The Future of Work, NYC

Driver Wifi Tonight, I will be engaged in a Podio conversation kicking off a series on the future of work with fellow professionals and globetrotters Marcia Conner and Jennifer Magnolfi in New York City.

Moderated by Stowe Boyd, the session will cover several questions on how social media is impacting the world of business on the inside.

In Boyd's own words:

[…] As our work becomes more social, more mobile, and increasingly channeled through mobile, social ‘work media’, what is the relationship between workers and business?

What will ‘workplace’ and ‘at work’ mean when people work in many locations and increasingly lose the distinction between work and leisure time?

How can business rethink the workplace in light of the primacy of social network-based communication and collaboration?

I've been living these questions for most of my career in corporate America.

My tools to help organizations become more resilient and find growth have been the adoption of better linguistic and operational frameworks to connect them with customers, partners, and employees through a simple process:

  • Establishing goals and a plan = motivation
  • Identifying the system = levers
  • Designing conversation = execution

I can thank my Italian/European education– conversational thinking + learning as teams — and my home environment, both organized around collaboration and knowledge flows, for helping me experience the difference early on. When I participated in Dr. Martin Seligman's Authentic Happiness VIA research study, I discovered that my top signature strength is love of learning.

Which is the more reason why I am thrilled to have such accomplished conversation partners tonight.

A few thoughts about the topic.

The way we were

I came across a series of articles on the future of work written only two short years ago. They each make the case for how our jobs will change in 10 years. Are they going far enough? It will be interesting to see. Here are the ten trends:

  • high tech, high touch, high growth — Alex Altman says top grads will tack toward a variety of potentially lucrative positions that prize technological savvy and analytical aptitude
  • training managers to behave –Justin Fox says the Oath of Honor such as the one graduates of the Thunderbird School of Global Management recite is part of a broader rethinking of the balance between doing well and doing good that could reshape the economy and the workplace in coming years
  • the search for the next perk — John Curran says it's become distressingly clear that employees are increasingly on their own when it comes to retirement savings and health care
  • we're getting off the ladder — Laura Fitzpatrick says that companies are increasingly supporting more natural growth, letting employees wend their way upward like climbing vines, because creating a flexible workforce to meet staffing needs in a changing economy ensures that a company will still have legs when the market recovers
  • why boomers can't quit — Stephen Gandel says due to economics pressure, Boomers will try to hang on to their jobs en masse, this will present a challenge for younger workers ready to move up, however it could stimulate a crop of new companies and industries instead
  • women will rule business — Claire Shipman and Katty Kay say that the female management style, education levels, purchasing clout are already being used by pioneering women and insightful companies, to create a female-friendly working environment, in which the focus is on results, not on time spent in the office chair
  • it will pay to save the planet –Bryan Walsh says that although we won't be able to create a solar job for every unemployed autoworker, with climate change a real threat, shifting jobs from industries that harm the earth to ones that sustain it will become an economic imperative
  • when Gen X runs the show — Anne Fisher says will need to be adept at collaborative decision-making that might involve team members scattered around the world, from Beijing to Barcelona to Boston, whom the nominal leader of a given project may never have met in person (it works for me)
  • yes, we'll still make stuff — David von Drehle says the sweet spot for manufacturing workers in coming years is highly skilled workers creating high-value products in high-stakes industries
  • the last days of cubicle life — Seth Godin says most of the best jobs will be for people who manage (I'd say connect with) customers, who organize fans, who do digital community management

If these are the trends on what will change, it will be interesting to learn and discuss the role of technology and collaboration tools in how those changes will develop.

Who influences what

The first time I met Jim Collins at Fast Company Real Time in Phoenix, he talked about putting the right people on the bus. First who, then what, he said. And things would be encouraging if organizations did this consistently. They don't. Organized time is still the product of the post industrial era.

Ironically, new consulting firms in search of quick profitability, growth, and scale with social business are still grappling with the very issues they are looking to fix in the current enterprise environment:

  • a strong and clearly communicated strategic framework and methodology with built in measurement
  • operational excellence in execution and experience
  • product/service taxonomy that could use severe simplification to become profitable
  • a more decentralized and collaborative culture seeking to put minds at work vs. people in seats

In other words, we could use more talk about walking the walk. Change is harder to do than to talk about. The future of work is about connecting the stream with action — where technology and humanism meet.

I look forward to the conversation tonight.


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