Engaged for work

There is a real change in how work is getting done today. It’s not just factory workers but many professionals whose work will be automated by software and robots.

Procedural work will keep getting outsourced to the lowest cost of labour. The industrial world deskilled work to its component parts, and today these parts continue to get automated or crowd-sourced. Traditional jobs will not come back.

So how will anyone be able to make a living? Get creative. Creative work cannot be automated. “Focus on the human factor,” says futurist Gerd Leonhard, “If our work – and our output – is robotic we will soon be surpassed by intelligent software agents and machines.” Human creative work is not just art, design, and the like, but includes making valuable things for a specific context, need, or market. The internet makes finding these markets much easier.

So how can anyone learn and prepare for this world of work? We know that training works well to learn a defined skill, such as how to drive a car. You can also train for a field, such as carpentry. But training does little for creativity.

First of all, learn real skills, not just how to make it in an organization. Artists first learn the skills of their field. Learn how to code, bake, or some other defined skill. Master it, and then start breaking the rules. This is the Picasso approach. “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” [attributed].

At the same time, learn how to cooperate in networks. Start right now in engaging in diverse professional learning networks. Put yourself out there, for in this new world of work, you are only as good as your network.

Cleric-Knight-WorkmanThink of yourself as a freelancer for life and always nurture your networks, no matter what. Avoid getting lulled into a false sense of security. To stay engaged, take control of your professional development. The alternative is rather feudal.

5 Responses to “Engaged for work”

  1. Rick Ladd

    Excellent advice, Harold. I always felt my approach to work (learning how the organization I was at did it first, then setting about to do it better) served me, my colleagues, and the enterprise well. What is happening today seems to validate that method. Doing so ensures we take advantage of those who have gone before us, which is a major tenet of knowledge management, and puts us in position to discover those methods which will make the job more efficient and – most importantly – more effective.

  2. Kandy Woodfield

    Totally agree Harold, you’ve hit the nail on the head, you have to learn to unlearn, apply yourself to challenge and never count on things staying the same, great post.

  3. John Maloney


    Recall, there are still major vestiges of the cenobitic monastic tradition of the Middle Ages in today’s ‘modern’ workplace. Like today’s enterprise, monks (employees) strained to attain conformity. As today, bishops (managers) were chosen (promoted) from the ranks of monks for their ability to conform (not perform).

    The physical plant of the monastery (office) was designed to facilitate isolated, individual information tasks (transactions). There was a strict vow-of-silence (Stop talking! Get back to ‘work’.).

    Like the monks, simple meals are taken alone, again, in silence, at long tables (corporate cafeteria.) In many organizations and the monastic tradition, creativity was/is a liability, certainly not an asset.



    IMO, creativity is first major human rights battle of the 21st Century. Be prepared to fight!


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