I Have Seen the Future of Work

The design of work and its changing nature is an amazing case study in both advances innovation and the continued resistance to innovation.

I have spent the past quarter century thinking, researching, and advising executives about THE FUTURE OF WORKNo one can accurately predict the future. But if we scan key trends, we get a clear picture of what we need to prepare for. 

Here’s a small sampling of great trend-trackers you should check out:
Changing the World of Work (free ebook)
Work Hackers (Google community)
One piece in one of those sources (ebook), perfectly synthesizes…

4 Crucial Trends You Need to Know
The black type are the words of Carrie Basham Young, a GenYer who consults with companies on their social networking strategies. Her words (edited for space) take the form of a “Dear Leader” letter. The mustard type that follows is a summary of how those ideas are also indicators for a much larger trend.
Give me an “F.” Four of them, actually.
1. Let Me Fail. Instead of prescribing the right way to accomplish a project, give me data, an intended outcome, and an open ear for questions. I need to fail to find the right answers. I need to encounter resistance. I need to stumble and admit defeat, and I need you to collaborate on a solution when I’m lost. Your confidence in me to fail and then rebound will build my trust in you.

FUTURE OF WORK TREND: I have seen the biggest battle for the future of work. It’s not about the next big thing. It’s about failure. Those companies and leaders who have built cultures of “failing forward” and rewarding “failing fast” and “iterate, iterate, iterate” are already embracing the future. Those that work overtime to mitigate all risks and manage for no failures are battling to stay in the past.

2. Make Me Figure It Out. Make me treat my job as a business, where I am the CEO and ultimately responsible. Force me to make the tough decisions while also doing the dirty work. If I need resources that you can’t provide, let me seek them out and negotiate. Ownership of the process and execution will give me pride in the outcome, engaging me as I feel the satisfaction of independent accomplishment.
FUTURE OF WORK TREND: I have seen the future of empowerment. It’s treating employees more like entrepreneurs. Giving them the freedom to figure things out, but ALSO ramping up personal accountability for results. No place to hide! It’s gonna be a very bumpy ride for laggards!

3. Give Me Freedom. I do need structure. But once I’ve proven my ability to assimilate into the basic expectations of corporate life, give me the freedom to work independently. Let me choose my tools, where I work, and how I allocate my time. Once I have earned your trust, I will thrive with the freedom to balance my priorities.
FUTURE OF WORK TREND: I have seen the future of work and the next battle for freedom will be around My Work My Way. (…”Let me choose my tools”…) Corp IT has to get a lot more user-centered…Fast!
(For more, see Corp IT: Duh! Finally?
4. Encourage Me to Fight. Push me to stand my ground in the face of opposition, and back me up when I’m close to falling. It is in these enterprise email and conference call battles where I’ll learn to navigate our complexity. Imparting the nuances of our culture and the knowledge of our informal social network are the most powerful weapons you can give me.
FUTURE OF WORK TREND: I have seen the future of work and the winners will not only move to greater meritocracy (where the value of the idea is all that matters), but where those cultures also train and develop and support their teammates to be able to advocate for those ideas. Meritocracy is wasted if only the most skilled or loudest voice wins.
(For more, see Innovation Through a New Lens)

Want the data behind these and other trends?
 Ayelet Baron’s slides: Are You Ready for the Future of Work?
Work 2.0: Ten-Year Report

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