The responses in terms of hybrid work organization given by companies to the health shock of 2020 are in line with previously well-established trends, which we return to in this article, focusing more specifically on the point of view of R&I teams. Beyond the established trends, it is also a question of looking ahead and starting to better understand the shape that will allow us to reconcile the capacity for disruption and agility, two key attributes for any R&I organization. At open-organization.com, we have been thinking for some time now that this reconciliation will come from open organizations and data. In this respect, can the hybrid organization be another step in this direction?
The future of work was hybrid from the outset
The future of work has always been hybrid, as can be seen from our previous publications on the subject. Admittedly, the health crisis aspect was less omnipresent. But we have always been careful to evoke the potentially dystopian aspects of this mutation, going as far as the total virtual cocoon. Today, the opening up of organizations is taking place by the force of circumstance, but above all by the force of new telecommunication instruments. Which do not yet replace everything, however, especially not the serendipity power of spaces dedicated to research and innovation. But things have changed a lot in the space of a year.
Hybrid organization and breaking capacity
Without the ability to break, the company exposes itself to the danger of commodification. In the current context, one could even go so far as to say that disruptive innovation is often seen as what brings companies their economic salvation… and even more than economic. In other words, it is a valuable attribute. But not to the point of justifying research that is too out of step, showing too much indifference to the needs of the market. A successful innovative breakthrough would then lie in the happy medium between commodification and misalignment.
From this point of view, the hybrid R&I organization can lead to a loss of creativity by reducing informal meetings and exchanges, which are often the source of new ideas. But couldn’t we put forward a contrary argument, for example, by pointing out the case of groundbreaking work coming out of a period of confinement (such as Newton, which we discuss in our Whitepaper on Expertise)? Difficult question. There is undoubtedly an optimal balance between the power of encounters and the originality of individual syntheses.
What do you think about this? Has disruptive innovation been encouraged or, on the contrary, inhibited in your company in 2020?
Hybrid organization and agility
Let’s get down to agility, and the role that data plays in it. Agility is what enables organizations to adapt to turbulent, even hectic environments. In the case of the R&I function, which by its very nature has a long-term perspective, this notion is primarily intended to provide a remedy for the double danger, already mentioned in the previous section, of solutions arriving too late, and of not taking current market needs into account. Being more agile in R&I means both going faster in the R&I activity, better anticipating, and better following feedback from the field. And in our opinion, this involves what our Fellow Philippe Letellier calls a full digital loop (which is discussed here).
The hybrid organization must not escape this general framework of agility. The data of the full digital loop cannot leave out everything that concerns the optimization of work organization. But what do these specific data correspond to, concretely? Can it be said that the next stage of the hybrid organization’s digital tools will focus on the data that can be used to improve its management?
Conclusion: The future belongs to open, hybrid R&I organizations
The R&I function, as we have said, must reconcile breaking capacity and agility1. Our constant conviction at Presans is that better data architecture enables these two attributes to be reconciled. Data reinforces agility, which in turn helps to limit the risks of discrepancies caused by the search for breakthroughs.
Open R&I organizations aim to design their strategy based on the data generated by and for R&I. The same approach applies to the hybrid management of work organization.
We are not alone in our interest in hybrid organizations. The strategists of Arthur D. Little’s strategists have carefully analyzed the evolution from the traditional office or laboratory to the fully hybrid workspace of tomorrow. What will be the specificities of this workspace of the future in the context of the R&I function? Tracking the initiatives and identifying the best practices of the members of our industrial innovation ecosystem in this area gives us an idea of the answer to the previous question… and enables us to better support the players in industrial innovation who want to optimize the management of the hybrid organizations they have now become.