The Future of Work

A multitude of forces are impinging on the world of work, all of them calling for an artistic, thoughtful, sensitive and playful response at the individual, group organizational and societal levels.  Here’s a very brief catalog of the changes afoot:
  • Like a mighty river carving a canyon out of stone, technology is eliminating the traditional workplace, moving faster in some industries than others, but always insistently and pitilessly pushing  for change. Technologically mediated distributed work systems which connect people around the globe are becoming the norm rather than the exception.  Breakthroughs in broadband video will accelerate this trend a world of work that grounded in both virtual and physical reality.
  • Increasing levels of education and productivity in Asia , in particular, are expanding the scope of the information-based workforce and the size of world markets.  Americans are legitimately anxious about their jobs migrating to “cheap” labor markets, but, over time and with numerous modifications, world economic conditions driven by free trade will benefit US residents too as they become, increasingly, employed by organizations headquartered in China, India, Japan, Europe and elsewhere.  Buicks may not be selling in Chicago , but they are status symbols in Beijing today.
  • Globalization also means integration of diverse races, cultures, creeds and perspectives into the workforce in ways that literally boggle the mind:  A rabbi and a devout Muslim tour the US as a comedy act!  One hundred and seventeen languages are spoken in San Francisco , and all of these people are working together.  Well over a billion people worldwide are “squatters” with no rights to the property they occupy, yet many hold jobs, influence social policy. Some are millionaires.  To paraphrase Dylan (again), “Something’s happening here/And we don’t know what it is/Do we, Mr. or  Ms. Jones?” 
  • People are living longer, working later in life and, in many cases, loving it!  Medical advances interacting with a more informed public are increasing life expectancies across the First World .  The Bible’s “Three score and ten” may soon become “five score and more!”  How will the organizational work place respond to the presence of necessary octogenarian and nonagenarian workers?  What about the tensions between older workers and younger ones?
  • Insecurity is rising worldwide.  Islamic extremism represents a threat to the world order, but there are many other terrifying forces at work as well, e.g., new, aggressive and chaotic viruses.  The workplace and the workforce are very sensitive to disorder. (9/11 threw the US economy into a tailspin.)  Those who truly want to understand the Future of Work will learn to take the “planned accidents” (Ian Mitroff’s phrase) of terrorists, hackers and dissidents seriously. 

Art of the Future has expertise in a range of the dimensions affecting the Future of Work.  While we are constantly studying and writing about these developments, we are not wedded to any particular view of what the future holds.  We are aware of inevitable dynamics such as those described above, but we also know that many of these same dynamics are setting countervailing trends in motion that could make either positive or disconcerting outcomes posssible.

Our Future of Work services to clients include:

1.    Constructing Future of Work scenarios specific to your organization and its particular industry/context.
Regardless of your industry or area of activity, Art of the Future can help you understand more about your future and what needs to be done about it.  Our scenario approaches will identify the weak and strong signals you’re receiving about the forces affecting work and the workplace in your organization.  You’ll learn how to transmit your scenario-driven insights to opinion leaders throughout your enterprise to unite everyone behind intentional options.  We’ll work with you to track information about unfolding events and turn them into strategic insights. 

2.   Working with you to recruit a top notch Future of Work scanning team. 
Futurism is everyone’s second profession.  All of us think about the future and know more about the future than we realize, let alone discuss with others.  Art of the Future’s specialists will help your organization identify members/employees/people who are already talented at scanning information sources like the Internet, trade publications, government publications, and television to identify existing and emerging trends relevant to the Future of Work in your field.  Your scanning team’s insights will put you ahead of your competition.  Using structured techniques, your organization will learn to think about things that others will wish they had thought about.  Furthermore, the better an internal team gets at doing this work, the less you’ll need us!  We want you to be able to do what we can do.

3.   Connecting your organization to the Future of Work community. 
Art of the Future is associated with a number of other professionals who are focused on the emergence of new trends affecting work and the workplace.  Art of the Future will help you become a sophisticated consumer of expert information, tying what you do to what you’ve learned.

4.     Applying our Future of Work to Structural Dynamics. 
Art of the Future has carefully crafted a set of Future of Work scenarios that we are eager to discuss.  Like all scenarios, they aren’t “truth,” but they are “robust,” i.e., you can see the seeds of these scenarios in reality today and they pull together a lot of disparate information into distinguishable patterns. Structural dynamics lie at the heart of this set of scenarios.  Structural dynamics integrate futurism with systems thinking.  Structural dynamics are like a cuisinart for data:  pump various sorts of information in to an elegant structural dynamics model, and all sorts of variations on a  theme will come out the other end of the analysis.  Understanding our Future of Work Structural dynamics and the scenarios that go with it will put your real estate strategy, your recruitment strategy, your training and education strategy, your lobbying strategy and your alliance building strategy out in front…and that’s just for starters. 

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