Fortune has published its annual “The 100 Best Companies To Work For” (Milton Moskowitz and Robert Levering, March 15, 2015, pp. 97–154). In addition to providing its momentous list, Fortune includes commentary on the cutting-edge trends that play into the very concept of the list. Part of the reason that these companies are so great to work for is that they understand what the new business age requires, not just in keystrokes and widgets, but more importantly in heartbeats and passion. They are deeply aware of what computers can and cannot do as well as what people can and cannot do. On the one hand, the new business age recognizes that although data remains valuable, it is not the ultimate goal:
“Information, simple or complex, is instantly available online. Knowledge skills that must be learned—corporate finance, trigonometry, electrical engineering, coding—can be learned by anyone worldwide through online courses, many of them free. They can even be performed by a clever algorithm.” (p. 109)
On the other hand, the new business age demands that workers step above and beyond that data. Data will always be important. Information is always in demand. We have no argument on that. The open question however is will companies genuinely step up to the plate in meeting the challenges of this new day? It will require a different approach:
“More and more major employers are recognizing that they need workers who are good at team building, collaboration, and cultural sensitivity . . . [T]he most effective teams are not those whose members boast the highest IQs, but rather those whose members are most sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others.”
This dovetails with what Daniel H. Pink wrote in his fascinating book, A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age (New York: Riverhead Books, 2005). As we move from the Information Age (and the corresponding the need for left-brain thinking) into the Conceptual Age (and the corresponding need for right-brain thinking), Pink points out that the need for empathizers, synthesizers, storytellers, and meaning makers will rule the day, as will their companies. Not every person has those skills nor wants to acquire them.
This new business age brings with it certain opportunities yet certain perils. For those companies that have discovered how to navigate them, they shall likewise set themselves up to become one of the best places to work. For those companies that ignore the opportunities and the perils, they shall likewise set themselves up to become one of the worst places to work. It is time for companies to make their decisions.