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Jacob Morgan’s New Book: The Future of Work

Jacob Morgan has written a great overview of the future of work: The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization. I’ve been writing and speaking on similar topics for a while and he’s hit on all of mine and rounded out the topic with additional depth and examples. The images, many from his organization, Chess Media Group, provide clear summaries of the material and no doubt will be showing up in my classes.

The Future Employee

The Future of Work is self-contained in that it opens with the basic forces at play: Generations, social media, globalization, mobility, etc. Chapter Three lays out “7 Principles of The Future Employee”:

  1. Has a Flexible Work Environment
  2. Can Customize Own Work
  3. Shares Information
  4. Uses New Ways to Communicate and Collaborate
  5. Can Become a Leader
  6. Shifts from Knowledge Worker to Learning Worker
  7. Learns and Teaches at Will

He then provides the background on the organizational and management shifts that intertwine with the needs and skills of these future employees. Appropriately pushing the envelope are discussions around freelancing and managerless approaches (examples provided by Zappos, Morning Star, Valve and more). If you follow these issues, you’re likely aware of these examples, but Morgan does a nice job of talking about the tensions as well as the opportunities. I was interested to see the push back from some employees around how these programs have been described in the press.

The Future Organization

Chapter Nine offers 14 Principles of the Future Organization and is the best summary of the topic I’ve seen. Some are dynamics my colleagues and I have been studying for a while (e.g., globally distributed teams, connected workforce, innovation anywhere, intrapreneurial). Others are areas we’re just getting a hold on (e.g., adapts to change faster, operates like a small company, democratizes learning, flatter structure), and some are on the edge (e.g., focuses on “want” instead of “need,” runs in the cloud, more women in senior management roles, tells stories). All in all, Figure 14 is a great roadmap for organization science and the future organization in general.

Our Future Work

Thank you, Jacob, for sending me a copy of The Future of Work to review. Thank you too, for creating the FOWCommunity, which joins the Management Innovation eXchange and several interesting LinkedIn groups as places to work through our successes and failures. These are exciting and challenging times. The more sharing we can do (third practice of a plugged-in manager), the faster the diffusion of the ideas and our own learning. This comment in Chapter 12 resonated with me, “If you read this book and come away thinking that you can wait or that the themes and topics in this book are not a priority then unfortunately I didn’t do a good enough job in helping to paint a picture of the future of work.” We all need to be doing whatever we can to help organizations down this path. As acknowledged throughout the book, every organization is different, but I cannot imagine a future where organizations haven’t moved further down the paths described here.
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