The Future Of Work

 

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Are you still working in a company where everyone comes into the same office, Monday to Friday, generally from 9-5? Does your CEO frown on telecommuting or outsourcing? Are you clinging to outmoded ways of working, since its what you’ve always done?

Back in 2002, I read a book called “Free Agent Nation” by Dan Pink. In this book, he predicted that the typical corporate job would disappear over time and that in its stead, everyone would become an independent contractor who would work for themselves. There was no more conception of working for a company as an employee – everyone would contract for everything and everyone would likely work multiple jobs for multiple employers for the same time.

In essence, everyone would become a “parallel entrepreneur” working for companies that would loosely form for the duration of the creation of a product, them disband once the product was created. Sure, there would still be some people left on the project to support the product ongoing, but those resources would only need to be called on if required. The concept of a monolithic corporate entity would disappear.

In a sense, its very similar to the model which Hollywood uses today in order to make films – a film is green lighted by a producer, this producer creates a company just for the film, then uses that company to raise funds, hire all of the staff required (including the actors) and then once the film is completed, everyone disbands. Everyone on the film is an independent contractor – no one is actually employed by the company in the typical corporate way.

This model is now stretching into other worlds. In fact, there are plenty of companies just like this now – they form when an entrepreneur gets an idea for a business, raises funding, then hires a number of contractors in order to realize this vision. Then if the product is successful, they can hire the contractors full time, or they just stay that way, leaving them free to pursue multiple projects at the same time.

A number of factors have come into play in order to realize this vision: the latest recession erased a number of corporate jobs. At the same time, sites like elance, odesk and more recently fiverr have provided marketplaces where those displaced by the recession have been able to find work. In fact, some people have found much greater personal success, both financially and in quality of life, by moving their skills to marketplaces like this. At the same time, the improvement of internet speeds and access to most every country in the world, and the increasing levels of education available to anyone, anywhere, anytime, has increased the skill sets of people generally.

These trends are global – no matter where you are in the world, you can work from anywhere, for anyone, at anytime, and the reach of the internet and these marketplaces are facilitating it.

The future of work is loosely connected atomic units of individuals who come together for projects, then disband when required. This gives people more autonomy over both their work and personal lives, not to mention the ability to locate anywhere in the world. With the ability to locate in lower cost locations around the world, work will travel to where the cost is the lowest and the quality is the highest. Additionally, with the ability to tie together teams of geographically distributed individuals, using agile development methodologies, work can continue around the clock, resulting in a faster time to market.

So are you sitting in front of your computer, working on multiple projects, for multiple clients, being able to take a break mostly whenever you like, and you’ve never met anyone you work with on a regular basis in person? Or are you using globally disbursed remote workers to rapidly develop, deploy and support your products?

If so, congrats – you’re already ahead of the curve. Welcome to the world of tomorrow!

Photo Credit – Giorgio Montersino

 

Does Hyperpersonalization Impede Innovation?

 

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I was at a conference the other day about the future of the enterprise. Of course, my crazy futurist side kept on talking about how the enterprise itself is an outmoded concept of work, and in the not too distant future, all types of work will be carried out by more loosely connected individuals, who come together for a project, then disband. But that’s a topic for another post.

One of the speakers at the panel prior to mine mentioned something about hyperpersonalization – which of course is completely on its way – with more and more data collected about what one does from every source, from your actions on your laptop, smartphone, fitness wearables, Apple Watch, and various internet of things devices, like your Nest thermostats and such, being able to determine an exact profile of your needs and wants at any given point in time, it wont be long before we know that cat pictures in your Facebook feed in the morning make you more likely to buy things rather than dog pictures. Our feeds from all sources (although if you think about it, our connections to the internet have really been constrained to only a few sites – Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc) will provide us a never ending stream of stuff completely personalized not only to our personality, but also to the time of day and the place we are at.

Unfortunately, in this world, there will be no room for surprise. You will rarely get anything new fed to you, or anything which pushes the boundaries of your experience, lest you get uncomfortable. And that is the last thing they want.

Back when I worked at Yahoo, I remember the human curators at Yahoo! Music who came up with playlists in specific genres purposely throwing in random tracks which pushed the listener slightly out of their comfort zone, so that they can experience something new – not radical, but new. But nowadays, we think that something is wrong with our feeds when we get something weird and jarring in it. Like a rabid liberal or conservative, we don’t like hearing about things we disagree with. And the feeds reflect that, giving us the safe pablum.

Unfortunately, if you ask me, this chokes off innovation. How can you innovate if you are lying in a safe cocoon of content, never venturing out – never challenging yourself and your world view. Where is the surprise – the little shock that makes you think? In a hyperpersonalized world, it will be gone.

So as my challenge to you – if you want to innovate – break out of the mainstream websites. Stop using Facebook and surf randomly around the internet. Search Google but go down to the 10th+ page, and roam around in there.

Stop being fed. Feed yourself for a change. You’ll never know what innovation you’ll find.

Photo Credit – Sherman Geronimo-Tan / Flickr