“Post-industrial work is learning. Work is figuring out how to define and solve a particular problem and then scaling up the solution in a reflective and iterative way – with technology and alongside other people.”
“The future of work has to be based on willing participation by all parties, and the ability of all parties to protect their interests by contractual means.” —Esko Kilpi
This week I had the privilege of co-presenting a session on the future of work and the role of learning to the EMBA students at the Berlin School of Creative Leadership. Esko Kilpi told a story of visiting an Amazon warehouse and how tubes of toothpaste would arrive in a large crate and then individual tubes would be placed randomly throughout the warehouse, wherever there was room. Using RFID, the computer system knew where each tube was located. This random network of objects, instead of all similar types being grouped together, reduced order fulfilment time by about 70%. Esko explained that random networks are actually more effective at making connections. This reminded me of Dave Weinberger’s book, Everything is Miscellaneous.
I began to consider if it was possible to create an organization in the same way. Could you hire a group of random people, all with at least some of the attributes that the organization needs to get work done, without giving an individual a specific job title or role? These attributes would include, but not be limited to, skills, experience, interests, and aptitudes. Thinking about this reminded me of Mark Federman’s Valence Theory, where each person has a variety of economic, social-psychological, identity, knowledge, and ecological attributes, and all of these influence how we work and learn together. Once everyone is identified in the system with a variety of attributes, could some form of artificial intelligence then be used to arrange work [AKA Management] through smart contracts that were understandable, transparent, and acceptable to those doing the work?
Such an organization would be designed from the ground-up for constant small scale reorganization, getting rid of the need for periodic massive and disruptive reorganization. It would be based on the principle of temporary, negotiated hierarchies, which I believe makes for an organization better-suited to deal with complex problems. This random organization would be able to hack uncertainty, hedge risks, and learn continuously.