One of my favourite topics du jour is that one of the Future of Work and, more specifically, how the world of Social Networking is helping redefine it by provoking one of the most profound business transformations we have lived through in our entire history. But then again work, per se, is a whole lot more than just in a business context. Work keeps morphing at a rather rampant and unstoppable pace moving from being that physical space where things happen to become nowadays a state of mind. Work happens wherever you are, in a specific, unique and given context, with the tools you have at your disposal (and the people you may have around you to help you get it done). We are no longer restricted to the traditional office, nor a fixed top-down driven hierarchical team with a specific set of goals. We probably have got nowadays much better collaboration and knowledge sharing tools than ever before, allowing work to flow versus stagnate thanks to those unstoppable open knowledge flows amongst knowledge workers, whether inside or outside of the firewall, participating in meaningful conversations with customers, business partners, competitors, thought leaders, etc. etc. The traditional concept of the workplace is now a thing of the past. And about a good time, too! We are work. Work is us.
Later on next month, on September 21st, I will be participating, as one of the speakers, at the superb Joint Alumni Conference (a.k.a. JAC 2012) event that will be taking place in Zurich and my dissertation is going to be around this very same topic, i.e. The Future of Work. Over in Google Plus I have been having an exhilarating and rather inspiring conversation with a few folks, that I would love to invite you all to check it out, drop by and leave a comment, or two, if you wish to as well (Will be using that thread live on stage!), on what I will be covering on this very same topic and while doing plenty of research on stuff that I would want to talk about I bumped into another G+ Post from my good friend Jim Hays that clearly helps redefine our traditional concept of work. And how we may need to start shifting gears and make a mental switch from what we have considered, traditionally, as work, and what lies ahead for all of us, specially, in the current turmoil and financial econoclypse we have been going through in the last few years.
I think I would just go ahead and take the liberty of embedding the screen shot over here that Jim re-shared, so you can see what I mean with that redefinition of the state of work:
“If you’re unemployed it’s not because there isn’t any work – Just look around: a housing shortage, crime, pollution; we need better schools and parks. Whatever our needs, they all require work. And as long as we have unsatisfied needs, there is work to be done. So ask yourself, what kind of world has work, but no jobs. It’s a world where work is not related to satisfying our needs, a world where work is only related to satisfying the profit needs of business. This country was not built by the huge corporations or government bureaucracies. It was built by people who work. And, it is working people who should control the work to be done. Yet, as long as employment is tied to somebody else’s profits, the work won’t get done.“
I am not sure what you would think about such brilliant and incredibly provocative quote, but the Hippie 2.0 side of me keeps telling me that we are probably starting to witness an unprecedented and unique opportunity to go through a massive change on how we view work and how the business world needs to start readjusting to a new reality. A new reality where if it is not an integral part of helping improve the well-being of our societies, of our qualified workers, pretty soon we are going to reach that point where we may not have those workers anymore, not even qualified ones. Which certainly helps me get reminded about a quote that I recently blogged about by Don Tapscott that I think clearly defines the main big challenge ahead for the business / corporate world of the 21st century, very much along the lines of adapt to the new reality or die in the attempt:
“Business can’t succeed in a world that’s failing“
Indeed, I do strongly believe that the corporate world has been, long enough, perhaps for far too long!, totally disengaged with (knowledge) workers AND their societies. That lack of outer meaning, focus and purpose out of the short term, individualistic corporate profit (Driven by power, politics and greed, mostly) is soon reaching an end-point, if not already, whereby if businesses would want to survive in the 21st century they can no longer thrive in isolation, but must find their way to embrace and apply that so-called concept of corporate social responsibility, because otherwise knowledge workers will find a way to continue thriving without paying too much attention to the traditional business world environment.
Remember that myth of employee engagement? Well, thanks to social computing, and social networking tools, whether internal or external, we now have got a huge opportunity to revert that myth back, embed business back into society, our collective society, and continue through that learning process of redefining work to make it more human, democratised, accessible, universal, worthy, just and meaningful not only for those people who are actively working, but for everyone else altogether, as part of a single, unique ecosystem: society as a whole.
Exciting times, indeed, to live through! However, let’s just not waste that opportunity (again). We may not have another one coming up soon enough… and, if anything, let’s not forget that we, the workers, are the ones redefining the workplace of the future. Let’s ensure we get it right this time around with the little help and good effort from social software. We all are capable of wonderful things, we all know that. We just need to show it and demonstrate it. If we have been looking for a purpose for Living Social, I think this is our chance. We all know what’s the alternative, and how ugly it is, so it’s probably a good time to make a stand and start owning and take a bit more responsibility of our work. After all, it’s perhaps our only way to make this world a better place, not just for a few, but for everyone else altogether for that matter…