learning to create the future of work

I recently wrote that when we look at the future of work, the loss of current jobs, and the effects of automation we should use a compass to guide us, not a list of what the jobs of the future may look like. These kinds of maps get dated too quickly. In preparing for this new world of work, policy makers and organizational leaders should look at how they can enhance self-determination for everyone: by fostering autonomy, competence, and relatedness. We are moving into an age of augmented work where much of the value we create is intangible, the knowledge we require to work is implicit, and most of this will be learned informally, outside the classroom.

How we design our organizations will be a critical factor in adapting to this type of work that is no longer standardized or routine. But the formal design is only one aspect of an organization. We need a mix of principles and models, underlined by an understanding of the nature of complex human systems where all people must be ethnographers of their own condition in order to make real progress.

“To create the organizations we crave, we must remove the barriers, and there are so many more barriers than just control-based hierarchy and bureaucracy. There is so much more between us and our dreams than just outdated organizational models and decision-making processes. New governance, management, and coordination models are an essential part of the puzzle, but we cannot pretend that they are enough. There is no new structure within which we can operate that will magically bring us the world we want to see. We have to try different strategies, see if they fit, and make adjustments within, around, and between us in order to find what we are looking for. New models promise a lot and rarely deliver. When this happens, we have to move forward—reinventing the reinventions, not reverting to the subtle tyranny of familiarity.

We will need new organizational models, new decision-making models, new personal practices, new mind-sets, new vocabularies, and new strategies in order to create the world we crave. We will need to practice deep listening, courageous self-reflection, constant learning, and resilient trust. We will also need to give ourselves a lot of anti-oppression training. As we do this, we need to make sure that we continue to deepen our understanding of why we are doing this. Is it efficiency? Is it democracy? Is it inclusion? Is it meaning? Is it purpose? Is it survival? Is it equity? Or is it something deeper? What does it look like? How do we know when we are getting closer? If we don’t get clear on our North Star, then we end up putting the same problems in new packaging, and patting ourselves on the back.” —NPQ 2018-01-09

Another key element of change towards more democratic, and hence more resilient and adaptive, organizations and governance systems is distributing real power. This is a fundamental aspect of the principle of wirearchy: “a dynamic two-way flow of power and authority, based on knowledge, trust, credibility and a focus on results, enabled by interconnected people and technology”.

“If we want to democratize the future, we have to do more than listen. We have to empower. This means that we have to intentionally and actively distribute the future faster, especially in areas where the destruction of old systems and industries have devastated the population. We need to get the emerging future into the hands of those who are afraid of it or have been disenfranchised because of it. We need to put a high priority on not only learning, but unlearning and relearning as well. We need to give people the tools to understand and create the future for themselves and their communities. And we need to define the future as much more than technological change, teaching the next generation the skills of sense-making, meshing, adaption, resilience and transformation.” —Frank Spencer

The best way to make progress is first taking control of our learning. We can choose with whom to connect in our own sense-making journeys. We can move beyond being dependent on the traditional sources of power and knowledge to create our own networks based on knowledge, trust, and credibility. This is the basic premise of personal knowledge mastery (PKM).

“Our competitive advantage … is how quickly we learn … is the power of our peer community … is how we participate within our teams … is how well we leverage cognition … is how well we share information … is the power of our questions … is equal to our curiosity.” —Jennifer Sertl

PKM is a unified framework of individually constructed enabling processes to help each of us make sense of our world, work more effectively, and contribute to society. The active practice of PKM can help increase connections, develop meaning, and improve autonomy for any profession, vocation, or life style.

“The more I am out there chatting to clients, the more I realise that your PKM approach is the number one critical skill set. Any way I look at it, all roads seem to end there. It is the foundation. That’s why I thought this is where they need to start – and not just the employees – everyone including the managers.” —Helen Blunden

All roads end, and begin, with learning. The discipline of PKM requires each of us to take control of our professional and personal development. Today, work is learning, and learning is the work, and will continue to be so.


2 Responses to “learning to create the future of work”

  1. Debbie Carlton

    Harold, useful article but just to say in second diagram there is a type – ‘share lesons learnt’


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