More and more individuals will leave the corporate world to start their own businesses, especially when the cultures of the companies they work for do not meet their needs for belonging, being heard, development, accountability, measurement, and balance.

When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.

As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Walt Brown.

Over the last 15 years, Walt Brown has helped transform the culture and effectiveness of more than 200 organizations across the country through his work helping them create clarity and consistency around Culture, Operations and Structure.

A key discovery of this work has become a belief for Walt and his clients: We believe that an organization is a fiction, a fiction that is only given meaning and power by those who buy-in. If we have 100 people and 51 buy-in to this and the other 49 buy-in to that, then we have two organizations and we have already been divided and we are on our way to being conquered.

Brown teaches that to create one single undivided organization we must have Structural Clarity and Consistency; Operational Clarity and Consistency; and Cultural Clarity and Consistency. The combination of these three creates an unstoppable momentum machine.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today.

The primary one. Living through desegregation in the South. Between 2nd and 3rd grade the North Carolina schools desegregated. Of the 16 boys in my neighborhood Cub Scout troop, Bolton Boney and I were the only two who stayed the course in public school, the other 14 neighborhood boys took the white flight train to private school.

I was given a reading test, it was determined that “Walt could not read to a certain level.” (Actually, I could not read at all, I was later diagnosed with dyslexia.) The dirty secret was that this was the way they continued segregation in the now “desegregated” schools. My teachers were black, most of my classes were primarily black, with a mix of other local kids who did not know how to read either. This was very formative, these people were my classmates, sports and football teammates for the rest of my public school life… Once I left homeroom, which was sorted by last name, I went to a different school than most of the white people.

The second is tied to fighting as a kid and a teen. This was aligned with busing and a new school track every other year. We were on the line where the school busing boundaries shifted. I was white, from the “right” side of the tracks and I was big for my age, so, I was always the one singled out to fight the school bullies at the beginning of each year. Each segment of the population had their bully — and I had to fight them. I was a good fighter and always came out on top. The huge irony of this was after each fight we always became friends, acquaintances, not enemies… that was always odd to me. A few of these folks are still alive, though many died from the hard life, or went to jail, or got caught up in drugs. But a few rose up and we still say hello on the street.

We are all humans who love our children and protect our beliefs. Every person has a soul…

Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?

The tribal nature of humans is not going to change. We all want to be part of a tribe. What’s going to change is how organizations modify their approach to fulfilling the seven engagement questions –

  1. Do I feel like I belong to this organization?
  2. Do I believe in its mission?
  3. Do I understand and embrace what I am accountable for?
  4. Do I understand and embrace how I am measured?
  5. Do I understand and embrace how I am heard?
  6. Do I understand and embrace how I am developed?
  7. Do I understand and embrace how I maintain balance?

What’s going to stay the same is a deeper, more simplified, awareness of what is going to make employees happy and want to stay.

Employers need to gain the courage to actually define what their culture looks like and then stick to it and not be specious in their promises. For example, you can’t be a large accounting firm and say that you run a 40-hour work week when during audit season, you’re working 68 hours a week.

So I think the difference is going to be that companies are going to have to become super clear and honest about their culture, and what work and balance are.

What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?

Employers have to become super clear on what their core values are, and the type of people they’re going to surround themselves and other employees with.

They have to become super clear on where they’re going and what they believe in. And they’ve got to become extremely clear on what they’re asking people to do. The boundaries need to be clear on what the job descriptions are and aren’t. Employers need to be measuring people.

Pat Lencioni says that the three signs of a miserable job are when you’re anonymous, irrelevant, and unmeasured. So employers will have to become really good at defining how the organization listens, clarity around how people are developed, and ultimately what balance looks like.

What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?

Creation of the “Network of Work.” I think the new flexible work environment will be the biggest challenge and the biggest gap creator. Workers want flexibility in when and where they work.

What is required are models that create and drive culture that can be consistently deployed and skills that must be developed in this flexible environment.

This will require a huge and then consistent effort by workers and employees to document and visualize their “Network of Work.” I see Graph Database technology coupled with the meta-verse, AR, and VR so workers and employers can become immersed in the visualization of how the work employers require and the work that is being done manifests as a constantly updating network.

Not as far off as you might think once we get the right people in charge.

We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?

I’ll give you a personal example. My daughter is a Princeton graduate — undergraduate and Masters in chemical and biological engineering. She moved to DC to work for the consulting firm Booz Allen.

Working completely remotely, without going to an office, how is she going to do and experience the things that young people do to grow in their professions, to extend their networks? How these companies figure that out is so important. There has to be a very overt, planned way to build that culture and fulfill that need for that network in the future. Her boss doesn’t even know her name.

When you call yourself a Booz Allen alumni or an Ernst & Young alumni, that means something to me and my generation. I’m not sure it’s going to mean a whole lot to her generation.

We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?

I think the pandemic has given us a huge opportunity to tap into a deeper and more diverse worker talent pool. Working five days a week with the same people you live close to month after month has tended to homogenize a company’s workforce. The pandemic has brought a bunch of these boundaries down, allowing for a worker pool that is more diverse and less homogenous.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

I see so many bright people coming out of school and entering the workforce. Organizations now have the opportunity, if not the obligation, to define their culture properly, to be super inclusive, and to do the hard work around the seven questions — Do I belong? Do I believe? Do I know what I’m accountable for? Do I know how I’m measured? Do I know how I’m heard? Do I know how I’m developed? And, do I know how I maintain balance?

There are a lot of stereotypes about how millennials or generations x, y, or z aren’t willing to work or are confused. The truth is actually the opposite. The younger generations actually know exactly what they want. If you can create an environment for them that helps them thrive and bring their best work, it’s going to be a completely different world.

Our collective mental health and wellbeing are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?

The most innovative (and ancient) strategy is what I call going verbal, actually talking to the individual, scheduling the time to talk, where they’re actually in the same room, and breathing the same air. There’s so much focus on technology, technology, technology, and yet, the most productive innovation is talking.

It’s actually creating a rhythm that fits the need of the individual of how often you are speaking with them, or coaching them, or making sure they’re on the same page. It doesn’t need to be a weekly meeting. It can be as short as five minutes. The thing that makes humans different is we have language. It’s high time we use it and not always retreat behind our computer screens, emails, etc.

It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation’. ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. And now the ‘Great Reevaluation’. What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?

Leaders need to recognize from the headlines that it is an issue, but it’s not a new issue. But with the newer generations, they’re just more comfortable with saying, “No, this isn’t a fit for me.” Whereas with earlier generations, we just made do.

You can measure these things very clearly with the seven questions.

Leaders have to be super clear on what their organization’s core values are in the way people treat each other. They have to be super clear on communicating where the organization is going so that the individual can see how they fit into it.

They have to be super clear on what people are actually accountable for, thinking about, and responsible for. They have to tie the things their employees are accountable for to the belief they’re asking them to adopt. They have to be super clear on communicating how the organization listens, when the channels open, and when they close.

Not everybody wants to be involved in development, but when there are opportunities for development, that needs to be super clear on how employees can be involved. And ultimately organizations must define what balance means to them. What does work-life balance look like? What is the compensation that this job pays? How can an employee move to higher compensation if they want to? And does the company care about wellness?

It’s up to the company to define what “yes” looks like to each of the seven questions. And then have a system that constantly communicates with the individual what that “yes” looks like. And then the company needs to be measuring how closely the employees are in turn saying, “Yes, I understand those seven things, and this is for me.”

And it’s up to the organization to keep the promises to the seven questions. When organizations tell their potential new hires and employees who they are, and the promises they are making, it’s a pretty big deal. It’s incumbent on them to move mountains to ensure those promises are kept.

Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”

  1. Creating a workplace that attracts the right people and repels the wrong ones.

Long gone are the days when a person would graduate college, get a job, and stay with a company 50 years. These days, we are more empowered to choose the best fit for ourselves and to leave when it’s no longer a fit. We all want to be engaged in the work we’re doing, and be able to answer the seven questions — Do I belong, do I believe, do I know what I’m accountable for, do I know how I’m measured, do I know how I’m heard, do I know how I’m developed, and can I maintain balance?

2. The rise of canned organizational operating systems.

Every company has an organizational operating system. It’s not their business operating system. It’s not their accounting operating system. It’s their organizational operating system — the way their culture builds. And people are going to be installing and codifying them, and they’re saying, this is the way we run our organization.

3. Measuring engagement.

We need to be tracking the trend of how many people in your company are engaged and how many people are disengaged.

And that is actually a power index. You might have a hundred employees and if 70 of them are engaged, but 30 are disengaged, you only have a power index of 40.

We need to be tracking the trend of how many people in your company are engaged and how many people are disengaged.

4. Measurement leading to action.

There is a direct correlation between a company’s engaged power index and its success. As a result, companies will no longer be tolerating their disengaged and/or poor performers. They will create systems to allow the poor performers to become re-engaged and part of the tribe or help them move on to someplace that’s better for them.

5. A rise in entrepreneurship.

More and more individuals will leave the corporate world to start their own businesses, especially when the cultures of the companies they work for do not meet their needs for belonging, being heard, development, accountability, measurement, and balance.

I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?

“An organization is a fiction that’s only given meaning and power by those who buy in.”. If you have 200 people and 99 buy into this and 101 buy into that, you have two organizations and you’ve already been divided on your way to being conquered. We have to codify who we are and bring them into one single organization.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she, or they might just see this if we tag them.

I’d love to sit down with Larry Ellison and talk about strategy. I’m writing a second book called Seeing Invisible, and it’s all about strategic thinking into the future. I’m a sailboat racer. And, sailing is all about seeing the wind. You can’t really see the wind. You can only see what it pushes on. I’d love to interview Larry Ellison for my next book.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

They can reach out to me and take our free employee engagement survey at

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.