Work for the Future

With the dawning of the digital revolution, everything about work is in transition. Where we work is no longer location specific. How we work is flexible and outcome oriented. Our work itself is less rote and more fluid. With all the changes comes uncertainty and many are worried about the progression of automation and artificial intelligence. But technology historically creates more jobs than it destroys. Our greatest  opportunity is now something uniquely human: the ability to creatively combine two or more ideas to generate new concepts and perspectives.

The factory model of employees commuting to a common physical location is proving to be neither efficient or fulfilling. Not only are we wasting billions of dollars in lost productivity during our commute, most offices are designed for control and management, not for the exchange of ideas and innovation.

How we work is at a turning point and cutting edge companies are moving to either an outcome based model with limited physical oversight or an activity based work system. In an activity based model, instead of an assigned location for every person, there is an assigned location for each type of work activity. The right ratios vary depending on the type of work. Business development and consulting require more collaboration and socializing while an artist or an accountant may need to spend the vast majority of their time in a focused work mode. 

A big weakness in these new models is they don't allow for the serendipitous interaction so key to innovation. When working remotely, you are less likely to interact with someone outside of your normal group or that you didn't seek out. The unexpected encounter that can spark a new idea and leads to a new innovation is significantly less likely to happen over a Slack channel than at the water cooler or over happy hour. It's the combination and refinement of ideas that helps you and your company be unique. 

So, the time you are together as a team becomes that much more critical. The typical top down quarterly reviews are less relevant to personal interaction while creativity and collaboration should dominate your time together. Your team must have both the time and place to brainstorm and develop new ideas. While our option to work how and where we want gives us new found freedom, our best work happens by mindfully coming together to combine and create ideas that can't be machine replicated.


Post by Trent Sultemeier