Articles

Is going rogue the new normal?

…… First published in May 2016 ……


In the work world today, people often need to go rogue in order to get things done. The online urban dictionary defines going rogue as “To cease to follow orders; to act on one’s own, usually against expectation or instruction. To pursue one’s own interests.”

This may sound reckless and extreme—not following orders or instructions, acting on your own, pursuing your own interests versus those of others. But I interpret it to mean “daring to take initiatives that go against policy and doing what seems best from your point of view”.

This mindset was illustrated in research data that I shared in my article describing how “Bring your own technology is more prevalent in high-performing customer-oriented workforces than in the average company”. (Full article at HBR.org). Bringing your own technology is forbidden in many organizations. In spite of that, organizations with the highest performing customer-facing workforces are also those with the highest rates of BYO, forbidden or not.

Why is this? What does it mean for the rest of us?

The customer-facing role differs from other roles in three significant ways, and offers a preview of the direction we are moving today for everyone.

As the gig economy continues to grow, many people will find themselves in a world of work that sales and customer service people have inhabited for years.

Disconnected from the organization

Customer-facing people operate on the edges of the organization, often disconnected physically and sometimes digitally from the rest of the workforce. They are on the road or at customer sites, and tend to use dedicated sales and management tools.

Incentivized by performance

Their compensation is in part based on incentives—individual, team-based or both—and is determined by how much they sell. This is not the case for most employees.

Living in the outside world

They are in regular, direct contact with customers. In fact, they spend more time with customers than with their own colleagues. They live in the external world, beyond organizational boundaries where collective habits prevail and people tend to agree on “the way we do things here”.

Going rogue or being creative?

Customer-facing people tend to choose to use their personal technologies—smartphones, tablets, apps and cloud-services—more than the official corporate choices.

Is it because being disconnected from the rest of the organization, they are freer to do as they please? Is it because their compensation is in part based on clearly measurable results (sales), so they need to work faster and better than they can with official corporate tools? Is it because they are exposed to many different ways of working and therefore do not hesitate to take initiatives and do their own thing?

Whatever the reason, non-sales people are finding themselves in similar situations:

  • Disconnected from the organization: More people are working from home offices and other non-corporate places. Digital conversations replace coffee machine conversations much of the time.
  • Incentivized by performance: More people are becoming freelancers who can no longer count on the monthly paycheck but, instead, depend on satisfied clients, repeat clients and word of mouth to reach new clients.
  • Living in the outside world: Freelancers and contractors live in changing work environments. They go in and out of different work cultures as they move from project to project. Success depends on rapid adaptation.

Old time freelancers have worked like this for years. Now migrants to the gig economy are learning to operate in this new work culture.

Going rogue is a creative act: survival might depend on it

You can go rogue in your mind without resigning from your job today or starting a new business tomorrow. You can build a rogue mindset by becoming more personally skilled, knowledgeable and connected in whatever role you are in today.

You’ll have an inner sense of freedom and confidence that whatever happens you can make your own way inside your organization or in the outside world.

1. Learn your devices

Explore the features and possibilities of your smartphone and tablet. I can’t begin to tell you how many people I’ve seen in organizations take our their mobile device saying, “I’m not sure how to do this but….” Learn all you can about what you can do with mobile tools, especially if you are a desk-worker today. Mobile rules today!

2. Take personal responsibility for acquiring new skills

Learn about new topics. Today there are many online courses available, many free, around a multitude of new topics.

Improve your habits for organizing and sharing information and knowledge. A resource I recommend personally is Harold Jarche’s PKM (Personal Knowledge Mastery) course, an interactive online workshop that will help you develop practices for better mastery of your information and knowledge environments.

3. Build your networks, inside and outside your organization

Find online groups and F2F groups where you can both listen and contribute. Seek out people similar to you. Seek out people different from you. I’ve noticed that when I get invitations to connect to new people on LinkedIn, I discover by looking at their profile, that some of them have just left a salaried job and are starting up an independent activity. They realize now they need to build their network. Better late than never!

You can go rogue right where you are today. By becoming digitally skilled, well informed and connected in meaningful ways to others, you will develop a rogue mindset ­­– confident of your ability to survive and thrive outside an organization as well (or better) than inside.