Adobe Digital Dialogue

The Future of Work: Less is More

The way mar­keters work cur­rent­ly sits on the verge of enor­mous change. Like a tidal wave crest­ing over the hori­zon, there’s no escap­ing the inevitable, but unlike the tidal wave, there’s no need to pan­ic. At DAZE Syd­ney 2016, we will be explor­ing how the cor­rect fore­sight and prepa­ra­tion will enable us to embrace this change, work­ing smarter and pos­si­bly liv­ing hap­pi­er as a result.

It seems plain that we should be pre­pared for a world where a con­sid­er­able increase in flex­i­bil­i­ty and vari­abil­i­ty of place, type, rhythm and style of work­ing will become nor­malised. This will come from a tran­si­tion from high­ly struc­tured hier­ar­chies, which emerged for com­mand and con­trol of phys­i­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing, to one where struc­tures are much more flu­id, and depend pri­mar­i­ly on influ­ence and capa­bil­i­ty.

While bil­lions of peo­ple cer­tain­ly still work in the often unfor­giv­ing phys­i­cal­i­ty of the man­u­fac­tur­ing era, the infor­ma­tion econ­o­my runs in par­al­lel, rewards ideas and cre­ativ­i­ty, and is rarely bor­ing. There­fore, if the future needs less in terms of organ­is­ing struc­tures, then greater auton­o­my is pos­si­ble, and that’s clear­ly cor­re­lat­ed with increased pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and hap­pi­ness.

With this new approach, get­ting things done will require small, mul­ti-skilled teams that are able to work togeth­er with lit­tle notice and high inten­si­ty for short peri­ods. Work­ing under these con­di­tions will require high lev­els of self-start­ing, strong EQ to form viable rela­tion­ships (both in form­ing such teams, and par­tic­i­pat­ing in them), all in addi­tion to the skills actu­al­ly required for the work.

Tra­di­tion­al struc­tures of hier­ar­chy will strug­gle with this – they are not usu­al­ly agile enough to cope with such dra­mat­ic and con­tin­u­ous change. Tra­di­tion­al man­age­ment will find it dif­fi­cult to assess per­for­mance effec­tive­ly if employ­ees are exer­cis­ing spe­cialised skills across 3 or 4 teams work­ing in a dis­trib­uted fash­ion from loca­tions around the globe. While this shift will pro­vide increased free­dom to choose how, when, and where we work, the caveat will per­haps be a required will­ing­ness to tol­er­ate con­tin­u­ous ambi­gu­i­ty, and hav­ing to be more entre­pre­neur­ial in terms of cul­ti­vat­ing rela­tion­ships.

The tools that will enable this to hap­pen will be deliv­ered from the cloud, and when­ev­er this occurs, work becomes about bits, rather than atoms, and can be done from any­where there is con­nec­tiv­i­ty, giv­ing peo­ple the free­dom to choose the work envi­ron­ment best suit­ed to them.

Per­son­al­i­sa­tion of the work envi­ron­ment may even go beyond that. The accel­er­a­tion of VR tech­nol­o­gy could play a strong role in the visu­al­i­sa­tion of work, with work­ers able to select a moun­tain mead­ow, or qui­et beach as their vir­tu­al envi­ron­ment, rather than just their desk­top back­ground.

This may sound like a utopi­an ide­al, but it is one we can imple­ment if we choose. Work­ing from home, a cor­po­rate office, a co-work­ing space, or even a mobile, rent­ed office that dri­ves itself to you all become options when the only bar­ri­er to pro­duc­tiv­i­ty is con­nec­tiv­i­ty.

This increased flex­i­bil­i­ty will cer­tain­ly enable peo­ple to work under more com­fort­able con­di­tions, each tai­lor­ing their work envi­ron­ment to cre­ate a world of work that is more per­son­al­ized (just as today, we seek to give our cus­tomers a per­son­al­ized expe­ri­ence), but the afore­men­tioned ambi­gu­i­ty of such employ­ment offers an inter­est­ing, if not trou­bling, par­al­lel to the casu­al­i­sa­tion of the work­force that we are see­ing more broad­ly across soci­ety as a whole. As DAZE Syd­ney 2016 will no doubt con­firm, the future of work will be a rad­i­cal depar­ture from what has come before. It’s a change that’s already under­way, but with fore­sight and the cor­rect prepa­ra­tion we will be able to mas­ter this, the fourth indus­tri­al rev­o­lu­tion.

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