Fascinating topic, don’t you think? And here we are, still in 2013, and already thinking about what the workplace of the future would be like by 2020. Well, one thing for sure is that it won’t be anything like we have today or what we may have had over the course of the last 50 years. Even more, I am suspecting that over the course of time, if not happening already today, we are going to make a very healthy split between work and jobs. Because, you know, they are not the same, no matter what people keep telling you. They have never been the same. And, certainly, with the emergence of digital tools that split is even more natural and in full accordance with a new reality: work is you, you are the work.
So what is the future of You? What is the future of work then? It seems that lately there have been lots and lots of interesting and rather relevant insights shared across, i.e. blog posts, articles, mainstream news, insightful whitepapers and whatever else, shared across by folks who have embarked themselves into redefining how we should be looking at work from here onwards over the course of time and also from the perspective of how we are rethinking the role of jobs, even to the point of perhaps venturing whether it’s worth while quitting yours and move on to the next big adventure (Highly recommended and superb read by Irvin Wladawsky-Berger, by the way). Uncertainty will be there. Uncertainty is always there. But that’s perhaps a good thing, because it’s essentially what helps us progress further into the unknown while we keep rethinking what we will all want to be doing as work.
Long gone are the times where we were aiming for long term careers and their big aspirations, for loyalty to a specific business or company, for a long-term opportunity to have an impact over the course of decades. Long gone are the times where knowledge workers were aiming at fitting in within a working environment for which they were perhaps not ready for it, while carrying on their work, with very little motivation, waiting for the payslip at the end of the month. Hummm, well, maybe this one is not gone just yet. But perhaps it is a clear indication already as to why certain jobs need to be questioned and redefined in the context of whether they are still purposeful or meaningful altogether. After all, and this is what I keep telling people all around, we only have got one single life, so it is probably a fair game we all try to make the most out of it, don’t you think?
Lou Adler has also got a rather thought-provoking article on a similar topic under the suggesting heading of “There Are Only Four Jobs in the Whole World – Are You in the Right One?” where he proposes how those four jobs are the following ones: Producers, Improvers, Builders and Thinkers. Go ahead and read it through, as it will certainly be rather helpful in understanding what your current job may well be about and it will confirm whether you might be on the right one, or not. Interestingly enough, while I read it myself, I just couldn’t help thinking how in today’s more complex than ever working environment each and everyone of us may eventually be doing the four jobs at the same time depending on the context of the task at hand, which is essentially what keeps driving us all into achieving our goals: that purpose and meaning I mentioned above, along with the right context in such a hyperconnected, networked (business) world.
And to that effect, while I keep reflecting myself on the future of work, I thought I would point you to a recent article that my good friend Jemima Gibbons worked on over at “What will “work” look like in 2020?” where she gathered a good bunch of folks sharing their insights on how they see themselves the workplace of the future. Some pretty interesting insights with key concepts like Intrapreneurship and its impact behind the corporate firewall (By William Higham); or the redefinition of work from a physical space / office into a state of mind where work life integration play a rather key, paramount role (By Karen Mattison) towards sustainable growth; or how the convergence of cloud, mobile and social (Along with the “Internet of Things”) will inspire more contractual / freelance work helping organisations become more liquid, hybrid while knowledge workers become freer and more autonomous around their work, owning it and co-sharing that responsibility (By David Terrar); or how knowledge workers will no longer be talking about adoption of new technologies, but more a key concept that I have become rather fond of myself over time and which I find also rather descriptive in terms of where I feel the key is of how we redefine work, that is, how do we adapt to this new digital work environment to make the best out of it, as in how well do we adapt to change (By Helen Keegan).
Like I said, lots of great, relevant insights and plenty of key pointers that surely highlight where we may be heading to over the course of time. Jemima asked me as well whether I would be able to contribute with my ¢2 and, of course, I couldn’t reject such generous offer so I added a short paragraph that explains what’s been in my mind for a while in terms of what I sense the future of work would be like in the not so distant future … So I thought I would go ahead and finish off this article by taking the liberty of quoting it across:
“In the future, work will be more distributed and remote – technology means that people will be able to work from wherever they want to. Work processes will be driven by interactions from workers through networks and communities rather than traditional company hierarchies. Large enterprises will no longer need to exist, because of the nature of the hyper-connected and networked workforce. Trust between workers will be more essential than ever – and critical for success. People will find new meaning and purpose through building strong personal business relationships: the key objective for everyone will be sustainable growth.“
So what will “work” look like in 2020 for you? Care to venture and share a comment or two on what it may well be like? Perhaps in a few years we can come back to this blog post and see how accurate our perceptions were after all. Or not. Something tells me the journey is going to be just as fascinating, inspiring and refreshing as the final destination, if not more altogether! Why? Well, because for the first time in decades it will be us, knowledge (Web) workers, the ones who can choose what we would want it it to be.
And that’s a good thing. After all, work is us, we are the work.
Or, to put it in other words, automation of your social networking presence. That worrying topic has been in my mind for quite a while, and, lately, even more so, specially, seeing how plenty of people continue to automate, even further along, their online digital footprints with the argument, amongst several others, that they have got to do it, because they just can’t find the time anymore to make it happen in a natural, authentic, self-driven manner. Yes, it happens. Yes, it’s a topic that worries me, because we are then running the risk of commoditising our very own online presence(s). And what for? Is it worth it? Probably not. Have we forgotten that with social networking for business we are all in it for the long run? Versus just the quick win of a few hundred followers or a quick sell through that automated post? Where did we leave behind the social business transformation?
For a good couple of years this is a topic that has started to concern me more and more, since I have begun to notice how plenty of times when you start engaging through online social networking tools, specially, on the Social Web, you bump into a whole bunch of interesting posts with relevant links, only to respond back, with the hope of starting off, or following, a conversation, and then to find out that no-one is at the other end, after all. In fact, they have all left and they have just got bots / machines doing the work for them. Pretty much like we have been doing with email for a good few years. And just like we commoditised email back in the day, it’s starting to look like we are commoditising social networking for business along the very same lines.
Where did we go wrong? Why do we have to keep up with that constant urge towards busyness (and bursting online activity) vs. pause, reflection and adding relevant value where it may apply into the overall conversation? Haven’t we learned from the recent past? I mean, haven’t we learned that social networking tools are just not another marketing channel, but purely a conversation amongst peers on a common interest and with a strong urge to connect further along? Have we forgotten how for a conversation to take place out there in digital channels both parties need to be present and for real, like the authentic you and your thoughts, versus just another bot doing the work for you? And that if one of the two parties is not there, for whatever the reason, there is nothing wrong with that? It’s part of your overall digital footprint that we seem to keep forgetting about time and time again, but both providing value and being silent are two sides of the same coin, that is, you, that we all take and accept gladly. Thus why do we keep it up? It’s just unsustainable, rather insane and perhaps a bit tad disappointing that whenever you decide to participate in online conversations because you feel that people are there sharing along, you find out they left the building long while ago!
I am surely glad I am not the only one thinking about this relevant and important topic, specially, from the perspective that once we may have industrialised social networking I suspect it will be just too late to revert back. Mike Allton shares similar reflections on a rather interesting article under the suggestive heading of “How to Destroy Your Social Media Credibility through Automation“. An article that I can certainly recommend and which keeps reminding me as well how silly such automation can well be for a specific brand (And that includes your own personal brand for that matter) when you have got an automated digital presence and all of a sudden a global event (Specially, if it is an extreme negative) changes the whole game on what you have been trying to share out there, and portrait, when you are gone, but that everyone else can see the true, harsh reality: it’s no longer the authentic you and your messages, but those of a bot which schedules posts to show up on whatever the frequency.
Now, this has also been a topic that has been in my mind over the last few weeks, specially, when I moved into a new job inside IBM that has provoked a shift of focus from external interactions into internal ones mainly. During all of this time I have been thinking hard about what I would want to do, whether I would want to automate part of my digital external footprint, or just disappear into thin air with that new focus area of behind the firewall interactions. It’s not an easy one, for sure, because in most cases people expect you to be out there, and, if you aren’t, things aren’t going to be the same anymore. It’s starting to look like if you are not out there, online, sharing along, whatever that may well be, you are no longer worth it, because you won’t be showing up in their streams as often as you are doing nowadays. Have you ever felt that feeling of abandonment? It will come. In fact, that’s the main reason why I feel most knowledge workers have automated their own online social media presences; that is, to show they are still there, even just for the sake of it (never mind the value), even though they are not.
Is that what I want to do with my own digital footprint? To sacrifice it and automate it in such a way that whenever I would share something it would no longer be me, the real me? I know how this issue may not concern plenty of people out there about their own digital footprint, but it does concern me. Last thing that I would want to do is to lose that authenticity and honesty in terms of being you behind your online digital tools’ presence. I am actually thinking that at that point, I may as well just go dormant and stop sharing altogether.
Thus while reflecting further along on this topic, I actually realised that I may not need to do anything that drastic altogether or, even, automate my way out of being an active 2.0 practitioner, specially, in the Social Web. And in this particular case it’s interesting to see how the clue was provided to me by one particular social software tool that most folks still keep being rather keen on terminating it. Yes, of course, I am talking about blogging. I am talking about how blogging helps every knowledge worker out there to realise that in terms of social networking for business, we are all in it for the long run! And, as such, it’s ok, it’s actually, advisable, to take time off. To go for periods of silence where things happen around you, but that people still know you are there, even if remote. To go for that relatively short, or long, hiatus, where things take another course, where the focus shifts elsewhere because the job requires it to a certain extent.
The important thing is to always come back. To help people understand that while you may have been quiet sharing along those insights, opinions, conversations and what not, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are not reading or learning from them, along the way as a lurker. That’s what blogging is wonderful about. It allows you to have pause, to reflect on what really matters, and to shape up your own online digital footprint sharing what you feel provides the most business value in your interactions. Blogging lives on a different pace altogether and while this year, later on in December, I will be celebrating my 10th year blogging anniversary, I guess I still feel I’m just learning so much from that writing experience of one’s opinions and reflections that there is always something new out there.
So much so that I am sure you may have noticed how I have become a little bit quieter, more than usual, in one of my Big Three social networking tools for business: Twitter, while I have kept up with the online interactions and exchange for the other two (IBM Connections and Google Plus). The blog is different, because it’s an integral part of me, it’s an extension of my brain, my thoughts, my experiences, my know-how, my digital self-being and, as such, it will always be there. However, just like some times in the recent past, I may take a few days off from blogging, I know I’ll always be coming back to it. And I am starting to think that this may well be the very same approach I will adopt for other social networking tools, where I will become a whole lot more focused, purposeful and meaningful on how I interact thinking that while keeping up a presence out there may well be rather good, I think I am going in for the long run, for sharing in smaller portions part of what’s in my mind at the time, but ensuring that it is me the one sharing it and not whatever the bot in place.
That’s part of the dialogue, the authenticity, and the brutal honesty to share across that while I am fully aware I will not be able to keep up with the same pace of interactions held online, externally, outside the firewall, like I have been doing in the last few years, it doesn’t necessarily mean that people can’t no longer find me. I’m there. I will be there. It’s just that I am thinking I’ll be focusing more on pausing, reading and reflecting on what other folks share across, and keep quiet myself unless I have got something really useful and valuable to share out there.
I guess you could call it an attempt to redefine your own online digital footprint and personal brand, when things at work take a radical shift towards behind the firewall interactions. Perhaps that’s indeed what I have been thinking about. And in terms of the choice I would go for that I feel would represent me better I am thinking that I prefer to go silent and learn from others reading along than to automate an online presence that I know won’t be fair to anyone out there anymore, including me, since you are probably going to expect me and yet I won’t be there. Well, I will be. But in a different shape. I will be reacting, I will be conversing and participating, but with pause, challenging myself on how I can keep up adding value, versus adding unnecessary noise and pollution to already existing digital channels that I am sure we all have been having enough with lately.
Thus if you see me going quiet for a relative period of time, don’t worry, I am not gone, I am not hiding, I am not giving up on my external social presence just like that. I am just listening and learning, from the lurker side of things, knowing that what I’m after is having that opportunity to continue build and nurture those personal online business relationships, but without industrialising it all, nevertheless still keeping up with that same authenticity, openness, transparency and engagement that I always thought was the best part of social networking tools. It’s just that this time around it’s becoming a whole lot more focused and on target of what I would want to do: keeping up with the learning curve of the networks I am part of by amplifying what I think provides value vs. just adding more unnecessary irrelevancy. I think I’m going to spare you all having to go through that. Something tells me that, in the long term, we will all be much better off …
What do you think? Think automation of your own online digital presence has had a significant impact that you would want to share along with us? Has it helped you? Has it damaged the health and trust of your social networks? I would love to learn more what you think in the comments, please… Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences. As usual, they are *greatly* appreciated.
Summer time is usually one of the busiest times of the year for me in terms of extra curricular work related activities. I know that this may sound a bit weird, but it’s actually rather accurate. While most folks keep enjoying their summer vacation, or a relatively quieter time anyway, my busyness increases a notch or two! And it’s actually quite fine. I have been enjoying it for a good few years already, more than anything else, because of a particular activity that helps me advance forward and take a good peek into what the workplace of the future would be like in the next 10 to 15 years, where I am hoping I’ll still be employed by then. And what activity would that one be? -you may be wondering, right? Well, engaging with the next breed of Leaders: (young) students working through their PhDs thesis on Social Business or Org. Change Management, amongst several others subjects…
Indeed, it all started around 2006 and 2007 when all of a sudden I began to notice how plenty of PhD students were contacting me, through whatever the means, asking for help, advice, coaching, interviews and what not, because of the research they were doing around Social Business. Most of them found me through Google.com (Yes, I know, I am the one who doesn’t bite other people!), mainly landing into this blog. Before I knew it, I was approached by them asking me whether I would be willing to help them out with their PhD thesis. And that continued to repeat itself over the course of the years.
In fact, and most folks may not know this, but one of the sources of inspiration as to why I kicked off the Life Without eMail movement, over 5 years ago, was eventually from my interactions with those younger generations and how they live AND work through a different set of collaboration and knowledge sharing tools. Never mind their different mindset and behaviours. Yes, I know what you are going to say… I, too, don’t believe much on the digital divide or the generations divide, however, they do have something special in terms of how they get work done. For instance, throughout all of these years I have been working with hundreds of students I never, ever, exchanged a single email with them and yet not only did we get work done, but for some of them, those who decided to come and join IBM afterwards, they eventually did so and they are now my colleagues. And very soon, I am 100% certain of that, they might be rather my boss, my executive or, who knows, even my next CEO.
I know that in times where we are busier than ever at work, all of us for that matter, where time and work pressures are massive for everyone and where we are asked to keep delivering more and more with less and less, it’s surprising for most folks why I keep saying Yes! to that activity when in reality most knowledge workers out there in the corporate world would kindly decline helping out with the argument they are just too busy. Goodness, they don’t know it just yet, but right there, they are closing down the door to find out plenty more what the workplace of the future is going to be like. Starting today.
Even more, they are closing down the door to find out what their next leaders would be like for their own work, how they are going to re-define the workplace through those social technologies, networks and communities, and with one particularly interesting aspect, that those potential new leaders who live and thrive on building strong personal trustworthy relationships, when they get there they usually tend to remember who helped them out when they were starting up and who didn’t. Yes, that’s how the hyperconnected, networked business world will start operating in the near future, if not today already altogether.
Are you ready? I surely hope so, because if there is anything that I have learned throughout the years interacting with those younger generations, both inside and outside of IBM, is that they are not going to wait. Not for you, not for me. Not for everyone else for that matter. It’s how they live. It’s how they operate. And that’s what I really find fascinating, because it’s through those networked interactions that one gets to learn how if you decide to be part of the pack, you are more than welcome. If you decide instead to do your own thing, that’s fine, they will move on without you. It’s just like when senior subject matter experts decide to cling together to their ivory tower related mantra of “Knowledge is power” and they refuse to share their expertise. I keep telling them how long would you think it’s going to take a group of younger folks to recreate their knowledge just good enough to get by and rebuild from there? It’s rather interesting how these wonderfully different working styles collide and clash with one another in an attempt to come up with something better, because there is always something better.
Thus here we go with the question again. Do you think you are ready to face that side of the corporate knowledge workforce, that I read somewhere that by 2020 they will be about 75% of the active working population? Yes, 75%. Well, if not, just yet, allow me to share a couple of resources that I am sure you will find rather interesting at best. The first one is this blog post by Frederic Gonzalo under the suggestive title “Social Media Defined by Kids” where he reflects on a short video clip where a bunch of young kids (That generation that will probably be part of the active workplace between 2020 and 2025 approx.) talks about what they themselves understand about Social Media. Very nice, witty, smart, fun, and insightful video on its own:
Did you notice the remark about email? If not, watch it again; it’s worth it. Yes, indeed, that’s the kind of knowledge workforce that’s just already entering the workplace already today, except that by the time they themselves join the acceleration and pace of the adaptation to social technologies will probably be complete. Vast majority of those generations and working styles will have adapted by then. The workplace will be ready for them by them.
In the mean time though, let me share with you all one other resource that I think would fit in perfectly in terms of where we are today within the corporate world, in terms of having multiple generations and working styles at play. It’s a presentation put together by my good friend Professor Paul Jones who I had the great pleasure of co-sharing the remote stage (Along with Robert Shaw from ATOS) through a webinar, organised by IORG, where we talked about Information Overload and what it is like living in a world without email. I would encourage you all to take a look into slides #9 and #10 to get a taste of what’s coming (If not already there!) and, even better, if you can spare 51 minutes you can actually go through the entire recording of the event, which I am going to embed over here, in case you may want to hit Play right away (See embedded code at the end of this blog entry):
If you would just want to jump ahead and listen to Paul himself delivering those slides that he used, fast forward to minute 25, 16 seconds, and watch it through from there onwards. Very inspiring to see how the very same trends that the world of Academia are experiencing are also starting to become more palpable within the corporate world. That’s what I meant earlier on about the impact of social networking tools for business along with the younger generations and, perhaps, why I would want to add a final piece of advice for knowledge workers out there: next time a PhD student approaches you to help them with their thesis, remember that very very soon they may end up being your boss, your executive, or, even your new CEO.
Thus choose wisely
[Oh, and if you would want to read through another interesting discussion on a similar topic, i.e. younger generations and their education in today's more complex world than ever, have a look into "I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate"]