Every time I reach for my iPhone and glance over my social networking sites the screen is littered with technologies and ideas that will disrupt the way we live our lives. As little as a decade ago this is not something I could have done. The birth of the iPhone (2007), Amazon Web Services (2006), infinitely faster and cheaper internet and data storage, and a wave of global social and economic unrest have all contributed to an explosion of innovation that only continues to accelerate. These are the five characteristics that I see that define the future of work in the decade to come.
1) Business cycle going into hyper drive
The average lifespan of a Fortune 500 company in the 1920s was 67 years, today it’s just 15 years and in another decade that figure could be as little as 10 years. Facebook paid $1bn for Instagram after just three years in business while Google bought YouTube for $1.4bn in half that. Over the next decade, we’ll see this trend accelerating with the introduction of two to three billion new users connected to the internet, new technologies, social unrest and low entry cost all driving innovation.
Millennials will retire as late as 80 experiencing a 60-year career, meaning on average a minimum of 6 different employers. Executives will no longer be people who have accumulated decades of knowledge in a company or industry and occupy positions of authority as a result. Companies simply won’t last that long and industries will change too quickly.
People and entire teams will change organisations frequently operating in the gig-economy assisted by technologies such as transparent peer-to-peer rating platforms, social networking, recognition platforms and blockchain. People will look for status in their community rather than within their company, as the company they work for will be more fluid than the community they interact within.
2) The Open Source organisation
December 2016 Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla) took a customer comment on Twitter to implementation in only 6 days. More companies are utilising the external community to provide innovation such as Quirky, Lego and Facebook. This hugely increases the ability to innovate as harnessing the brains of many free of politics and constraints will always beat the brains of a few.
What happens when the speed of innovation becomes so fast it exceeds the patent process? It changes the game completely and companies will be forced to switch their focus from protecting their IP to opening it up to the world. Competitive advantage will lie in how well you engage your communities and how quickly you can turn ideas into action. The more information and real data you provide the better engaged the community will be. As Jason Averbook says, we have moved from an economy of things to an economy of ideas and companies will have to get their head around this shifting mindset very quickly from closed to open.
The organisation boundaries will be wider and fluid as the Open Source organisation prevails leveraging communities of unpaid individuals competing for prizes and status. The focus will be on keeping communities engaged in new and innovative ways; building processes, algorithms and AI to evaluate ideas quickly and effectively; and bringing new products and services to market at breakneck speed.
3) The Fluid Organisation
Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Blockchain AI and robotics will automate and replace up to 38% of jobs in the US over the next 15 years and we’ll soon see large parts of the Finance, HR, Supply Chain and Marketing departments automated away.
I do not subscribe to ‘the robots will take our jobs’ mentality. This concern has been around since the 1960s and has yet still to materialise. As technology advances new opportunities that we can’t foresee will be born. Just look at the entire smart phone (and connected app infrastructure) or drone industries, a decade ago they were non-existent.
However, organisations will need to be fundamentally different prioritising innovation, speed, agility and data interpretation. This will require new organisation design and processes as the hierarchical and bureaucratic structures of today won’t cut it.
Work organised in Agile projects with self-forming teams possessing the right skills for the project in hand will emerge. As Steve Denning says “authority-based accountability, that is, accountability to someone who knows something rather than to someone simply because they occupy a position, regardless of competence”. Some companies are already working in this way with great results such as Southwest Airways, Valve and Zappos.
Virtual interaction and infinitely flexible offices with desks, chairs and even walls that are movable, can be drawn on, projected onto or receive video calls. While this sounds like something from a sci-fi film Capgemini already have an extensive working space just like this at their offices in London.
4) The Virtual Organisation
We are still to achieve seamless communication and working across multiple locations. This change will be facilitated by VR, Augmented Reality, sensors, wearable technology and AI.
With VR and Augmented Reality, we will communicate and collaborate as if we are stood in the same room. AI will enable interaction with a computer as if it were a participant in the meeting displaying detailed analytics, patterns and suggestions as a human would. The difference being it can access and analyse zettabytes of data in a matter of seconds.
This will accelerate the trend of work-life blurring and people will effectively utilise their marginal time while travelling in a driverless vehicle, for example.
This extends to other areas: recruitment interviews; on-demand training at the point it is needed, think VR YouTube on steroids; testing new product development. Add sensors and advanced data analytics into the mix and a building will know you’re approaching, using blockchain to authenticate your identity, provide a virtual security pass, download your virtual health and safety training and an Augmented Reality floor map.
5) The Quantified Employee / Workforce
We are still working out the rules of data privacy but we’ll soon get over the data privacy hump, particularly when individuals can see the benefit to them. In the next decade, we’ll enter the age of ‘perfect information’.
Biotechnology, neurotechnology and sensors will provide unimaginable insight into the workforce. Organisations will have access to employee’s DNA and neuro profile and monitor all their movements and activities. We’ll predict and prevent health problems from stress to physical health issues. Sensors measuring everything we do and collaboration platforms allowing real-time employee engagement with Deep Learning providing solutions implemented in days not months.
Teams will change frequently and people will move roles or organisations. Existing performance management frameworks just won’t work, let’s face it, they don’t even work today. We will find something that drives fast innovation, results, accountability and can be used regardless of whether you’re a salaried employee or a ‘gig-worker’.
Objectives will be transparent to everyone, team or individual. Why would they not be? Peer-to-peer rating systems mean everyone will be rated like an Uber driver and individuals get real-time feedback. The OKR (Objectives & Key Results) approach used by the likes of Google and LinkedIn is a move in this direction.
Vast amounts of data being produced, analysed and presented will provide insights like we’ve never known. Imagine mapping top performers, against stress levels of themselves and those that work for them, the school they went to, training completed, working hours etc. all carried out automatically by Deep Learning and AI without you even requesting it. Picture the impacts on productivity, recruitment, succession, operations and innovation. The possibilities are truly endless and hugely exciting.