Work enables us to create value for ourselves and others. In our forthcoming book on the Future of Work, we examine what it involves, why it is occurring, and how leaders, organizations, and societies may positively innovate transformative solutions to guide our journey forward.
For years we have known that working is an essential component of one’s life. After all the years you’ve spent preparing for work, can you imagine life without it? Given the powerful set of disruptive forces occurring in the world today, what will work look like in the future? What will it mean? What will transform? What will stay the same? How will our working and nonworking time and activities be related—both in the fabric of our individual lives and of society?
The answers to these questions are provided in our forthcoming book on the Future of Work (hereafter FOW). The book uses data, science, creative speculation, imagination, core values, and reflective processes to guide the learner to discover the FOW. We use this approach to provoke people to open up and envision a future context that they, too, have never experienced. The book will awaken the learner with unfamiliar terminology, systems, and potentialities while also encouraging dialogue and collaboration around the burgeoning future of work.1 We also publish and distribute the book using an innovative and futuristic digital platform that addresses the new generation of students (www.MyEducator.com). Our goal is to encourage readers to get out of their comfort zones and begin the challenging journey of co-creating and preparing for the future. Our desire is to train and educate learners of all backgrounds so that they align their work with the core values that are needed to craft a positive future.
Hereafter, we highlight several seminal ideas that are further developed in the book. We explore the value for work in people’s lives; we define the FOW era and describe the mega-forces driving its development; and finally, we propose a circular framework that organisations (individuals and teams) may use to co-create the future.
The Why of Work
Let’s start with the fundamental question: Why Do We Work? The answer for some people may be simple: because we must. Or, because we like it. We work to make money to secure other ends. Work fills our time. It buys us leisure and affords us the chance to “be who we really are” in our nonworking hours. Work enables mastery, autonomy, achievement, contribution, or a sense of accomplishment. It gives a way to economically measure our value or worth to a community, society, or family.
To others, the answer is profound: because it connects us to our artistry, our spirit, our sense of a greater master, the unknown, a greater being, a greater sense of destiny. It helps us to feel and experience life with a sense of hope, a source of meaning we seek to touch through the daily routines and operations of our lives. It empowers our voices, time, and connection with people or nature, to experience a sheer act of creativity. It gives us a sense of purpose, a means to actualise the fullness of our lives. It opens us to the river of knowledge and knowing, being and doing, and opens the floodgates of learning to our mind, heart, and senses. It makes us feel powerful, more alive, and more connected to other human beings and our community. It gives a way to answer the philosophical question: Why are we here?
The answers to any of these questions differ in different seasons of our lives. As children, we ask, what do I want to do when I grow up? How can I fulfill the dreams and desires of my parents? At some point, we lightly touch the existential question, who am I really supposed to be in my life? In middle age, we may work to perform, to influence, to raise families, or to give us choices. In the sunset of our lives, we contemplate, what did I do with my time? What good work did I do? What tree did I plant, book did I write, child did I raise, or art did I leave behind?
No matter one’s answer to these questions, we know that work is a large—if not the largest—part of our life experience in terms of time, valuation, and meaning. Work, in principle, consists of any activity that enables us to create value for ourselves and others. Its meaning is framed in the social, economic, political, and cultural spheres of our lives. Its value as well as its “why” have changed throughout human history and will only continue to change.
Future of Work: The What, the Why, and the How
Today, as we stand at the precipice of yet another human revolution in work, we foresee that work is once again undergoing a fundamental transformation within a much greater and profound global metamorphosis. It begs our attention to collaboratively question and co-create its meaning, impact, and path forward.
The FOW comprises facets that include how work, workers, and the workplace will evolve within the context of a cacophony of disruptive forces that simultaneously offer “limitless” opportunities and profound threats in today’s world. It is borne out of thousands of years of work, millions of small and large technological evolutions and revolutions, and changing human and organisational systems that have supported human evolution throughout civilisations. With the FOW, we celebrate the success of advanced technologies and their impact on productivity, information, speed, and efficiency yet arm wrestle with the inherent uncertainty, lack of control, and overwhelm of too much, too little, and too many unknowns. For the first time, advanced technologies make us question what is human and what is machine. They threaten the survivability of the planet that rages in reaction to unmitigated resource exploitation and lack of care. They challenge our values and invite leaders to walk the narrow line between creative destruction and meaningful transformation, inciting both the fear and hope of change.
There are three principal forces already set into motion that will impact workforces, workplaces, and the nature of work. (See Exhibit 1)
- The first megatrend is the growing adoption of technologies and the increase in disruptive technologies, including: artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, robotics, and human-machine interfaces and collaborations. New virtual work horizons will evolve, integrating new forms of intelligence, new physical-social-emotional-cultural workforce distribution methods, and hybrid workforce models. Workers, both individually and collaboratively must learn how to learn as well as unlearn knowledge, skills, and competencies in order to successfully perform.2
- The second megatrend is the twin, polarising forces of globalised and regionalised (localised) work. Frontiers of work are becoming meshed networks composed of individual “nodes” of work—with the location of work becoming progressively unimportant. Simultaneously, disruptive forces such as rising nationalism, political bipolarisation, hatred of difference, and fear of change are isolating nations, regions, communities, and human beings. The connections that bind us (like global supply chains, pandemics, fuel and food shortages, and shared knowledge) also serve to separate us.
- The third megatrend is the perpetual demand for constant creativity and innovation (in all the fields and disciplines, organisations, and institutions in which we work). This is the essence of a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world. In the past, companies were able to establish market domination, benefiting from their position of strength for long periods of time; this was because the rate of change was easily absorbed and anticipated by strategists. Today, and in the future, the domination position will no longer be valid. Change, arising from fast-breaking trends in technological innovation, climate change, social media, information overload, digital connection, and others, is happening faster than ever. This means that institutions, organisations, and employees will need to assume more risk and innovate continuously on a faster-spinning transformation wheel.3
These trends occur within the greater systems and paradigms within which we work, lead, and perform. Traditionally, most organisations operated with an overwhelming focus on profit as the critical (and only) measure of performance. Organisation structures were hierarchical. Cultures were bureaucratic. Leaders were primarily men. Power meant “power-over,” with inequity and inequality rampant. The goals for innovation were to increase efficiency and the time-to-market of new inventions. Products and services were targeted to fulfil the needs and wants of consumers.
In principle, the purpose of an economy should be to provide products and services that deliver meaning to individuals and society. A new paradigm for “economics” becomes possible when people work to create an economy that reflects and generates meaningful shared values. As part of this, people will work to deliver products and services that embody these shared values, to create meaningfulness in their working and nonworking lives, and to foster happiness and wellbeing through valued relationships.4
Based on years of research, we believe that the vast majority of society’s actors (i.e., governments, corporations, business leaders, educational institutions, and educators) are not prepared for this new landscape of work.5 Most still believe that the future will represent an extension of our current reality, systems, and paradigms. Many don’t know what they don’t know. Many will also continue to find comfort in the perceptions that have been groomed over the course of one’s life and experiences. What does it take to see anew? To view the unknown with a radical new lens? Knowledge. Courage. A willingness to unlearn, to sit in the void of learning anew. Reflection. Imagination. Hope. Values.
Once the capacity of individual human beings has been inspired and unleashed to question, learn, and create a new way of working in a new world, it is essential for organisations to also learn anew. They will need to move from using the traditional, linear approach for strategic development to adopting an “inside-out/outside-in” virtual, circular methodology.6
As we move into the FOW, we must leverage the strengths of organisations and individuals (including their capabilities, knowledge, experiences, and “soft” skills like imagination and intuition) across the boundaries and borders that typically divide us so that we co-create the most positive possibilities. For this to happen, we need to build a connection between what happens outside an organisation with what occurs within it — establishing a shared journey between the people inside and outside the organisation (Exhibit 2).
An “Outside-In” process starts with understanding the external context formed from general trends (e.g., technology, demographics, political toxicity, physical health, and mental wellbeing.) We need to identify the value (needed and defined) by the firm’s external stakeholders (customers, investors, communities, etc.), the people receiving the organisation’s work, so that the capabilities and actions taken by the internal employees are aligned with the trends and needs in the external environment. For example, given climate change, organizations will need to invest in product innovations that decrease carbon emissions and cultural innovations that enable them to increase shareholder value, human wellness, and overall social impact.
The “Inside-Out” process starts with identifying the human capabilities and actions within the organisation (related to talent, organisation, leadership, teaming, etc.) that need to be developed in order to maximise the value provided to external stakeholders who are operating within the changing environment. For example, a company may focus on improving employee engagement in order to maximise customer satisfaction or retention; it may develop diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programmes to meet the needs of, or gain an understanding of, diverse customer segments; or, it may invest in leadership development and implement a new management system to increase investor confidence in the organisation.
Embarking on a Shared Journey into the FOW
Whether we approach the new landscape of work from the angles presented in Exhibit 1 or those in Exhibit 2, one thing is certain: it will require the development of new workplace skills by individuals and teams. The new digital workplace not only will reduce the need for an onsite workforce but also will increase the demand for knowledge-intensive tasks. New workplace skills will also need to be developed. Some of these include: complex problem-solving; creative, critical, and innovative thinking; computer, software, and data literacy; and soft skills such as communication, empathy, emotional/social/cultural intelligence, cross-cultural management, resilience-building, reflection, and flexibility.
Furthermore, the journey into the FOW is a shared journey. No one person, team, or organisation can walk the journey alone. People will need to learn specific skills on how to collaborate, connect, communicate, imagine, and co-create with other people, on teams, and in cross-border working groups. Learning to build relationships with people in digital and face-to-face environments will be a requirement for all workers and leaders—not just those who are extroverts and more comfortable working on teams. In order to succeed, leaders must learn how to build trust, lead imagineering and creativity sessions, align values, and develop resilience in globally-based, culturally diverse, and remote working groups — leading the creation of the future while walking through it.
Discovering the Future of Work
Here are the initial questions the learner may use to begin the shared journey to the FOW.
1. Context and Vision for the Future of Work
- What is the history of work? Why does context matter to the Future of Work?
- How is the nature of work, workers, and workplace evolving?7
- What management system is needed to build successful cultures and organisations? What is “Managing by Traction” (MbT) and why is it necessary for the journey?8
- How can we successfully and imaginatively create the future? What is the Future Design process?9
- What creativity and imagination skills will guide the journey?10
2. The Future of Business and Management
- How will business transform in the Cyber-Age?11
- How will leadership evolve and disrupt current systems? What is Leadership 5.0? 12
- What are the core principles of “Managing by Values?” How does it differ from managing by objectives or instructions? 13
- How can we create a continuous sustainable innovation culture? Why is MBVSIV so needed?14
- What is “Talenting?” How can we attract, retain and motivate talent? 15
3. The Future for People and Practice
- What leadership competencies are required to lead people?16
- Why are value-based competencies so needed? 17
- What new HR policies and practices will be needed?18
- What new forms of teamwork and intelligent collaboration are needed and why?19, 20
- What are the true needs for, and implications of, lifelong learning?21
4. Future Paradigms in the Future of Work
- What will be the new role of women and the feminine mindset?22
- What is the concept of “Human Uniqueness” and why is it needed? 23
- How (and why) will educational systems evolve? 24
- What is the meaning of “All-Encompassing work Metamorphosis” and why is it needed?25
- Why is a genuine transformation of work needed? What are our visions and strategies for transformation? 26
The purpose of this paper has been to awaken the reader to the Future of Work journey that awaits us all. We encourage you to use the reflective questions, individually and in teams, to begin the shared co-creation process of the future that is calling.
About the Authors
Dr. Simon L. Dolan is currently the president of the Global Future of Work Foundation (www.globalfutureofwork.com) and research professor at Adventere School of Management-Madrid (a strategic partner with Comillas, Deusto and Georgetown Universities). He was the former Future of Work Chair at ESADE Business School in Barcelona). He is a prolific author with over 82 books published on themes connected with managing people, culture reengineering, values, coaching, wellbeing and resilience.
Dr. Kristine Marin Kawamura is a clinical full professor of management at the Drucker School of Management, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA, USA. She teaches the course, Create Your Future, as well as courses in cross-cultural leadership, global leadership, and entrepreneurship. She is also the founder and CEO of Yoomi Consulting Group, Inc., a leadership success and organizational transformation company. The overall purpose for her work is to transform leadership, organizations, society, and individual lives with Care. Her ongoing research addresses three themes: Care; Future of Work; and Social Impact. (See yoomiconsulting.com)
Dr. Mario Raich is a Swiss futurist, book author and global management consultant. He was a senior executive in several global financial organisations, and Invited Professor to some leading business schools like ESADE (Barcelona). He is the co-founder and Chairman of e-Merit Academy (www.emeritacademy.com) and Managing Director for the Innovation Services at Frei+Raich Ltd in Zurich. In addition, he is a member of the advisory board of the Global Future of Work Foundation in Barcelona. Currently, he is researching the impact of cyber-reality and artificial intelligence on society, education, business, and work.
Dr. Dave Ulrich is the Rensis Likert Professor, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, and Partner at the RBL Group (http://www.rbl.net). He has written over 30 books and 200 articles on talent, leadership, organisations, and human resources.
- Dolan S.L., Kawamura K., Raich M., Ulrich D., (2023) The Future of Work: An Anthology, MyEducator (2023 – in press). Authors have equally contributed to this paper, and their names appear in alphabetical order.
- Many of the papers connected to this trend have been already published in this journal (i.e. Raich et al (2020) The Cyber-Organization and the New World of Work. April: Raich et al (2019) Beyond Collaborative Intelligence we can see a Meta-Mind Society Surfacing and we can Dream of a Ω-Mind. September.
- Raich & Dolan (2008) Beyond: Business and Society in Transformation. Palgrave-McMillan.
- Waldinger & Schulz (2023) The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness, Simon & Schuster (January)
- Dolan et al. (2015) Are You – And Your Company – Prepared for The Future of Work in Tomorrowland? The European Business Review, July.
- This model is based on the extensive work of Prof Dave Ulrich, co-author of this paper.
- Raich et.al. (2018) Insights into the Transformation of Business in the Cyber-Age, TEBR, March.
- Raich et al. (2020) Managing By Traction (MbT) Reinventing Management in the Cyber-Age TEBR, November.
- Forthcoming paper, inspired by Raich et al (2022) The Art of Life Design, Kindai Management Review, Vol. 10.
- Forthcoming paper by the authors
- Raich et al, (2018) Op. Cit.
- Ulrich et al. (2009) The Leadership Code: Five Rules to Lead by. HBR Press
- 1Dolan et al (2006) Managing by Values, A Corporate Guide to Living, Being Alive, and Making a Living in the 21st Century. Palgrave- McMillan: Garti and Dolan (2021) Using the Triaxial Model of Values to Build Resilience in a COVID-19 VUCA World, TEBR, January
- Kawamura and Dolan S.L. (2019) MBSIV: A Framework for Creating a Sustainable Innovation Culture, TEBR, May.
- Dolan and Hayashi P., (2013) Talenting: Framework and Metaphors for a New Processual Approach to Talent Management, TEBR, May.
- Ulrich – The 2017 HR Competency Study & What It Means For You. https://tucana-global.com/2017/10/27/dave-ulrich-the-2017-hr-competency-study-what-it-means-for-you/
- Dolan (2021) The Secret of Coaching and Leading by Values. Routledge. McKinsey Quarterly (1994) What is value-based management? https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/what-is-value-based-management
- O’Donoghue (2021) The David Ulrich HR Model https://www.testcandidates.com/magazine/the-david-ulrich-hr-model/
- Kawamura and Dolan S.L. (2019) Op. Cit.
- Raich et al, (2019) Op.Cit.
- Raich et al (2019) Rethinking Future Higher Education, TEBR, January
- Kawamura et al (forthcoming )
- Raich et al (2021) Human Uniqueness at The Dawn Of Intelligent Machines, TEBR, July
- Raich et al, Op. Cit. 2019
- Raich, Kawamura et al (forthcoming)
- Raich, Kawamura et al (Forthcoming)