The Forces Reshaping Our Work Culture


The Nordics CIO Executive Summit, organized by the Gartner company Evanta, recently took place in Stockholm. One of the speakers was Cognizant’s star analyst Euan Davis who held a session about the future of work. These are his reflections on the real challenge in the digital transformation: people.

Work culture is breaking down, and has been breaking down for about a decade. It’s breaking down as the shift into software accelerates. This whole digital “thang” is really about software (data) and how you control software (data) and who can move and marshal software (data) around their value chain and open it up for experimentation versus how well your competitor can do this.

Once you get why this is happening then we can begin to correct it. Culture is under siege from the 1) The top-down pressure on business models reshaping the type of work that needs doing; And the 2) bottom-up people issues that modern ways of working generate. So the business model pressure focuses on virtualizing assets whatever they are (products/services/experiences/processes). Work needs to pivot on platforms and mine algorithms for meaning if firms are to capture new revenue flows, participate in co-creation/consortia initiatives or exploit a new technology that can radically shift a stubborn cost base. At the same time, there is a range of bottom-up dynamics swirling around the way people increasingly work: the rapid pace of technology change driving gigs, different working styles, and the growth of core versus flex employees. Moreover, compounding the pressures, is a new generation of people that firms need—talent—which can work anywhere and anytime. This isn’t about age however. My take is that there is an army of us that refuse to believe that age is the problem; we can work anytime and anywhere, core versus flex, whatever you need. The issue really is one of mindset and our work culture needs to address that.

Done well, and culture creates an intuitive sense of belonging and is the difference between” I am” and “we are.” It extends beyond social engagement to a kindred of mission, culture, values, and the customers/stakeholders that your firm serves. Remember, your employees are increasingly connected, and they view work as a special place to be (wherever that is). Team members form a brotherhood who have each other’s backs without hesitation. But work culture has to address the fact that firms need to be open/outward rather than inward/closed. It matters because the inspiration/energy/insight teams need is now found at the edge of the organization, rather than at its center. That idea, that concept, that technology that could superpower a customer experience is happening somewhere and it’s happening now (I can guarantee it).

There is a wave of entrepreneurial energy washing through our economies unleashed from the building blocks of digital services with their ubiquitous connectivity, incredibly cheap data storage and computing processing power that needs meshing somehow into your processes or experiences. Rigid approaches to organizational management typified as the 1980s value chain mania must now give away to something much more fluid and connected. And this is totally about culture: command and control structures, long decision cycles and silo-based mentalities simply won’t work in the software age typified by the explosion of start-ups and a talent bank that is increasingly global. Your workforce is going hybrid.

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