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Over the New Year break (which was a while ago I know), I had a lovely holiday in Kerala, India.  Amongst many amazing sites and interesting things to see and do, I found one thing particularly interesting – the way that at least some of the folks made their living – a cottage industry of farming, production and services; without cottages.

This hyper-local industry model harks back to a bygone era in many ways, but it made me wonder: is this business-model the missing link with our (western) drive to reduce costs, reduce travel and be a more flexible work-force?

I grow beans. Well, I grow other things, but right NOW, I’m growing beans.  When my beans are ready, I take them a few miles to the village. There a salesman buys my beans.  Those beans then get taken to the city, where they’re sold to another salesman. He then takes those beans to local shops. People then buy and hopefully eat my beans. Yay!

A simplified example of what I saw, and happens in reality is more complex. Doubtless there’s plenty of exploitation and ‘bad stuff’ that goes on. I get that. This isn’t Oxfam’s website, so no need to go into that here.

What strikes me (and is thus the superficial key message of this Monday morning musing) is that many organisations are still on a centralising drive where they try to consolidate teams, reduce variances, move people to one or several regional offices and so on.

Perhaps this is now outdated? Maybe our internet enabled technologies can provide a back-bone to enable hyper-local working. With the right means to collaborate, you don’t need a series of expensive offices? I wonder whether having many variances in the way you do things (so long as it’s underpinned by technology, and conforms to key process stages) would actually provide a hot bed of innovation? Who is to know what’s the best way of doing things?

There are problems though.  Many organisations go SOME way to giving us those tools which allow us to work remotely and perform our jobs away from the office, but these stop short of being perfect. Most crucially – no effort is given to looking at the ways people work, neither from a process point of view, nor from a culture point of view.

It’s possibly the most critical: Many of us believe ‘we can’t work well at home’, and ‘we need an office to concentrate’. Why is that I wonder? (I don’t have the answer). Until someone cracks that, we’re doomed to the Monday commute.

PS, I am working from home this morning, and I shall be efficient.