based on nineteenth century methods and assumptions, improved in the mid-twentieth century and executed with early twenty-first century technology. The formula may have worked in the past, but prospering in markets and sectors that change at lightning speed calls for new tools, new attitudes towards work management.

The first chapter of the article ‘The Future of Work – The Transformation from Within’ analyses challenges that cross the path of all companies, on a global scale.

This article next considers stirring success stories, to consolidate organisation’s experience in an active search for models, structures and processes that guarantee sustainable growth. These companies are not only specifically engaging each one of their employees but also harnessing their collective intelligence in a very promising way:

Prospering in markets and sectors that change at lightning speed calls for new tools, new attitudes towards work management.

  • Combining discipline with creativity and new approaches
  • Going beyond old trade-offs (risk, power hierarchies and decision making) to set human passion free
  • Engaging all workers and inspiring them to give their best
  • Gathering the collective wisdom of their companies’ teams and calling them to action

The focus of innovation initiatives worldwide has been essentially incremental or product-oriented. Innovation in work management is also required, though too often put aside.

Based on our experience at Exago, on four continents and in a wide range of industries, we are certain of this: organisations that succeed in updating and implementing their renewed work and management charts are undoubtedly more equipped to seize future opportunities. The second part of this paper sets out the models and practices that facilitate this evolution.

The (r)evolution has begun

As organisms, companies inevitably have to change. And today’s new trends are forcing ancient models to break down:

a) ‘Burning out’
Increasing feelings of a state of emergency, of competition at work, of compulsive devotion to one’s professional life – with all the stress and pressure brought along with this – more and more cause nervous breakdowns (known as ‘burnout’ or exhaustion syndrome). This lifestyle and employees’ deteriorating health obviously end up affecting organisations.

b) Always connected
Also, we have access to computers and smartphones and, through them, to the global network and work email everywhere, at any time – promoting this sense of a state of emergency.

c) Personal time?
Juggling the professional with the personal spheres of life is thus not an easy task. It is something many companies have been reflecting on so as to achieve two major goals: to guarantee greater organisational efficiency and more productivity and to harness more qualified human resources in the search for better conditions and a better quality of life at and outside of work.

Soon Generation ‘Z’ will follow. The challenge repeats itself. The motivation triad – autonomy, mastery and purpose – will resurface as new generations conquer the labour market.

d) Recruiting the best
Generation ‘Y’ (people born during the 1980s or 1990s) has integrated into the labour market, with their different tech habits and life aspirations, reinforcing the need for changes in work structures and supply development – to attract the best talent.

Soon Generation ‘Z’ (born between the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the new millennium) will follow. The challenge repeats itself. The motivation triad – autonomy, mastery and purpose – as suggested by Daniel Pink’s formula, will resurface as new generations conquer the labour market.

e) Flexible work
The development and generalisation of technologies is also making work relationships and models evolve. The report The Future of Work: Jobs and Skills in 2030 by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (2014), discusses this tendency:

‘Faced with growing complexity and performance pressures in the work environment, individuals are increasingly seeking a more suitable balance and better boundaries between the requirements of work and private life. A majority (57 per cent) of employees say that the availability of flexible working in their workplace is important to them; this proportion is growing over time and is significantly higher for particular groups including parents, workers with caring responsibilities and the highly qualified.’

The development and generalisation of technologies is also making work relationships and models evolve.

The contribution of each, the intelligence of all

In the face of this reality, both intrinsic and extrinsic tendencies are emerging that we cannot overlook:

  • On the one hand, the power of networks is generating new knowledge and synergies. Socialisation and human relationships acquire renewed influence.
  • On the other hand, individuals assert themselves. Clients and consumers, as well as employees, now have new tools to make their voices heard. And they are using them to express concerns and also show their skills and capacities.

These dynamics bring opportunities. They fuel a corporate and collaborative spirit. Every employee and stakeholder can get involved, contribute and become part of something bigger.

But how can we gather the collective intelligence of our companies and truly create internal innovation armies? That is what the cases and models presented in detail in this article demonstrate.

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By Pedro do Carmo Costa & Francisco de Rhodes Sérgio

About the authors

Director and Co-founder of Exago, Pedro leads business development efforts. His career has centered on the art and science of innovation for almost 15 years. He’s worked to help large companies build an internal capacity for innovation, to evolve and grow successfully. Prior to co-founding Exago, he worked at Strategos with innovation thought leaders such as Gary Hamel and Peter Skarzynski. Pedro lives in London and is the proud father of four.


Francisco leads inbound activities and business development for Latin America. Before Exago, Francisco worked at Philip Morris International and Deloitte. After having studied and worked on four continents and in many business areas, he effectively advises companies on how to out-innovate their competitors. He holds a BA in management and an MBA from Vlerick Business School.

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